How Does Midrasha Create Connections? Hear Emma's Story

2020 graduate, Emma Nathanson, shares how Midrasha Hebrew High School personally impacted her and how she used her Laurence A. Weinstein Midrasha Incentive Award.

My name is Emma Nathanson, and I was one of the 2020 recipients of the very generous Laurence A. Weinstein Midrasha Incentive Award. I truly treasured my time in Midrasha, full of diverse experiences from intensive Hebrew classes, to complex courses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to cooking classes that yielded delicious results. My five years in Midrasha were extremely valuable, and the incentive award made me more grateful for all the time I spent in the classrooms of Temple Beth El and Beth Israel Center.

This award has allowed me to continue immersing myself in meaningful Jewish experiences. With the pandemic making college life uncertain and fraught, I chose to take a gap year before attending Williams College. I moved across the country from Madison to Portland, Oregon, to participate in a program called Tivnu: Building Justice. Tivnu is a pluralistic, Jewish, social justice-based gap year program. I lived with 23 other Jewish participants in two large houses – and we successfully survived the year, COVID-free!

At Tivnu, I worked four days a week at my three internships (with the other three days reserved for classes on Judaism, volunteering in the community, and a much-needed break for Shabbat). I interned at Street Roots, a local street newspaper, where I researched and wrote articles. I also worked for Cascadia Clusters, a construction company that fights against houselessness in Portland, as well as Kindness Farm, a garden that donates produce to houseless and low-income Portlanders.

With its focus on education, asking challenging questions, and finding joy in Judaism, Tivnu often reminded me of Midrasha. This year, I participated in fast-paced conversations on Israel, Halakha, Hebrew grammar, and more, because of everything I learned at Midrasha.

I will treasure my memories from this year for the rest of my life, and I made friends and connections that will follow me forward. This was made possible due to Midrasha and the Midrasha Incentive Award! Thank you so much – the Jewish communities in Madison and beyond are all the better for it.

Below are photos from my year so that you can see Midrasha's far-reaching impact in action!

The Tivnu cohort on our very first hike, where we explored the Columbia River Gorge.

A very celebratory moment: my friend and fellow Tivnu-nik had her Bat Mitzvah, and I had the honor of reading Torah!


The Tivnu cohort at our graduation, with our "graduation caps" (aka construction hard hats!).

Midrasha Hebrew High School is a Jewish Federation of Madison program offering Judaic and Hebrew educational opportunities and experiences for students in grades 8 through 12. Each year, we are proud to present eligible graduating seniors who have attended since eighth grade with Laurence A. Weinstein Midrasha Incentive Awards of up to $2000 to further their Jewish education after Midrasha.

Are you a teen, or do you know a teen, who would like to learn more about being a part of Midrasha? Visit our website or email Kendra Sager, Midrasha Director.

How can you make an impact? When you give to the Jewish Federation of Madison Annual Tzedakah Campaign, you create connections and enrich Jewish life for teens in Madison, like Emma, by supporting Midrasha Hebrew High School. Interested in creating a legacy for a specific focus you are passionate about? Consider setting up an endowment fund through planned giving, as the Weinstein family did for the Midrasha Incentive Award. For more information, contact Alan Klugman, or (608) 442-4070.