Advice from Past Students - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Advice from Past Students

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Bring school supplies from home, including a good planner that works for you. Becca Diamond (Rabbinic student)

"עֲשֵׂה לְךָ רַב, וּקְנֵה לְךָ חָבֵר, וֶהֱוֵי דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת" You got into HUC so you are already amazing! Don't let the difficulty/ rigor of the coursework get you down- the pass/fail system is in place so you can really focus on learning and growing without the pressure of letter grades! 

Digital books are wonderful, but remember carrying a laptop can get heavy. I brought my iPad with a keyboard, and I love it. Set up Venmo before leaving America (sorry if you're not American-I'm not sure if Venmo works in other countries). Once in Israel, you can't set it up. Set up WhatsApp and get important friends and family members set up with it too to ensure you have easy access to your home support system. Try to have another plan for video chatting, though, like FaceTime or Zoom (its like Skype but better) because WhatsApp isnt't always great for video. I like it best for texting. Don't be afraid to ask current and past students for help and advice. Live with a non-HUC person if you feel comfortable doing so. It helps to ensure you have more than one human connection here in Israel. (Living with an HUC student is great, too, I am currently living with one :) ) If you have medical concerns, have a plan with your American doctor to communicate with them if necessary. Bring medications with you if you can.  Erin Levine (Jewish Ed. student)

Continue to stay present in this time before HUC begins AND get excited! Jenna Mark (Cantorial student)

I've really enjoyed living with Israelis so I recommend it. Find things to do outside of class for yourself once in a while (I've joined the near by rock climbing gym!). Enjoy what Jerusalem has to offer- there are a lot of cultural events happening and don't be afraid to go outside your bubble. Have shabbat dinners and do things outside of HUC (go to Mea Shearim, or go to a modern orthodox dinner, etc), but also enjoy time with your class!  Leah Nussbaum (Rabbinic student) 

Figure out with your landlord how you will pay rent - do not attempt to set up a bank account unless you have Israeli citizenship. Recommend depositing rent at landlord's bank or paying landlord in cash in person. Otherwise wire money as infrequently as possible. Structure lease language so both you and landlord sign first before sending deposit (prevent unnecessary stress). Don't bring all of the booklist - email students to get list of books they actually used while they are here (primarily will depend on your teachers and hebrew level placement). If interested start volunteering to lead birthright trips / chaperone flights to get a free flight well in advance to get a placement. Think about your walking distance to school as well as to a supermarket - two supermarkets I use are Shupersal on Gershon Agron and King George. Also there's a grocery not on google maps by the light rail stop for Davidka. You don't need snow boots here during winter - light water-resistant boots/shotes and warm socks will do.  Sam Klein (Rabbinic student)

Find and do things outside of school that are just for you and make you happy, whether it's non-HUC friends, the movies, the gym, or a class.  Emma Jaszczak (Jewish Ed. student)

Consider LOCATION when looking at apartments. It's easier to travel to a fun spot in your down time than it is to live in a fun area and have a longer commute to school when you're sleep deprived. ;) Stefano Iacono (Cantorial student)

If you have favorite brands of toiletries or OTC medications (or junk food!), make room in your luggage to bring a stash. Also consider leaving a stockpile at home with a friend/family member in case someone comes to visit you, or a fellow student travels home on break and can be a courier. Danielle Weisbrot (Rabbinic student)

Get to know your admin staff and professors as early and as well as possible - ask for "office hours" - they are great people and are really dedicated to your learning and success. If you want to live with Israelis/outside the HUC bubble, check all the facebook groups early and often. It's best to sign for the whole time you're here. I subletted a few places, and the multiple moves weren't fun. Don't feel locked into Jerusalem - go out and explore the country as often as possible, even if it's only to Tel Aviv. Speak Hebrew to everyone - as often as possible. Don't let Israelis insist on talking in English. I said "I need to work on my Hebrew" (in Hebrew) and many of them would let the conversation continue in Hebrew. Our class set up a Shulkhan Ivrit night once a week, and people would come, from all different Hebrew levels, to speak outside of class. It was a great experience. Best of luck to you all! I hope you have a great year!  Ben Dyme (Rabbinic student)

Take time for your physical and mental health while living abroad. I bought myself a set of oil pastels and a huge pad of paper, and I decorated my apartment with my own artwork. Make your own wellbeing a priority. You won't regret it. If you feel embarrassed about your Hebrew, as most of us do, you can always tell people in interactions that you are learning and you want to practice. People will be charmed and impressed by your diligence and want to help you. Mira Weller (Rabbinic student)

 From past students 

  • As stressed as you get, and you will get stressed, in the long term you WILL get through, and you WILL pass. Take the year slowly - a little by little. 
  • Take advantage of every opportunity.  Make friends with students from other seminaries and people who are doing other amazing things in Israel.
  • Travel out of Jerusalem often.
  • Get your visa before you come to Israel.
  • Shabbat in Jerusalem is like nothing else, and there are so many great places to daven.  Holidays in Jerusalem are also awesome, take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate them in Israel.
  • Make Israeli friends, they know where it's at and can take you around.
  • Above all, have fun.
  • Living in Israel may be difficult at times; remember this may be your best opportunity to be in a real, day-to-day relationship with all aspects of Israel and know you will benefit from the experience and look back at it fondly.  Make friends with Israelis.
  • Relax, enjoy, try not to forget that you are living in Jerusalem and it's awesome.
  • Grocery stores deliver.
  • Buy a Cinemateque pass when you get here.
  • Shop at the shuk.
  • Budget extra money to see a therapist. It is really important to maintain your mental health and a worthwhile investment, too. If you are going to one day be helping others with their problems, it is a great decision to take care of your own first.
  • Make this your HOME for the year – you aren’t on a NFTY summer trip.
  • Respect the varied backgrounds with which your classmates come to HUC-JIR.
  • Before choosing roommates discuss and decide; quiet times, kashrut, Shabbat observance, guests, cleaning, use of common space, Passover cleaning/kashrut
  • Keep a sense of humor and remember to take a deep breath once in a while.
  • When you take the bus (and yes, it’s perfectly safe), make sure you get a transfer (called a “Ma’avar”).  For example, when you go to the Shuk, take the bus there, get a ma’avar, since it’s still within the time!  Two trips for the price of one!
  • Bring rain boots!
  • You will get frustrated.  Reach out to your classmates.  Create a support network for yourself and use it.  And make sure you are doing the same for someone else.
  • There is in fact pizza delivery in Jerusalem 
  • Work hard at HUC-JIR, and trust the people in charge. They’ve worked hard to provide you with this experience.
Things they wish they had known earlier:
  • Hebrew
  • Live with Israelis, more immersion that way and your home won't feel like an extension of HUC-JIR
  • School is going to be many hours - choose to divide your time accordingly and travel in the summer.
  • It is fairly cheap to send things to the US.
  • Israelis love fireworks - don't worry, they are not bombs.
  • Acamol=Tylenol
  • Feel free to invite yourself to places with Israelis, they expect you to speak up. 
  • Get an account at Charles Schwab for free checking.
  • Many of the books are available in the library at school so pack light.
  • Don't bring tons of things from the States, you can get almost anything here.