Featured Student: Olivia Burton

Jun 15, 2017

Olivia Burton was raised in Monticello, NY (yes, people do live in upstate NY all year) with her Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. Despite celebrating non-Jewish holidays, Olivia always had a strong connection with her Jewish identity. This connection grew during her first summer as a teacher’s assistant at Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. She recalled, “Camp HASC was my first time being in the religious community. I was 19 years old and I saw other religious 19-year-olds living a Torah life, and that really stayed with me.” She began attending high holiday services at her college, then regularly attending Friday night services at her Reform synagogue after graduating.

Olivia first came to Israel on Birthright in October, 2012. “I knew something in me had changed,” she said. “I wanted to go back immediately.” Subsequently she participated in a MASA program in Tel Aviv in the spring of 2013, then had the opportunity to staff a Birthright trip in May, 2014. That summer she stayed at the women’s Heritage House in the Old City and had her first class on the Jewish relationship with G-d. That experience lead to her being a part of the inaugural Way More Israel internship program in the summer of 2015. Through that program she had meaningful classes with rabbis and kept Shabbat every week. “It was a taste of Torah Judaism, and I knew I was ready to explore seminary options.”

When Olivia first heard about Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya, she knew she had found the school for her. The focus on text skills and classes were exactly what she was looking for. She shared, “I knew it would be a lot of work; but I never imagined I’d be at the level I am today. I’m able to share ideas and lessons I’ve learned in my time here, and that’s how I know I have true mastery.”

The rabbis and staff at Midreshet Rachel were instrumental in her success; but it was her fellow students and friends who allowed her to become the woman she is today. She said, “They helped me whenever I was in need and celebrated my successes right alongside me. I owe much of my happiness to the friends I’ve made in my ten months here.”

This summer, Olivia will be returning to Camp HASC for her 8th summer, then will be moving to Passaic, New Jersey in the fall.

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