Before we came to Israel, I didn’t really feel like I had a connection with it. Don’t get me wrong…I was always concerned about its existence, but other than that I didn’t think about it much. It wasn’t until we lived in Israel that I connected to it, and I owe Ramah’s TRY program a great deal for helping me build that connection.
When I was first hired by TRY, I recognized that the students on the program were going through a similar experience as I was. They were picking up their lives and moving to Israel, without their families, to live and connect with the land. I could recognize that the students were building a connection as they learned about Israel through hikes and visits to historic and religious sites, but I didn’t always see that the same thing was happening to me. Being in Israel, seeing the land and visiting the places of our ancestors, makes you feel a sense of belonging and a love that you can’t necessarily have from America.
This year, I really found my place at TRY. Not only was I a teacher like I was our first year, but I was hired as the academic liaison. Essentially I was the assistant to the director of general studies. I was in touch with the students’ schools to gather important academic information, and I helped set up the student schedules. This job began in the fall semester when the students are not on campus. I went into the office 2-3 days a week, and Adina came with me. She was introduced to the TRY staff at two months old at which point she mostly just slept and ate while I was working. Being behind the scenes at TRY gave me a greater sense of belonging at the school. I became more connected to the staff, and the stronger my connection with Ramah became, the more connected I felt with Israel. After all, TRY gave me a sense of place, which helps you settle in and put down roots.
My final semester with students on TRY also strengthened my sense of belonging. Because I was teaching Chemistry, my classes accounted for 50% of the student body. Therefore, I had a chance to get to know most of the students this semester. If you add my AP Physics student and my Canadian science student, then I taught 26 out of the 51 students on TRY this year. A few of these students and one that wasn’t one of my own joined us for Shabbat. We impressed them with our Settlers of Catan skills and educated them in the ways of Pandemic. I will miss having the opportunity to host students for Shabbat.
As the students prepared to leave at the end of the semester, I once again felt the parallel between the TRY experience and our Fulbright one. All good things come to an end, and it is emotionally difficult to say goodbye to all the great people that you have met and to the place that has been home for so long. The students find it very challenging to leave after four months, so it is no surprise that we found it difficult to leave after 2 years.
Leaving our friends and our community were very challenging, but for me, leaving TRY was one of the toughest parts of leaving Israel. I really enjoyed working for TRY, and I especially loved the people I worked with. I really developed a great relationship with my boss. Not only did we efficiently take care of all things TRY, but we talked about life and about basketball. He is a great friend, so it was very hard to say good-bye. We chose to say “see you soon” instead, not just because I wanted to avoid good-bye but because we hope that we will see him in America or when we visit Israel. Thank you for everything Jonathan!
While Adina was also a Jonathan fan, I think that she will miss Nicole and Elinor the most. Not only did they give her treats of Cheerios and bread, but they gave her lots of hugs and attention whenever she was in the office. In return, Adina gave smiles and played with them. I really appreciated how much they loved Adina, and that they would take care of her a bit while I was working. It helped a lot when Adam was away for 10 days at a conference. She always had a great time at TRY. We miss you Elinor and Nicole!
Living in Israel is difficult, especially when you are so far from family and you struggle with the language. When we left for Israel, I thought I wouldn’t be teaching for 2 years. I’m glad I was wrong. TRY helped me feel like I belong in Israel and that I can be successful there. Actually, it helped me feel like I can be successful no matter where we finally settle. As the students always say, TRY is an amazing experience. I feel so blessed for having the opportunity to be a part of it.
I hope with all my heart that I can stay connected with everyone there while we are living in America.
Until next time…