Retrospect and Perspective
The YES Fund (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) represents the collective financial efforts of our member sisterhoods and donors to strengthen the institutions of our Reform Movement and ensure the future of Reform Judaism.
Together we are able to achieve what no one individual or sisterhood could accomplish alone. Through the YES Fund, WRJ is able to provide financial assistance to rabbinical and cantorial students, youth, and Reform organizations in North America, Israel, and around the world.
Below is a reflection from Kathryn Henning, a current participant in the Shnat Netzer Gap Year Program (a YES Fund grant recipient), about her experience.
Every so often it hits. You don’t know when it will happen or what you’ll be doing when it does, but it’s always a shock to your system. You get a feeling in the pit of your stomach that bubbles up inside and serves as a reminder that you are having an experience that is so completely new, exciting, and different from anything in your life thus far.
You burst with excitement and wonder when you realize that you moved to a different country for a year to live with 30 people from around the world who are living, learning, and growing together through shared experiences.
You start after high school, a group of 18-year-olds, most of you are without parental supervision for the first time. You have a schedule that reminds you of school so it’s not as big a shock to your system as you thought it would be.
You learn to fend for yourself, what you like and what you don’t, and the value of peace and quiet which comes with being unafraid to say when you need time alone, away from the constant companionship of the group. You learn tolerance, acceptance and honesty; the power of friendships that you’ll have forever, how to handle new situations, the intricacies of learning and immersing in a different society.
The social norms are different; you live in a society where a pineapple is a more valued gift for a housewarming than a potted plant. The language, the food, the people and how they interact take time getting used to. Everything is in a constant motion and changing, no two days are similar, which is both beautiful and frightening at the same time.
Aside from the Israeli society and cultural differences, there are also the social and cultural differences among the people with who are on the program with you. Living with a mix of Germans, Spaniards, Americans, Brits and Australians, you learn more about yourself, become inexplicably patriotic, and develop a mixed accent that no one can put their finger on.
It’s hard when people leave; when you don’t know when you’re going to see your friends again. In a year of infinite moments, unbelievable views, excruciatingly long bus rides, and laughter, smiles, tears, fights, apologies, I’m sure that I’ll making it out alive. Better. Grown-up. Matured. Self-aware.
As for the future, I say, “Bring it on!” Throw whatever you’ve got at me because Shnat Netzer has prepared me and I am ready.