Karen Schottenstein

Mother of Miriam Schottenstein, Bat Sherut Bodedah 2017–18

Proud does not even begin to describe how I feel about my daughter who made Aliyah on May 3, 2017.

I don’t know when she fell in love with Israel, but it feels like it began when she was born. The first time Miriam went to Israel was in 2007 at age 9. She will tell you that she doesn’t remember much from the trip. Maybe so, but I believe it is a part of her soul. The next trip to Israel was in 9th grade with high school. She then chose to spend the summers after 10th and 11th grade in Israel. It was that second summer, when I was also in Israel, that I met her briefly one morning. I hugged her and said “see you at home”, Miriam responded: “I am home, see you in Denver”. Well, that said it all.

By the time Miriam started her senior year of high school we knew she was going to make Aliyah, the question was simply: when. Together with her father we discussed attending university in the US vs in Israel. Together we decided that if she was going to make Aliyah, she should go to university in Israel.

In fall of 2016, Miriam left for her gap year in MMY, a seminary in Jerusalem. Aliyah was in the cards, probably after seminary. In January, 2017, Miriam asked her us if we were okay with her making Aliyah before returning to the states. Of course, we said YES.

Miriam made Aliyah on May 3, 2017, 7 Iyar 5777 at the Nefesh B’Nefesh office with her friends by her side.

Never seen her happier

My husband and I raised our children to be independent and to reach for their dreams. When your dream is 6000 miles away from your parents, it takes a different type of independence. Throughout the whole Aliyah process, Miriam completed everything by herself. Her father and I were just the messengers, getting any necessary forms from the US. Independent? Yes!

Once Miriam made Aliyah, she decided that Sherut Leumi, National Service, was more suited to her than the IDF. She wanted to serve her country in the way that was most fitting to her. Because she was not enlisting in the Army, Miriam had to get her exemption, something that is required before beginning Sherut Leumi. She also had to apply for Sherut Leumi positions, a process that is known to be stressful. All at 19 years old and 6000 miles from home.

No hugs from Mom on a hard day, just a phone call or WhatsApp message. Not nearly the same as the physical comfort of a hug.

Miriam was back in America for the summer, packing her life’s belongings into 2 large duffel bags and a carry-on. How do you decide what to take? Stress and tears.

So much is unknown. What will the job be like? What about the apartment and roommates? What if I forgot something? What if I don’t feel good and I have to go to the doctor by myself? Will the doctor speak English? Mom (and Dad) are here to hug me and reassure me now but what about when I’m in Israel? Who will help me? Friends aren’t Mom.

The Sherut Leumi year started on September 1st, 2017. Miriam is now a Lone Bat Sherut. That means moving into an apartment without Mom or Dad’s help. Buying all the necessary stuff that didn’t fit in your luggage. Starting a new position, where no one speaks English. The only way to communicate is in Hebrew which is not your mother tongue. Kashering the apartment because you are not sure what kosher standards the former residents kept. Living in an apartment that needs repairs all the time and the Sherut Leumi agency taking weeks to get it done. Dealing with the problems in Sherut Leumi agency and the bureaucracy that comes with it.

Opening a bank account in your second language so your paycheck can be deposited in your bank account. Needing to go to the doctor in your second language. No matter how independent a young adult is (and my Miriam is very independent), doing everything by yourself without Mom or Dad’s help is hard. Not going home for the weekend to get home cooked food and a few extra hugs. Making Shabbat plans every week, no matter how many friends you have in the country, needing to be hosted every Shabbat and Yom Tov isn’t an easy task.

But Miriam did it!!

As the year came to the end, my daughter needed to find an apartment, navigate a lease in Hebrew, order checks, apply for Mechina and hope to get accepted to the program she wants. Again, the fear of the unknown. Completing these tasks are daunting. Mom and Dad are 6000 miles away and with the miles is a 9-hour time difference, so it is not always easy to call Mom when you need her most. Miriam persevered and completed everything she needed to do. She is now happily learning in the Mechina of Hebrew University getting ready to study Biomedical Engineering.

Lone Bnot Sherut are serving their country, working for almost nothing. They are lucky as they get a free bus pass during the year of service, for everything else, they must stretching the 856 NIS as far as it can go. They are 19 years old and giving it their all.

Miriam gave her all to her job and spoke Hebrew all day long. Thankfully at night she came home to roommates and friends who spoke English and who also were Lone Bat Sherut, but not everyone is as lucky.

In Keren Or

12 months after starting her Sherut Leumi service, Miriam completed a successful year. She worked at Keren Or in a classroom of children with special needs. The staff at Keren Or were loving and caring and it was a great work experience. I am grateful for their kindness to my daughter and for making her feel welcome.

Proud? I couldn’t be prouder of my daughter.

She is living her dream. She is living in the holiest city of Jerusalem. She is studying to be an engineer to change the world for the better. She is a role model. She makes it so easy. She doesn’t complain (much).

But it’s hard when she tells me that she had to explain to someone that, “I’m here all by myself, I went home to visit my family” with tears in her eyes.

It’s hard when your daughter tells you after the last day of Yom Tov that I wanted to call you all day today, but it was still Yom Tov for you. What I would have done to give her a hug. I’m one proud Mother. Miriam has shown me that if you want something and you persevere you can achieve your dream.

But it takes support. Long distance support from Mom and Dad and support at home in Israel for being a Lone Bat Sherut.