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Meet Sara K., an Out-of-the-Box Bais Yaakov Girl

Ruchama Schnaidman

She told me that living in Moscow for a year was going to be absolutely nothing like camp, and that I should expect it to be a lot of work, without the excitement of camp to go with it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

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Photo: Shutterstock

Kol hamekayeim nefesh achas b’Yisrael… k’ilu kiyem olam malei. 

Meet Sara K. from Los Angeles, who goes to Russia to share her love for Yiddishkeit and ignite her passion among our sisters living there. Sara has worked in camp in Russia and has spent a year living in Moscow. This summer will be her seventh summer in Russia. 

Hi, Sara, please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m 23, born and raised in Toronto, and currently living in Los Angeles. I am an out-of-the-box Bais Yaakov girl who’s passionate about Judaism and about sharing that enthusiasm with others. I also love to travel. 

When did you first get involved in working in Russia? 

I was in junior high when I first heard that my youngest aunt, who had just finished school, was planning to go to camp in Ukraine. I remember thinking that sounded like something I wanted to do. When I entered high school, I started hearing girls talking about Mrs. Chana Leah Rapaport, an 11th-grade teacher who runs a camp in Russia each summer. Over the next couple years, I heard her speak at different events, and her anecdotes about camp in Russia strengthened my resolve to one day experience it for myself.

Shutterstock

In 11th grade, Mrs. Rapaport taught me world history and she soon became my favorite teacher. Toward the end of the year, I asked her about the camp, and although it didn’t work out for that summer, I was finally able to join Camp Etz Chaim in the suburbs of Moscow as a counselor the following summer, when I was 17. That was back in 2010, and baruch Hashem, I’ve had the opportunity to attend every summer since. Once I started, I simply couldn’t stop! 

What were you told before you went to live in Moscow? 

Like I mentioned, I first went to camp as a counselor for three weeks. I had an incredible experience, and when Mrs. Rapaport mentioned at the end of camp that they were looking for madrichot to live in Moscow for a year, I knew instantly that I wanted that privilege. So, an entire year before I was privileged enough to take the trip of a lifetime, I sat down with Mrs. Dvori Mandel, the one in charge of the apartment, to learn more about the job. 

She told me that living in Moscow for a year was going to be absolutely nothing like camp, and that I should expect it to be a lot of work, without the excitement of camp to go with it. She explained that the apartment is a safe space for Russian girls to come to learn about, explore, and practice Judaism in a way that they can’t or won’t do at home. Basically, we were to be informal educators and teach the girls how to live as frum Jews through our positions as role models. That meant preparing Shabbos for the girls who moved in for the weekend, helping out in school for different events and programs, and most importantly, being someone the girls could look to for support, guidance, and encouragement as they developed their personal relationships with Hashem and Judaism.

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