By: Sara Cohen  | 

From Central America to New York Courts: A YU Summer Circuit: Students Speak about Their Summer Experiences

Summer can be a time for sunshine, adventure and enjoyment. However, it can also be about learning, gaining experience and personal growth. The latter perspective was adopted by the many YU students who participated in school-affiliated summer programs across the globe. To gain further insight, I spoke to several of them about their experiences. 

Ma’ayan Tzur (SCW ‘24) participated in the Bar Ilan-YU summer research program, where she worked in a psychology lab at the well-known Israeli university. She, along with a few other students, studied whether depression is correlated with emotional congruence and if it can predict treatment outcomes. In addition to working in the research lab, Tzur’s program offered Torah related opportunities, such as various shiurim and fun nighttime activities including cake wars and a comedy night. In Tzur’s words, “The Bar Ilan program was an incredible opportunity to get hands-on experience learning about the research process, to have conversations with professionals about modern day scientific and Torah related topics, and to learn in chaburot and shiurim, with an amazing group of people.” 

While Tzur was studying in a research lab, Gila Levy (SCW ‘25) was in Kiryat Malachi working with underprivileged children through Counterpoint Israel, a program in which students work with children from underrepresented communities in Israel. The community Levy worked in has a large Ethiopian population which provided her the chance to learn more about their culture and enabled the children to learn from her, especially since a primary goal of Counterpoint is to teach the children English. 

“I had an incredible time, I don’t think I could have gotten this experience anywhere else,” Levy said, describing her summer and her time in Israel as a whole. “There is this sense of connection when you’re volunteering and doing chessed in your home country, and YU being able to give me this opportunity was incredible.” 

Tova Miller (SCW ‘24) also spent her summer giving back. Miller participated in the YU trip to Central America where YU students traveled to Central American countries like Guatemala to volunteer and to get involved with local Jewish communities. According to Professor Jill Katz, chair of sociology and archaeology at Stern College for Women, the program was geared towards pre-health students and was a combination of volunteering, local involvement and touring. 

There are two types of Jewish communities in Central America. One type is the more established Jews who emigrated from Europe generations ago, while the other consists of converts. The group spent time with both, and while most of the students do not speak Spanish, “A smile is a universal language,” explained Miller. “You don’t need anything else.” In El Salvador, one of the female students gave Divrei Torah, which was the first time the women of this community had ever heard another woman present a Dvar Torah. They were blown away and inspired, Miller said. Looking back, Miller described her time on the program as “fun, inspiring, eye-opening, and really an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” 

I too had an unforgettable summer. I was a judicial intern in New York Family Court, an opportunity that I was able to have thanks to the YU pre-law program, which pairs students  with New York judges to learn about the judicial system from an insider’s perspective. Not only did I learn about the judicial process firsthand, I also encountered people from all walks of life and from all over the world. My time working under Judge Pamela Scheininger in family court gave me a greater appreciation of the Jewish community and helped me realize how lucky we are. I am so grateful to YU for enabling me to have this experience, a summer I will never forget.


Photo Caption: Students on the YU trip to Central America this past summer

Photo Credit: Tova Miller