gap year in israel

Check out our social media to see what our students have been up to this past week!

Hi, my name is Dana Bederson, I’m 20 years old, I’m from Brooklyn New York, and I will be attending Guilford College in Greensboro in the Fall. Judaism has always seemed to be at the center of my life. My parents took my sister and me to synagogue every Friday night and Sunday school every weekend. Perhaps what set my Judaism up for success was my love for Jewish music. My mom always blasted her old NFTY tapes in our blue Toyota Prius, and we would just sing and let it all out. Listing to music and sitting in my Disney princess car seat alongside my mom was where my passion for Jewish music started. When my synagogue got a new cantor, she quickly realized my love for music. She let me sing solos during services, and then after a while I sang on her CDs, I attended URJ Biennials to sing on Jewish rock radio and finally I began leading services in her absence. As a child, I spent my summers at URJ Camp Harlam in the Poconos and eventually served as a song leader for two years. Just like my mom, I also was involved with NFTY and was NFTY MAR’s head song leader senior year.

I feel extremely lucky to have gone to Barrie Prep high school. There I made lifelong friends, went to countries such as Ghana and Costa Rica, and even learned to love math. I did theater and band, and discovered my growing passion for social justice. I also played on our varsity volleyball and basketball teams from freshman to senior year and acted as an admission ambassador for our school. After having a safe place to grow and learn, I quickly realized I needed to do something risky and new. I decided to defy social norms and take a gap year.

Aardvark has done a tremendous job of allowing me to explore and learn about Israel. Along with taking classes and having a job, we learn how to live with others. No matter how I twist and turn, my friends and counselors are there to help and support me. I truly can’t think of a better way to spend a year. I’m doing work that I find meaningful. In the first semester I worked in a school for 1 and 2 year olds, I loved watching the children develop and learn. This semester I work for Women of the Wall. I love flexing my social justice muscle that I discovered in high school. Between fighting for women’s rights, equality, and having a lasting effect on Israel, there isn’t a better way to spend my time.

Some fun facts that I feel everyone should know about me are, I’m proficient in American Sign Language and I have a sensory “superpower” called synesthesia, all it means is that the pathways in my brain between my hearing and sight are connected, so when I hear any sound it causes a visual colorful experience in my frontal vision. Also, growing up my two cats were named Todah and Rabbah.