[by Phyllis Shaikun]
“I have actually have always wanted to go to Israel,” said Nicole Schanker, who is studying there in what would have been her freshman year in college. “Having my mom so involved in the Jewish community and the fact that she spent time living in Israel, as I am doing now, has made me want to follow in her footsteps.”
Her mother, Riva Schanker, has taught Hebrew since she was 17 and currently is director of the Judaic/Hebrew curriculum at the Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad (the former Louisville Hebrew School).
“I am taking a Young Judaea year-long course,” Schanker reports, “and I am having the time of my life. I am here for nine months, and every three months we switch cities. I started off in Bat Yam and will be moving over to Arad, which is in the Negev, and will finish up in Jerusalem.”
“We study and get college credits,” she continued, “which is amazing because you get to take a year off in Israel and are able to come back home as a sophomore! When we’re not studying, we get to volunteer, and there are so many volunteer options to choose from. I am working with a group now that is similar to the American SPCA” (The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
In the spring, Schanker is excited to be going to Poland for a week to see the concentration camps and hear about and understand what really happened during the Holocaust. She says, “I’ll be able to see everything with my own two eyes instead of just hearing about it in school, which is an amazing opportunity I think everyone should have.”
For the past two years, she worked at the Louisville Hebrew School as a teacher’s aide for second grade. She also swam and played tennis and Lacrosse in high school and was a member of the Spanish and Leaf Clubs.
Once she leaves Israel, she plans to continue her education at a college in Florida majoring in marine biology.