The following is the first in a series of articles presented by Matzav.com with Seminary and Beyond aimed at providing guidance to girls studying in seminary in Eretz Yisroel:
Shabbosim are often the highlight of the seminary experience. Your seminary will probably have shabbatonim and/or “in Shabbosim” once or twice a month. The other weeks you are on your own to find places to go. Don’t be embarrassed to invite yourself to a family for Shabbos. It may be awkward the first few times you do it but it is worth it!
You can learn a tremendous amount from the families that you go to, and it is a good way to get to know a lot of very interesting people. Don’t only go to English-speaking Americans. Go to different types of communities and families and always keep an open mind. Try to think about where someone else is coming from and not to judge people who seem different than you.
Everyone in Israel has a story. Ask your hosts about their lives, and you will learn a lot. Observe how your hosts treat their guests, raise their children, and live their lives. It is a good idea to keep a notebook in which you can write down different things that you learned from the families you visited for Shabbos.
The hachnosas orchim in Eretz Yisroel is absolutely amazing! There are families that have over fifty guests every week, families who are completely destitute and save all of their money to buy chicken for their Shabbos guests, and families who will take in unexpected guests just minutes before Shabbos. Compared to that, seminary girls inviting themselves is nothing! (And if they don’t want to have you, they can always say no.)*
Start working on Shabbos plans early in the week. Understandably, most people do not appreciate being called Thursday night or Friday. Offer to bring your own bed linen, so that your host will not have to wash yours. Also, remember to ask your host for their address and what time you should come to their house. If you need any special accommodations or have food allergies, it is important that you let your host know that in advance.
You should always bring a nice gift to someone who is hosting you for a meal or for Shabbos. If you are not sure what to bring, it is perfectly appropriate to ask your host what they would like. However, if they say that no gift is necessary, you should generally still bring them something.
Some ideas for gifts: Wine – you can purchase wine at reasonable prices in many grocery stores. The Moscato by Golan is one popular wine.
Rugelach or candy – you can buy this in Geulah. Make sure that it has a hashgacha on it that will be acceptable to your hosts (such as Badatz Eida Hachareidis). If you go to one of the smaller, lesser-known bakeries, the rugelach will usually be less expensive.
A netilas yedayim towel or something nice for their home – you can find these gifts in Geulah, as well.
Something handmade – if you are creative, you can make something yourself that your hosts will appreciate. For example, you can put together your own candy platter, instead of buying one.
If you are going to a family with a few other girls, chip in together to get something a little more expensive. If you have met the family before, try to think about what they would find useful. You are buying them something anyway; you might as well get something that they will appreciate. For example, if you notice that their washing cup is slightly cracked, buy them a new one when you next visit.
As a guest, help set and clear the table. In addition, help the women of the house serve the meal. A really nice gesture is to offer to help cook on Thursday night or Friday morning (assuming you do not have class). It is also really thoughtful to write a note or leave a card in the room you stay in thanking them for their generosity and hospitality.
There is an organization in Israel called “Anywhere in Israel” that will find you a place for Shabbos anywhere in Israel, according to your kashrus level. You can find them on the web at anywhereinisrael.com or you can call 02-994-5326. Please have your request in by Tuesday at noon. Another resource is See You On Shabbos/Shabbat.com, a website that connects those who want to host guests for Shabbos with those who are looking for a place to stay or just a meal. While the website features families all over the world, there are many hosts located in Israel. *While many families in Israel would love to have you as a guest for Shabbos, there are also families that may not be able to host seminary girls for Shabbos for various reasons. Use your discretion when calling families to invite yourself and be respectful and understanding if someone cannot have you.
Seminary and Beyond is an online community for high-school, seminary and post-seminary young women who are serious about personal and spiritual growth.
Seminary & Beyond aims to provide high-school girls of all ages with a forum to discuss real issues and ideas that are important to them, give high school seniors information and support on how to choose a seminary that will help them develop and grow personally and spiritually, provide girls who are already in seminary with practical and spiritual advice that will help them maximize their seminary experience, and help post-seminary young women integrate back into the community while continuing their own personal and spiritual growth.