Completing her Journey
An Australian student returns to Midreshet Lindenbaum after the Covid pandemic cut her year-in-Israel experience short
Ruby Alford of Melbourne had every reason to anticipate an incredible year-in-Israel experience when she arrived at Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Maria and Joel Finkle Overseas Program in January 2020. But like the plans of so many others, hers too were cut short by the onset of the Covid pandemic and instead of spending her days in intense study on the benches of the world’s largest beit midrash for women, she found herself sitting in an airplane seat on the first direct flight from Israel to Australia.
“I was really enjoying the incredible, high level learning. It was so inspiring to be with an entire group of young women passionate about dedicating themselves to improving their Torah study,” she recalls. “It was heartbreaking to have to leave so suddenly – just eight weeks after arriving in Israel.”
Initially, Alford participated as much as possible in the full schedule of online classes that Midreshet Lindenbaum was providing for its overseas students. When the program ended in June (because it runs on the Northern Hemisphere’s academic schedule), she tried to book a flight back to Israel so she could continue learning there, but “the regulations in both Australia and Israel were very strict and it was impossible to get a flight,” she says. “So I decided to stay where I was. I worked and helped my parents, who were dealing with health issues. And in January 2021, I started university.”
Lying awake at night
Alford describes a fulfilling several months during which she nevertheless yearned to return to Israel and continue her learning. “I was enjoying university and I was also working for a Jewish school and for Bnei Akiva. I loved what I was doing and was about to register for my second semester of classes,” she relates. “But I was also lying awake at night, wondering if I was making a mistake by not returning to Israel.”
As restrictions began to tighten again in both Australia and Israel, Alford made her decision, quickly booking a ticket for late August. “I got in touch with Rabbanit Sally (Mayer, Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Rosh Midrasha), so excited that I’d finally made the decision to return. She called me again, about five days before my scheduled flight, to let me know that the rules were about to change and I would have to quarantine for a week upon my arrival in Israel. So I moved my flight up by a few days and made it to Israel before the new quarantine rule went into effect.”
Privileged to be back
Alford embarked upon a 14-and-a-half-hour flight to Abu Dhabi, where she was scheduled to change planes and board a four-hour flight to Israel. “At the airport in Abu Dhabi, they asked for proof of health insurance, which I didn’t have because Midreshet Lindenbaum arranges that for us. I was so scared that after this entire ordeal, I still wouldn’t make it back,” she remembers. “But I was in touch with Rabbanit Sally who immediately sent me what I needed so that I would be allowed to board the flight. Through everything, Midreshet Lindenbaum has really been there to take care of our every need,” she emphasizes.
“Since graduating high school, Ruby has always wanted to further her learning,” notes her father Jared. “We are so proud that she has made the decision to return to Midreshet Lindenbaum. We are thrilled that she will be able to soak up everything the midrasha has to offer.”
Asked how she feels to be back, Alford enthuses, “I’m so happy with my decision! The quality and depth of Torah learning here is like nothing I could ever have imagined. Everyone is so accommodating, helpful and supportive. I feel so privileged to be here, learning in Israel and at Midreshet Lindenbaum.”