Central welcomed back seven sophomores who participated in the YUHSG/Ulpanat Tzvia Exchange program in Maale Adumim this past month. The program, founded eight years ago, offers a unique opportunity for Central students to immerse themselves in Israeli culture, connect with their Israeli counterparts, and develop a deeper experiential connection with Torat Eretz Yisrael. Students in the program are fully integrated in their living and learning with their Israeli peers. They study all of their limudei kodesh with the Israeli students, and are included in all school activities. They also take part in a series of field trips including the three-day class trip to the Negev, and a special Shabbat program at the Yeshiva University Gruss Kollel in Bayit Ve’Gan arranged by the kollel families.

This year, Central’s participants included Carrie Ebbin, Meriav Grajower, Meirav Landsman, Shayna Orlow, Olivia Peller, Lauren Steifel, and Emily Zweibel. The students returned overflowing with stories of their learning, new friendships, and exposure to Israeli society, culture, and history. “The environment in the school was so happy and welcoming,” Shayna Orlow said. “We had a wonderful time and made so many friends.” Carrie Ebbin commented on the students’ commitment to religious Zionism: “Their love of Israel was very inspiring. It made me want to spend more time there.” Lauren Steifel echoed the sentiment, and spoke fondly of the shabbatot she spent at the homes of her new friends in Israel. “My Hebrew improved,” she said, but, even in the moments when there was a language barrier, “it didn’t matter; the families were so warm and still made us feel so comfortable.”

The returning sophomores are so excited for the final stage of the exchange program, in which they will welcome four of their Ulpanat Tzvia friends to Central for a three-week period! “We’ve been sending them pictures of the snow,” Carrie Ebbin said, “and they can’t believe it!” The Ulpana students will be fully integrated into the YUHSG academic program and extracurricular activities, and the Israeli “shlichot” will be bringing the Ulpanat Tzvia ruach into Central. Shayana Orlow summed it up: “We miss our Israel experience and friends so much; we cannot wait for them to come!”

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