My experience of Judaism until I came to Mayanot was that it was a religion filled with obligations and conforming to a higher power, which Rabbi Levinger, Rosh Yeshivah of the Women's Mayanot Institute, always says, "Judaism is not a religion. It is a relationship."
I finally realized that for myself. I knew there was something wrong with the image I had been fed at other institutions, where I felt judged and like I needed to hide myself to conform to what the community wanted and why I wasn't fully happy, even though I had started taking on more mitzvos. That is not Judasim.
My journey since coming to Israel has been to reveal who I am and the type of relationship I want with Hashem, with other people, and with myself. The conclusion I have come to is that I want real relationships.
One Shabbos, we all created our own 'in-Shabbos' at Mayanot (it's when all of the Women stay at Mayanot for both meals). We went around the table saying one defining moment we've all had. It was so inspiring to hear everyone's struggles and accomplishments and what has meant most to us throughout our lives. We really have become like a family.
Then we sang nigguns, and one of us accidentally turned off the light switch with her back. Our reaction was just to sing louder and stand up and put our arms around each other. It was so beautiful with the snow glistening in the windows, no one said a word about the accident.
It was amazing because I felt that if it had happened somewhere else, there would have been disapproval and judgement. That was definitely a defining moment for me.
Later that night, I sat with the girls and told them how I appreciated how no one said anything to me about the fact that I had started wearing jeans. They said they hadn't even noticed. Because that's not what matters. You look at someone for their soul not for their externals.
I felt that if I had been somewhere else, people would totally say something to me and think I went off the path, when really I am finally just beginning it.
This is what Mayanot has given me, love acceptance, and the freedom to discover Judaism and my relationship with G-d for myself.