Twenty-five-year-old Elisheva Rina (Rayanne) Kruse told Mayanot about the summer that changed her life. Over pizza and a salad, she told her story.
Her first exposure to Jewish life (her maternal great-grandmother had been Jewish) began the moment she answered an ad for a babysitter. Who opened the door but the wife of the Chabad rabbi in Flagstaff, Arizona who was in the market for an extra hand with her growing family. Working with the family, Elisheva “began to feel the connection with Judaism and Israel too.” So much so that, five years later, she found herself delving deeply into Jewish life and learning in Mayanot’s women’s program. Snuggled between homes in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood, the women’s center is quite simply, she says, “an experience that has changed my life.”
Raised with little in the way of religion, --- years ago, Elisheva got happily hooked on Jewish learning -- and the joys of Shabbat – at the Chabad Center that serves the campus of Northern Arizona University where she was studying. Soon she was enrolled in the Sinai Scholars Learning program which was quickly followed by Israel Links, her first taste of Israel. There she spent one week engaged with a group of young women learning in Tsfat and another in Jerusalem. And when some scholarship support came available, “suddenly it made Mayanot possible for me.”
When she told them of her plan, Elisheva, who’s the youngest of three, encountered some concerns from her mom and middle brother, but was pleasantly surprised to find her dad and older brother supportive. “There was my dad who’s not even Jewish telling me, “Things are always going to be happening over there; you should just go.”
And she’s glad she did. Mayonot, Elisheva says, is “by far the most intensive learning I’ve ever done.” It’s been even more intense than her coursework for her Master’s Degree in Communications -- she graduated about two years ago with hopes of building a career in health marketing. “Here, though I’d call myself basically an anxious person, I have 40 girls as a support group, and amazing teachers in my Jewish Studies program, where we learn a lot of fundamentals of Jewish thought and practice Hebrew too.” Two standouts: The morning Chassidis Class which she calls “really cool” and the Jewish Philosophy Class, where they bring in women from a range of Jewish groups from Breslov to Mea Sharim, to give the women a taste of the diversity within the religious Jewish community. “What I’m seeing is that, with every new thing I learn it makes me more educated and stronger about what I want to do and who I want to be,” she says. “I want the kids I have someday to grow up with what I didn’t have.”