Not all who arrive from abroad and land at BIU planned to do so.
In 2010, Peninah Lamm, an 18 year old Long Islander fresh out of high school, had a clear plan. She would spend one year in Israel in Midrasha (Seminary), like many of her friends and fellow orthodox high school graduates do, and then get back to the States for college, settling somewhere around her family. Her younger sister, Bracha, planned to do the same when she graduated a year later. “I grew up in a very Zionist family,” says Peninah, “but making Aliyah was not really talked about around our dinner table.”
Peninah did complete a year in Midrasha in Migdal Oz. Her sister, who was coming for a summer course that year, asked Peninah to check out the place where Bracha was planning to spend her summer, the Elazraki Children’s Home in Netanya. The good sister she is, Peninah went to visit there during her Passover break from Midrasha. And that was it. Peninah was hooked.
he decided to stay in Israel for another year, and do a Sherut Leumi (National Service) at Elazraki Home, where she worked as a housemother for 3-5th graders who live and study there. During that year, “working and living entirely in Hebrew,” Peninah says, “I improved my Hebrew and began feeling like a real Israeli.”
From there, the road to BIU was clear. “I decided I was going to pursue my academic education in Israel. It just felt right for me,” shares Peninah. “Naturally, as a religious Anglo girl alone in Israel, I wanted to go someplace where there are others like me, so I can befriend people I can easily relate to. At BIU, there’s just that. A strong, vibrant Anglo student community functioning as a substitute family for those away from their home.”
Peninah initially enrolled to the Psychology Department to get her BA (in Hebrew!), but a year later she switched to Social Work, which felt more “up her alley”, especially following her experience working with underprivileged children. That year, here sister Bracha followed suit and is now in her third year of Political Science BA at BIU.
Following their experience making Aliyah to Israel by themselves, the sisters decided to try and help other young Anglos contemplating the move. They established “ Here Next Year " a nonprofit organization helping Anglo orthodox high school graduates who come here for a year of Midrasha or Yeshiva programs stay in Israel. They have an established network with other Zionist organizations, and are helping create a strong community and support system for those opting to stay.
Peninah and Bracha feel that their organization makes it easier for people to decide to stay in Israel, and once they do – to assimilate in Israeli society and build a life here. Now married and living in Modiin, Peninah admits that “I had planned to be somewhere else, and be someone else. But now, thanks to my experience and the education I acquired, I am here, where I belong, helping others like me know they belong here, too.”