The Heritage House has touched so many people’s lives and changed them for the better. For example, the girl who came to Israel on Birthright, having just found out she was Jewish from her Russian grandmother earlier that year. She had been brought up going to Catholic school, but wanted to visit Israel now that she knew she was Jewish. She wasn’t planning on staying much longer, and certainly wasn’t planning on becoming religious. However, she extended her trip for a few weeks and stayed with us at the Heritage House. There she got to develop relationships with religious women, attend some Aish Essential classes and experience Shabbat as kept by Torah-observant Jews. By the end of these few weeks she had given up her plane ticket and enrolled in a post-high school seminary. She stayed there the full academic year, became religious, and came the next year to learn at She’arim. And just two years ago she didn’t even know she was Jewish!
Then there were the girls that didn’t stay too long, didn’t seem so affected by the Shabbatons or the classes. We thought we hadn’t gotten through to them, but they proved us wrong by coming back time and time again, and many of them did end up becoming religious. As one madricha put it, ‘My job is to plant seeds. Little seeds of yiddishkeit inside the hearts of these people that will one day possibly sprout. It might start tomorrow, or it might be several years ago, but when people come to the Heritage House and get a good impression of Judaism, the seed is there.’
We’ve had people stay with us who were dating, or even engaged to non-Jewish men. But after they live in a religious Jewish environment for a while, and get a glimpse of the magic of the Torah world, many of them have decided to end their relationships and start a deeper one with yiddishkeit.
Moreover, at least half of the madrichot I worked with had become frum themselves through the Heritage House, and were now ready to share their love of Judaism with others. And the father of one madricha was himself tapped on the back at the Kotel by Rabbi Schuster!
Of course I myself am so grateful to Rabbi Schuster for giving me the opportunity to work with these inspiring women and help them on their journey – and my own. It was an experience that made me grow in ways I never imagined. The Heritage House is just as much a bracha to the madrichot as it is to the guests.