Gratitudes

The following excerpts are from thank you letters by Nesiya summer alumni who received merit and/or need-based financial support.

For more information on Nesiya’s financial support for young people who fulfill community service fellowships, contact info@nesiya.org.

“Nesiya inspired me in ways I never knew possible. I gained the ability to see the world in a new light, and it has permanently changed who I am and who I will become. My choices became clearer, as if I knew all along what I wanted to do but never had the audacity to do it. I learned that human relationships have the powerful ability to affect who we are. I want to continue creating close communities. I want to talk to my parents more often and in detail. I am indescribably grateful.”

Maria Alkhasova, Lexington, KY, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, later studied at Brandeis University. For her Nesiya Community Internship, Maria volunteered with a local Boston soup kitchen.

“I want to thank anyone by whose generosity I was able to participate in the Nesiya summer program. I learned to accept new people who are very different from me – in their opinions, their faith, their language. I learned the value of honesty. I learned to transform gratitude into action. Due to Nesiya, I am delaying my army service by a year to take part in Mechinat Beit Yisrael [a pre-army service-learning program for secular and religious Israelis]. I believe that this is a good place to continue the experience of Nesiya – a place where study and community service will be expressed in my life on a day to day basis.”

Tali Nahir, Jerusalem, Israel, was a senior at a secular public high school, and volunteered with Nesiya’s year-round program for her third year.

“I would like to convey my sincerest gratitude for allowing me and other Jewish children to experience Israel through Nesiya. As a Torah observant Jew, I had difficulty appreciating relationships with Judaism that differ from my own. I learnt how to connect with others who are not like me. Nesiya taught me that we are all one people, and that there is far more that unites us than separates us. In order to build a vibrant, respectful, and flourishing Jewish community, it is crucial to assess what unites us and connect at that point. I have found this to be unbelievably valuable. I thank you tremendously for giving me the opportunity to gain the most important tool to establishing peace between one another.”

Matthew Goodman, Toronto, Canada, was a senior at a Toronto Jewish day school. For his Community Internship Matthew volunteered with elderly Jews.

“The experience has changed me in ways I do not fully understand yet. Before Nesiya, I had never been friends with people who have such drastically different core beliefs. I was worried that our differences would prevent us from getting close. In reality they brought us closer together. I have never felt more cared about. I felt safe and protected in the midst of a deep emotional and spiritual journey. Nesiya showed me how much I have to learn while making me realize how much I have to offer. Thank you for making this journey possible. It has meant the world to me and given me a wider outlook on life, Judaism, my friends, and myself. I hope you will continue to make it possible for other teenagers to be a part of this amazing program. It truly is a wonderful gift.”

Leora Kirtner, Eugene, OR, was a public school senior, fulfilling her Nesiya Community Internship by volunteering with Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing, and in an elementary school Talmud Torah class.

“This letter is my small attempt to say “thank you” to those individuals who helped bring Nesiya to my life. Nesiya taught me so much. I learned to appreciate every person. I learned to be more open-minded to new ideas. I learned how to share my opinions and listen to others’. Nesiya taught me to listen – to really understand what others are saying. I came back inspired and hopeful. I came back with my own unique connection to Israel. Nesiya helped give me a renewed and relevant reason to be Jewish. I will always hold Nesiya close to my heart. Thank you.”

Lilly Phillips, Omaha, NE, was a public school junior. For her Nesiya Community Internship she volunteered with homeless children.

“I want to personally thank all the donors who make Nesiya possible. The summer program helped me change, and the year program allowed me to help bring that change to my surroundings. Going on Nesiya allowed me to look deep inside myself and understand what it means to be an Israeli, what it means to be Jewish, what it means to be me.”

Itai Green, Jerusalem, Israel, volunteered with Nesiya’s year-round program.

“How do I relate the unique transformative experience of Nesiya? To encapsulate the communities we built, the natural beauty of the land of Israel we saw, the history we learned, the personal growth and discoveries we made? I thank you for your support of this unique and inspiring program, and urge you to provide others with the same opportunity. It has made me, and my colleagues, more capable of deeper and higher thought, of artistic expression and intellectual discernment, of giving, of loving, of wonder.”

Max Goldstein, Jacksonville, FL, who graduated from a public high school and was a freshman at Tufts University at the time. For his Nesiya Community Internship Max tutored a struggling high school student.

“I learned how beautiful it is that Am Yisrael is so diverse. When we see each other as individuals, we have a respect that is lost when we see groups of people who are different than we are. When we know them, we can learn from them and see that their uniqueness makes them beautiful. I learned that Israel is beautiful and broken, and I love it now more than ever despite its imperfections. I find Israel’s complexities just as inspiring as anything I ever could have dreamt for myself. Thank you for helping make this experience possible, it was a summer I will never forget.”

Gabi Rubin, Bethesda, MD, completed her Nesiya Community Internship by tutoring at her synagogue’s Hebrew school.

“You have given me so much. I learned that I have an infinite ability to develop and grow, that I can ask unlimited questions and search out countless answers. I learned that my life is determined not by the way in which I was educated, but through my own independent and unique thought, which nonetheless incorporates tremendous appreciation for everything I have received. I hope that my life will always reflect what I learned in Nesiya: the value of giving to the other, with great caring and love, which Nesiya showed me is both essential and possible. I will always hold in my heart deep appreciation and respect for those who granted me this experience.”

Timna Ahituv, Jerusalem, Israel, who was a senior at a religious girls’ school, volunteered in Nesiya’s year-round program for her third year.

“In Israel I felt the most myself I have ever felt. All my life I have felt connected to and loved Israel; the Nesiya experience has strengthened and enriched that connection, opened new windows and added new depths. Thank you so much for allowing me to have this insightful and enriching experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Tamar Rosen, New York, NY, who was a senior at Heschel School, volunteered at the National Council of Jewish Women soup kitchen for her Nesiya Community Internship.

“One memory that strikes me when I think back on Nesiya is a discussion after meeting with Arab teens. Tense and politically charged, the meeting brought out raw emotions. I expected with much dread, as we walked out of the polarized conversation, that things I said might have done irreparable damage to my connections with several people. To my shock and relief, one girl I had feared might have been offended by me had a friendly conversation with me a few minutes later. This affirmed what Nesiya had accomplished. I realized that it was the strong community that allowed us to have that debate without it doing harm. I will keep that knowledge with me as I try to bring some of the strength of my Nesiya community back home.”

Arno Rosenfeld, San Francisco, CA, at the time a senior at Jewish Community High School, completed his Nesiya Community Internship by tutoring disadvantaged elementary school children through a program at his school.

“I want to express my deep gratitude to those who enabled me to participate in Nesiya. I feel that I have become a better person. My relationship with the other has changed. I became more open to difference and more open to expressing my own opinion. I feel more a part of the Jewish people as a whole, and not just of those who live in Israel. The year round program has given me so much – from the amazing feeling that I am giving of myself to the world, to the feeling of togetherness that we have in our volunteering. This was an enriching experience which absolutely influenced my life. Thank you!”

Meital Lewin, Nitzan, Israel, who was a senior at a religious high school when he attended Nesiya, is volunteered with Nesiya at an after-school enrichment program in Kiryat Malachi.

“Coming from an Orthodox home I rarely have interactions with members of different sects of Judaism. This program gave me the opportunity to understand Judaism on a national and international level. I learned to give the benefit of the doubt and to accept all types of people. Not everyone has the necessary resources to experience what Nesiya has to offer but the financial aid program makes it within reach. It is people like you who donate so generously that enable teenagers like me to experience something truly unique. I thank you for your generosity and on the behalf of all future Nesiya participants I ask you to continue supporting the Nesiya Institute.”

Jacob Stark, Providence, RI, who was a senior at Maimonides Jewish high school in Boston. For his Nesiya Community Internship, Jacob volunteered at a local soup kitchen.

“In plumbing the depths of the desert, the heights of the mountains, the waters of the sea, and the hearts of the cities, I have found perspective. Though Israel’s struggle remains unsolved, by your generosity, I have been granted a measure of understanding for both sides. I believe that knowledge of multiple perspectives are the building blocks for a peaceful future. You have let me see hope in what seems like a hopeless scenario. For that, I thank you.”

Langston Epps, Temple Terrace, FL, at the time a senior at a public high school, volunteered at the Equality Florida headquarters, an agency which addresses legal inequities facing the LGBT community.

“Thank you for your exceedingly generous contribution. Your donation made it possible for me to participate in Nesiya, an indescribably enriching, rewarding, and unforgettable program that has influenced my perspective on my social, academic, extracurricular, and religious pursuits for the better. What I gained from my experience, the memories, friendships, and increased sense of social awareness, have remained with me, and will follow me for days, months, and years to come.”

Rachel Bercovitz, Baltimore, MD, was a senior at a Beth Tefiloh High School. For her Nesiya Community Internship, Rachel volunteered at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

“I am writing to express my immense gratitude for enabling myself and others to experience Nesiya. Because of the generosity of donors like you, I had the chance to dig into myself and my connection to Judaism in a diverse environment that was both challenging and beautiful. Being a group meant finding ways to be together while respecting each other’s practices and beliefs. Though it was a struggle at times, I learned so much not only about others, but about myself as well.”

Yael Platt, Berkeley, CA was a sophomore at the Jewish Community High School when she joined Nesiya. For her Nesiya Community Internship Yael volunteered with Project Open Hand, which supplies food to the elderly, the critically ill, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have a summer that was so holistic and life-altering that I struggle to put it into words. This summer opened my mind, eyes, and heart to face new encounters and see Israel in a new social and political light. I have built new connections to the land and its people. I truly appreciate your generous donation, for it has also shown me how much giving tzadakah can truly help and influence others.”

Sara Molinsky, Roslyn Heights, NY, was a public school senior. For her Nesiya Community Internship, Sara was volunteering with younger children at her synagogue’s youth group.

“I understand Israel better. I make an effort to look at issues more from a Jewish lens. I feel more confident in my ability to solve problems independently. After Nesiya, college no longer seems quite so intimidating. I give you tons of thanks for providing this amazing summer.”

Reuben Baron, Needham, MA, at the time a junior at public high school, completed his Nesiya Community Internship as a teacher’s assistant at Prozdor Hebrew High School.

“For years I dreamed of going to Israel. When I heard about Nesiya, I was excited to make my dream come true. Thank you for helping me on my way to Israel through Nesiya. Thank you for helping me discover my Jewish identity through the many insightful conversations and challenging workshops we had on Nesiya. Thanks to you, I had the best six weeks of my life!!!”

Audra Sarna, Sandy Hook, CT, a public school senior, volunteered at her synagogue Hebrew school for her Nesiya Community Internship.