NEW YORK – At 29
years old, Marian Lerner of Columbus, Ohio, thought she had missed her chance
to visit Israel. The trip would be
costly, she was over the age limit for programs that she knew provided
financial assistance, and she needed to focus on her career.
Then, she discovered WUJS Jerusalem Arts, a program
organized by Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement of Hadassah, the Women’s
Zionist Organization of America.
The program for Jewish artists ages 21-35 allows participants to study
Hebrew language and Israeli art, while focusing on their own personal art
medium, whether it be visual art, music, photography, writing or performing. The five-month program supplements
classroom time with weekly field trips, overnight hikes, opportunities to meet
Israeli peers and artists, and volunteer activities. At the end of the program, artists present their work in an
exhibition at the Hadassah Art Gallery.
Having studied fine art as an undergraduate at Otterbein
University in Westerville, Ohio, Lerner says she “found the idea of studying
art in Jerusalem a dream come true.”
Thanks to scholarships from Hadassah, the Columbus Jewish Federation,
and MASA, which helps Jewish young people spend a semester or year in Israel,
Lerner found a way to pursue art in Israel.
“I found best friends, I saw beautiful sights, I experienced
a whole different culture, I learned Hebrew – which I’m still studying from my
Ulpan books – I learned about myself, and I celebrated my 30th
birthday,” Lerner says of the program she attended between March and August of
this year. “I learned I could go
to distant places by myself and take chances and live with people for five
months and have them become my family.
This experience has changed me.
I have a strength now that I didn’t have before, and I feel as though I
can go anywhere and do anything I dream of.”
With 40 years of programming and 8,000 graduates, WUJS
Israel continues to lead the way in post-college programs. Lerner is just one young person whose
life will be impacted forever by studying in Israel.