Midreshet Lindenbaum Students Win First Prize for Jewish Campus Life Initiative
Four students finishing up their gap year at Ohr Torah Stone’s Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem were awarded first prize in the Nitzavim Fellowship’s Jewish Campus Life Initiative competition. Nitzavim brings together young men and women during their gap year in Israel, giving them leadership skills, helping them reflect on what it will be like to go back to the Diaspora to attend largely secular universities, and teaching them how to develop projects to improve Jewish life on campus.
Kyra Weisberger, who will be attending Barnard University in the fall explains, “Most of us have never really lived outside of a ‘Jewish bubble’ before. When we begin university, we will be faced with a lot of new issues for the first time. As Nitzavim fellows in Israel, we met once a month, learning about Israel advocacy and how to create a project to improve campus life.”
Students considered the types of issues that may arise – tests scheduled on Jewish holidays, explaining Judaism to non-Jewish peers, and most challenging: antisemitism. They learned how to develop an idea, consider its feasibility, create a budget, and bring the project to fruition.
“Nitzavim was a wonderful initiative that allowed me to further explore Israel’s history and political situation,” said Weisberger’s teammate Hattie Bolchover, who will be attending Oxford University in the fall. “Alongside our discussions in class about Jewish identity as Modern Orthodox teenagers, we were challenged to think creatively in constructing our project to further Jewish unity on university campus. The fellowship was very informative and we received a lot of support throughout the year.”
The four Midreshet Lindenbaum participants worked together, developing the concept for an Instagram account to respond to halakhic questions and provide information relevant for observant students at different campuses.
Questions such as, How do you explain to non-Jewish friends that you can’t eat in a non-kosher restaurant? What can you do about lighting Shabbat candles if you’re not allowed to ignite a flame in your dorm room? How can you talk to professors about classes you’ll have to miss on Jewish holidays?
Among the 15 groups developing projects, six were invited to present their ideas at Nitzavim’s final banquet. The Midreshet Lindenbaum team won first place and received $5,000 towards implementing their idea.
The four young women have already hired a graphic designer and recruited a rabbi to respond to halakhic questions. They are beginning to brainstorm their content and plan to launch the project at the beginning of the school year.
“We want to provide easily accessible information to help Modern Orthodox students remain observant on campus,” says Yael Miller, who will begin studies at London’s Imperial College in the fall. The fourth Midreshet Lindenbaum teammate, Nillie Langerman, will be attending Cambridge University.
“My year at Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Maria & Joel Finkle Overseas Program was absolutely incredible. It was a year of significant growth and high-level Torah learning with outstanding teachers and motivated peers,” shares Kyra. “When I begin college, it will be the first time in my life I’m not in an environment geared towards my own Jewish and personal development.
“Midreshet Lindenbaum gave me the foundation to maintain and strengthen my Jewish commitment even in an environment not focused on that. Through the tools we gained and the project we developed through Nitzavim, we hope to help other students do the same.”