A young American tourist wearing jeans and a backpack descends the steps to the Kotel plaza. Gazing at the Wall for the first time, she knows she’s supposed to be moved. But she’s too annoyed—Why are women shunted off to the side? she fumes and she marches right into the men’s section.
She’s about halfway to the Kotel when a guard suddenly notices her. “You not to be here, you to be there,” he says in broken English. He escorts her out.
At that moment, a tall man wearing a black fedora approaches her. He smiles. “Are you Jewish?” he asks.
“Yes,” she says, between clenched teeth.
“Would you be interested in a Friday night Shabbat meal with a religious family, or a class on Jewish philosophy?”
“No!” she replies, wanting nothing to do with Judaism.
For the next few hours, she wanders around the Old City. But something pulls her back to the Kotel. Again, the partition upsets her, but she has no choice about it. On the women’s side, she goes up to the Wall. Placing her hands on the stones, She feels nothing. Oh well, she thinks. I tried. With that, she exits the women’s section.
Just then, a young woman approaches. “Excuse me,” she says with a friendly smile, “do you have a map of the Old City?”
“Yeah, just a second,” the tourist responds, reaching into her backpack.
“By the way, are you Jewish?”
Hmm, the tourist thinks. I believe I’ve heard this before. “Yes. Why?”
“While you’re here in Jerusalem, would you be interested…”
Yup, sounds familiar.
The tourist pauses. Yes, I would.
Two months later, she drops in on some classes at Neve Yerushalayim, intending to study no longer than a week. 10 months later, she returns to America—just for a visit—as a newly Orthodox Jew.
The Tourist? Gila Manolson
As a groundbreaking institution for Jewish women’s education, the staff of Neve Yerushalayim has had the privilege to know thousands of women like Gila from all over the globe. Some didn’t even know they were Jewish growing up. They came to Neve to find out what it means to be a Jew. They were inspired to find that Judaism was not an archaic religion, but a guide to living the most meaningful life, freed from the fads and false morals of their generation. These women have left Neve to build lives in Jewish communities around the world and are raising generations of Torah observant Jews.
As Neve approaches its 50th year, Idealistic young women, like Gila, from all over the world are still arriving almost every day of the year. They are searching for clarity in a confusing world, where so many Jews are assimilating and intermarrying. Neve has an obligation to continue to provide quality Jewish education for these women. Neve can’t abandon their commitment to the future of the Jewish people and continues to dedicate itself to its mission. This year, it is launching its 50th Anniversary campaign to raise seven and a half million dollars in order to propel its work forward — to increase its recruitment programs, create more spiritual support for its alumnae, enhance its offerings to the present student body, award them scholarships, and renovate the dorms, thus building more successful Jewish futures.
A donation to Neve is to enable the school to continue empowering Jewish women and the community at large. You can learn more about Neve’s goals at www.nevey.org.