She'arim students are young women (ranging from ages 19 and up) with a strong desire to learn Torah. Many of our students have completed a university degree and are taking time off from busy careers or graduate studies. Drawn from around the world, the majority.
The nature and type of our students reflects on the nature of She'arim. Many of our students have completed a university degree and are taking time off from busy careers or graduate studies. Drawn from around the world, many our students are not from observant homes. Those who are, enhance their day school backgrounds while contributing to the rich mix of influences that constitute our school. Whatever age or background the women who choose to attend She'arim are motivated to learn and grow.
The following are illustrative examples of our students.
“She’arim changed my life by showing me there are answers to all my questions, I just have to find them. This realization allowed me to really move to new levels in my process.”
Andrea is from Washington DC. She had previously been involved at the Northwestern Hillel and founded the Hillel Social Team.
"She'arim provides the tools needed for one to enter into today's world, while maintaining one's Jewish identity, values and way of life. She'arim has definitely contributed to my living a more meaningful, fulfilling, positive and happy Torah life"
My decision to go to She’arim started about a year and a half before ever stepping foot into their doors. It started with a few Shabbos meals, a few classes, a birthright trip, and then ultimately the Shabbos that was the start of the rest of my life.
I was an engineering student, in the last quarter of my senior year. My classes were demanding (to say the least) and my “free time” was taken up by constant projects, homework and tests that were enough to keep me busy every day, and well into the nights. There was little time for anything outside of school (including sleep), nonetheless, Judaism. Yet, through a series of events, I found myself experiencing my very first full Shabbos with a family in the local community. All day Thursday and Friday before this Shabbos, I was in full freak-out mode, wondering how I would get my mountains of work done over the weekend, when I had just sacrificed my entire Friday and Saturday. Late Friday afternoon, I drove about 20 minutes to the Jewish community, but by Friday night, about an hour after taking in Shabbos, I felt like I was millions of miles away for school. That mountain of work was not even a thought in my head, and I felt not even an ounce of stress.
Looking back, it was exactly this sharp juxtaposition between my life at school, and Shabbos, that allowed me to truly appreciate much of the essence of Shabbos. From there, I started learning, and growing, and haven’t stopped since. And it was before I even graduated, that I knew I wanted to take time to learn in Eretz Yisrael. The only catch, was that I was one of those “lucky” students who already had a phenomenal job lined up from before I even started my senior year of college. Isn’t that what I always wanted? What my parents wanted? To graduate, have a good job and be successful? With that I started my job, but my priority was still to go seminary in Israel, and after one year of working, I quit this “dream job”, and I was on my way to Israel.
So why She’arim?
I chose She’arim for 2 reasons: its size, and its focus on learning and growing. Size may seem likely a silly reason to choose a seminary, however, this leads to some of She’arim’s greatest aspects. She’arim is on the smaller size, but with that, comes a very caring, and family-like environment. As someone on the quieter side, I was worried about attending a larger seminary where I knew I would get lost. However, at She’arim, it was easy to form close relationships with the students, the Rebbetzins and the entire staff.
The school quickly becomes your home, and the students and staff, your family. And because of its size, and the dedication of the staff to its students, it’s easy (and encouraged) to meet regularly with your Rebbetzin’s, for questions about what you’re learning, or just about life; they are always there to listen and help. This is essential for anyone trying to learn and grow. Additionally, because of the smaller size, the classes are also small, encouraging participation, active questioning and learning, and a focus on meeting the needs of all the students.
In addition to the small classes, She’arim also has personalized tutors, with whom they are able to focus on the students’ individual levels and desired areas of learning. I could go on, but let’s just say She’arim’s size and quality of teachers and staff, lend itself to being a very comfortable, encouraging and personalized place for anyone at any level to learn and grow.
As for its focus on learning, I was looking for a place where the students are similar to me (baalei teshuva, college/post-college), and most importantly, who were strongly interested in learning and growing in their yiddishkeit. In any school, it’s the students who really create the atmosphere. It was important to me to have an environment where the focus was learning and growing and She’arim is definitely this place. Now, just to be clear, while the students are serious about learning, it’s still a fun and lively place. There are trips and activities put on by the school, a great social life inside and outside of classes, and when you decide to transform the entire school into a visual Disneyland to increase everyone’s fun and joy leading up to Purim, they are all for it!
One other additional benefit the made She’arim attractive was the housing. Unlike most seminaries which use dorms to house its students, She’arim has a handful of individual apartments throughout the city, but near the school. Living with a small group of students, in a normal apartment with, in the middle of the city verses living in onsite dorms, transforms the year from just going to seminary, to one of experiencing what it’s actually like to live in Israel. This independence and experience was a huge bonus!
I went to She’arim at a point in my life where I was already “steady” in my Torah observance. I was keeping Shabbos for about a year and a half, and was knowledgeable in Jewish law and philosophy. There was even an opinion that at this point, I knew enough and did not necessarily need to go to seminary. Thank G-d, I didn’t listen. I thought I was going to seminary to fill in the education gaps that I missed by not going to a Jewish school growing up.
Now there is no question that I learned a significant amount during my year at She’arim, including both filling in those gaps, and adding to and deepening my understanding of what I already knew, but my assumption that I was only going to Israel to study and catch up, was way off. I found that through my She’arim experience, I developed myself into a much better person. Through classes on interpersonal relations, hashkafa (Jewish philosophy – recognizing the good, honor/respect for people etc.), Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our fathers), Derech Hashem (Way of G-d – for example why bad things happen to good people, etc.) I have developed myself as a person and my view on life – with more focus on how I treat and interact with others, how to view different situations (such as difficult situations), and how to see purpose and value in everything that I do.
Being Jewish isn’t something that just happens on holidays or while in Israel; It’s how we live our lives, at every moment. For me, that means carrying my Judaism and values into my secular work environment, or how I interact with my coworkers, friends, and family. She’arim provides the tools needed for one to enter into today’s world, while maintaining one’s Jewish identity, values and way of life. She’arim has definitely contributed to my living a more meaningful, fulfilling, positive and happy Torah life.
“She’arim gave the tools to become a better Jewish woman.”
Tzipporah is from Chile. She had previously tutored at various seminaries including She’arim.She chose She’arim because she wanted to learn Torah in a warm environment.