Spotlight on Students
Student of the Week – Raya Holz
Hello, my name is Raya Holz, I’m from Beachwood, Ohio and I am currently an Aardvark Israel student in Jerusalem. I may be one of the more secular people on this program, yet every so often, I find myself agreeing with my religious aunt’s claim that “G-d made Raya hate college so He could bring her to Israel”. Whether it was G-d’s plan or Ohio State’s boring lectures, filthy frat houses, and freezing weather, I will never know. But what I can confirm, is that choosing to come on Aardvark after finding my freshman year of college uninspiring, has proven to be an amazing decision. I was hungry for real world, thought-provoking experiences and this semester has given me everything I was craving and then some.
At first, I was hesitant to take a Gap Year after it felt like the obvious time to do so had already passed. I could have muscled through three more years to get my degree and make my parents proud, but like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks.”
Living in Jerusalem, Shabbat has allowed me time to reflect each week. Without fail, I find myself beyond grateful and in awe of the opportunities and personal growth that I have had in just a few months.
Most notably, my Internship with a seed-round venture capital firm, Start Up Ventures, has connected me to an impressive network of business people who have taught me that no idea is too crazy and no entrepreneur is too young to succeed in the Start-Up Nation. Last week, Start Up Ventures brought me to Tel Aviv where I sat in meetings with three companies who are disrupting their respective markets. Living a day in the life of a Tel Aviv businesswomen – meeting new people, listening to new ideas, and pretending that the WeWork meeting room on the penthouse floor was not the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen, was beyond exciting. As I become more familiar with the companies in rotation amongst investors’ conversations, I feel knowledgeable in the direction the business world is heading and where there is room and/or necessity for my future career path.
When I am not trying to play it cool at my internship or absolutely crushing it in (Beginner Level 1) Ulpan, I am often traveling in and outside of Israel. Both Aardvark trips, Barcelona and Prague, were incredibly fun and educational. Appreciating other cultures while learning the Jewish people’s part in the story furthered my pride in my Jewish identity and appreciation for the state of Israel. It amazed me how a mezuzah in the Jewish quarter of Barcelona and a kosher restaurant in Prague made me feel comfortable in a foreign country.
In Israel, I have spent multiple weekends with Israeli host families. I surfed with the Herzog family in Mikhmoret, swam in the Jordan River with the Einhorns, and cooked jachnun with the Azrans in Beit She’an. The hospitality from these families and all the others who have hosted me for Shabbat dinners have made Israel my second home.
Israel is an incredible place that thrives off hope. When you accept the mentality, the future becomes limitless.