Amanda Rosenfield

"Since my involvement with Judaism in college began I have been committed to growing in my Jewish observance.  I have read many books on women’s issues, Jewish law, practical matters related to living a Jewish life in a non-Jewish- world. I have also found learning partners, classes and families in Los Angeles that I learn from.  As stated above I have taken on certain practices like keeping Shabbat and am working on keeping kosher. I feel comfortable with my growth and I believe that I have done enough investigation into Judaism to know that I am intellectually committed to this lifestyle.  I am deeply devoted to expanding my knowledge and look forward to my education at Neve.  If I enter the world of Jewish education, which has been my passion even when I was applying to reform rabbinical school nearly 2 years ago, I know that the knowledge that I gain in Israel will be more than indispensable."



Jessie Wright

"Last September I went on a JAM trip to London. Right before the trip I had a life changing realization. I thought that my priorities were family, religion and then career, but I had devoted my entire life to my career and school. I decided at that moment that I needed to come to Neve and devote some time to growing into a strong Jewish woman. So far, my boyfriend and I have been growing together. Our intention is to study on our own for a while then reunite and wed. At the end of my stay at Neve I want to be in a place where I can marry Michael and live a Jewish life. I want to have children and be able to provide them with a proper Jewish education and be an example for them. "



Emily Weiner
jam israel trip

"My first introduction to Shabbat was one of the most inspiring and unexpectedly memorable nights of my life. One of my friends dragged me to a Rabbi?s house and I had in mind an old guy with a white beard and an awkward conversation over a mediocre meal. Instead, I walked into a house overfilled with young Jewish collegiate with a vibrant and vivacious Rabbi and his wife. The warmth and love I felt from these complete strangers forever changed my life."




Juliette Wrigley

"One day on campus my boyfriend ran into JAM and started learning with the Rabbi. Eventually he dragged me to a meeting, whereupon I was immediately jealous of this weekly wisdom he was receiving so I started learning with the Rabbi’s wife and attending Shabbat meals. I spent 3 inspiring weeks on a JAM Israel trip and then extended my stay for two months. I almost ended up not going home but decided that I really wanted to finish up school before moving to Israel. My Dad is amused at my interest in Judaism but my mother is fairly supportive. She grew up with a lot of prejudices but is trying to overcome them and ‘understand’ where I am coming from and my decisions. I realize that I have so much more that I want to learn about Judaism, about Jewish law, to grow spiritually and intellectually, that I need to attend Neve. I want to go back to figure out where I should be religiously and take formal classes and learn and talk with amazing teachers about my life and about Judaism."



Karen Siles

"In my final year of college in 2006, I went on a JAM Israel trip. I wanted a positive experience in Israel so I signed up. This trip was pivotal in shaping my Jewish identity.  Prior to the program I believed strongly that the facts of science were sufficient in explaining the complex behavior of the world. I had no spiritual beliefs or desire to change that. My only motivation for participating in this trip was to try and connect to my heritage through the land and culture.  My expectations for the trip were learning some Herbrew, make some friends and have a positive experience in Israel.  I received much more.  The three week program turned into a six week exploration into a world I had never known existed.  The thought provoking discussions, speakers and rabbis on this trip challenged me with profound insights in ethics morality and history.  I began learning aspects of Judaism that I never knew existed.  I felt pride in the accomplishment of the Jewish people despite unimaginable hardship and oppression.  Most significantly, I began to question the values that western society had imbued and began to struggle with the possibility that a creator could be real. I decided the right step for me would be to go back to Neve and to spend more time investigating that possibility.  I have returned to learn in Israel for the year and am growing and learning like I never thought possible. I want to solidify my foundations in Judaism by studying and living in Jerusalem."


Alex Jackson

For the majority of my life, I have lived in a very small, non-diverse community where Judaism has played no role in the society of my town. I did, though, know that my mother was Jewish, and that I, therefore, was Jewish too. Because there was no synagogue in the town where I was raised, or any other Jews that I knew of, I barely took part in any of the traditional "Jewish" activities. However, as is natural, I began to formulate my own spiritual beliefs and attitudes about the world. The more I learn about Judaism, the more I see how much it is in line with my own innate beliefs.  The JAM trip to London was astounding. The mornings of learning brought me new and exciting understanding of the Jewish world. At this point, I feel that learning in general is what is driving my life. I am currently studying in Israel for the year.



Emily Housman

I feel as though Judaism has led me in my perspectives in life. Since my birthright trip, I have been so inspired to get involved in Judaism, and what it has to offer as a religion. I have tried to relate to more people of my same religion, and tried to really seek out the Jewish community in Irvine. Since my birthright trip, I have gone to multiple shabbat's hosted by Hillel, and have met so many great Jewish people. I just think that Judaism has so much to offer, and I really think that I is truly inspiring, and I am  trying to learn as much about it as possible.  Through JAM I studied in Israel for 3 months this summer for that very reason, to be motivated and inspired to further understand my religion. I really just want to connect with Jewish people, and understand more.



Leanne King

"I was raised in a Christian household, by a Jewish mother who converted years before my birth—in a Southern Baptist, predominantly African-American church. I was very involved and devout. As I got older, my family's involvement in the church waned and, thereby, so did my own. I believed in G-d, but I looked around and thought to myself that something just wasn't right with the understanding I had developed of contemporary Christianity.

I transferred to UCLA and one day, while walking through UCLA’s Campus, someone stopped me interrupted my scholarly thoughts and asked me if I was Jewish. Maybe it was out of curiosity, but I answered "yes." I, the evangelical Christian! Whatever may have initiated my reply, it was the best decision I've ever made for myself. A simple "Yes, I'm Jewish" set me up for a lifetime of opportunity and fulfillment.

When I arrived at my first Westwood Shabbat table, I was completely overwhelmed by a sense of connection. I felt connected to the generations in my family before me who had celebrated this night just as I was now. I felt connected to the Jews around the world who were celebrating Shabbat. Slowly, slowly one Friday night became several in a row. I was participating in holidays and getting to know Jewish communities in Los Angeles. From then on I worked on myself until I felt ready to head for Neve Yerushalayim, college of Judaic Studies, where I have spent a total of eight months learning and growing. And it all started because someone on campus asked if I was Jewish."

Sarah Burstein
jewish israel

"Judaism is who I am and there is no denying it. I have found an observance that I am very happy with and I know what my beliefs are, some of which have been shaped by Judaism, and others I have reconciled to make my own. I know how I want to get married and raise my children and it all involves Judaism. For me, my present and future are very much embedded in my Jewish beliefs and values and I have not compromised on anything. Being Jewish is not just my religion, it is my culture, heritage, ethnicity, and my identity; they are all one and the same in my opinion and that is what I love about Judaism. Judaism is not something that will be with me but is something that is in me, has always been in me and I know I would be miserable without it. As I said, it is my identity and even if I tried to store it away, it would be like denying that my name is Sarah and that I have blue eyes. My Judaism is my fact and way of being."

Rachel Pollack
jewish israel

"Judaism has always played a big role in my life. I was raised with Holocaust surviving grandparents. They have instilled in me the belief of G-d because of everything they have been strong enough to survive. I want to be able to pass on their history to my children and grandchildren so that our family flame does not die out. However, I have gone through a part of my life where I questioned my faith in G-d. At this time, I developed a deeper love for Judaism because I realized that one of the best parts of being Jewish is the ability to question my faith and have those questions answered. I want to deepen my spiritual connection with Israel and strengthen my Jewish education. I feel that I cannot fully appreciate or connect with Judaism until I have studied in the holy land."

Natalie Torkan
jewish israel

"As a child, I was perplexed by the many obligations andrestrictions that Judaism mandated, and I felt isolated from my peers, who werefree of religious observation. I recall, as an elementary school student,struggling with the dietary laws of kashrut at each recess and lunchtime, whenI had to refuse the non-kosher food that my classmates ate readily. What I didnot realize at the time were the dimensions of depth, maturity, and strengththat these differences were adding to my character. Duringhigh school, I began to develop a deep appreciation for Judaism's practices andcore values, However, aside from fulfilling the commandment of helpingothers, there is much more I wish to learn from Judaism. As a woman who residesin a society that focuses on material and physical rather than building theinternal mental and spiritual foundations of a human being, I am witness tomany people, losing themselves to materialism. I hope to gain knowledge of Judaism by attending a Jewish seminary sothat I may further build my character, strengthen my Jewish identity andunderstand my full Jewish responsibility in the world. Ultimately, I hope that one day, when I am a wife and aparent, I will have the adequate knowledge and tools with which to build a homefilled with the wisdom of Judaism, and pass onthe Jewish torch to future generations."

Kendra Cheney
jewish israelI grew up in a small city in Northern California that was composed of secular liberals, retired hippies and their children. It is a place where religion is not discussed or touched with a 10 foot pole. So naturally, when it came to Judaism I didn't know my right from my left. My family had 'cultural' get-togethers for Channukah and Passover, but we had no concept of Shabbos, Rosh Hashana or even Yom Kippur.
The first religious Jew that I ever met was at the orientation of my Freshman year at UCLA. A young Jewish couple was handing out challah and inviting students to sign up for an organization called JAM. I was extremely skeptical when I first started receiving phone calls and invitations to join in on Shabbos dinners (what was "Shabbos" anyway?) or various JAM events (you mean, attend a religious function?!). After months of failed attempts, I finally agreed to meet the Rebbitzen for coffee on Kerckhoff Patio.
As much as I enjoyed schmoozing with this Jewish woman and for the first time laying my eyes on a Tanach, I agreed with my mother who, like so many other parents of ba'alei teshuva, maintained that I was being abducted into a cult. At one point, I bluntly and abruptly asked the Rebbitzen just exactly what her ulterior motives were with me. After she assured me that her aim was not to turn me into a religious fanatic, I began to relax and even accepted an invitation for Shabbos dinner.
It was hard to put my finger on exactly what touched me so deeply that first Friday night. Now in hindsight I can definitively say that this family's emanating shalom bayis and love for Torah struck a chord with me deeper than I let myself believe. At that point all I knew is that this was the first functional family I had ever met, complete with beautiful bouncy children and delicious food. Towards the end of my Freshman year, I was invited to join JAM on their summer trip to Israel. After debating whether or not to stick to my original plan of spending the summer in Mexico to study Spanish, the liberal in me decided that this was too exotic of a trip to pass up. Although my journey towards Yiddishkeit had hardly begun, the three week JAM trip and week that I extended was life-altering. For the first time I was challenged with questions like, "Is there actually a God?" and, "Why wouldn't you marry Jewish?" These questions not only exhilarated me but also stopped me in my tracks. I started to question my morals, purpose, and the direction my life I was heading.
As I write this from my home in Jerusalem, I realize that there is no way to express the gratitude I have towards Rabbi and Bracha Zaret, my original UCLA campus Rabbi and family, and the entire JAM staff."

Danielle Bernard
jewish israel"Growing up in a more Jewish community, I grew up thinking I knew much of what I needed to know about Judaism. My mind was set, so to speak, on what I believed Judaism was and how it was going to affect my life. For almost seventeen years I was involved with Jewish organizations one way or another, Sophomore year of college at UCSB, my friend introduced me to a Shabbat family.. We went for a Friday night dinner and we found ourselves immersed in laughter, happiness and inspiration. It was this one experience that slowly transformed my interest and curiosity about Judaism. Four months later, I decided to partake in a summer trip to Israel. It was an incredible journey with amazing people and unforgettable trips. However, it was the classes that stood out above all else. It was during these classes that I began to learn on a deeper, more meaningful level. This was Judaism. The spiritual and thought-provoking Judaism that I had not seen in my past Jewish education. It was a beautiful discovery and now, almost a year later, I continue learning and growing as each new teaching illuminates my life. I am going back now to Israel to study and learn more!"

Eve Rifkin
jewish israel

“JAM was the first time I ever experienced Religious Judaism. Thankfully, since I was
first recruited about two years ago, JAM has provided me and many of my peers a
comfortable and friendly environment to grow spiritually. I consider JAM and its many
supporters an amazing and blessed group who genuinely care about and serve the
young Jewish community. I have been fortunate to see firsthand the impact the trips,
challah baking’s, events, Shabbatons, and interpersonal relationships with the Rabbi’s and families have had on the youth and I can attest it’s nothing less than remarkable! I recently went to Israel with JAM for the second time. JAM generously helped me extend my trip. I was able to grow tremendously while immersed in learning in Jerusalem which has the greatest concentration of spiritual wealth on the planet. I thank Hashem for the people who make up and support JAM. May we all continue to grow everyday and serve as a light unto others.”

Amy Segal
israel abroad

"I would love love love to come to Israel again this summer! I am really considering going to study there for a while after I graduate, if I can afford it all. I am still doing what I can Jewishly, and still eager to grow and learn. I'm looking at different shuls where I am living, and apparently there are a lot! I'm also going to look for some classes that are offered! Hope you are doing well!! Keep in touch, and I will let you know when I am back in town, and can do another Shabbaton!"