I went to public school from the beginning of elementary school until sixth grade. I knew nothing about Judiasm or the religion and I had no clue that I was even Jewish. My best friends were Muslims and Mexicans. All my life I have been living with my brother and sister, who is now in college and the most amazing mother in the entire world. My parents got divorced when I was ten years old and I have no contact with my father since then. One day, one of my mother’s friends told my mother about a Jewish camp called Oorah’s Girlzone. It is a kiruv sleepaway camp that tries to bring non-religious girls more into knowing about Judiasm. Little did I know when I went to Girlzone that year, that it would change my life forever.
My first year in camp I was about 10 years old. When I was in the shul, I was looking at the siddur and I had absolutely no clue what was written in them. I held the siddur upside down trying to read it. While I was puting the siddur away, a camper came over to me and helped me stack them in the right way. When one of the staff members saw this from a distance, she came over to me and she asked me if I knew how to read Hebrew. I said no, Im way too old to learn. She told me you are never too old to learn and told me the story of Rabbi Akiva and how he learnt when he was already 40 years old. I remember being so amazed by that story and from then on everyday in camp she slowly taught me how to read Hebrew. By the end of the summer, I knew how to read! The staff member called my mother and my mother was very excited about the idea of sending me to a yeshiva, so she found a school called Jewish Foundation School in Staten Island New York.
From 6th-8th grade in JFS I caught up very quickly. When I was in 6th grade, I was sitting with the 3rd graders for Hebrew and 6th graders for secular subjects learning basic things about the Torah. It was very hard to adjust into such a new enviroment because I felt so different from everyone else. By the time I got to 8th grade, I made a lot of friends and went over to their houses for Shabbasim and experienced what it really means to be a true Bat Israel. In the meantime nothing was being kept at home and we were living like a regular American-Russian family. From the time I went to JFS my mother saw how important it became to me so she started buying kosher food and going to shul occasionaly even though we didn’t keep Shabbos yet.
It came time to figure out which high school I was going to attend. My mom wanted only the best school for me and she found Bruriah High School located in Elizabeth New Jersey. Although I was taught the Halachot of Judiasm, I still wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing such as Kosher (our kitchen wasn’t koshered yet but we were still buying kosher food), Shomer Shabbas, or tznuis. In 10th grade we moved from Brooklyn to Staten Isand New York. Since then, which was two years ago, we have been improving in our growth in YiddishKeit. From the girl that couldn’t tell an Aleph from a Bais my family has came very far in religious aspects. Now we are shomer shabbas and Oorah helped us kosher our kitchen this past summer. I have been attending Girlzone for seven years and with the help of Girlzone’s staff and Bruriah faculty, I was able to set goals throughout these years and achieve them as best as I can.
I will always have the knowledge that I gained from yeshiva and camp and I hope to apply it to everything that I do in my everyday life. At this point , I want to give myself the luxury of being away from home in an environment of self growth with true role models by going to study in Israel. I feel like I can apply and gain insight on buliding my own Torah home and I can gain a back bone of love and apprecation for living a life of Mitzvot and Torah which will stay with me throughout the rest of my life.