by Julia Shedlin
It is common for Orthodox students to take a gap year and study in Israel after graduating from high school, but of course, it is not cheap. Sarah Pollock, a high school junior at the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, has found a way to raise money through the Jewish National Fund’s Plant your Way to Israel Program: Sell trees that will be used to rebuild Israel’s forests after forest fire damages. Half of the money will go to Pollock and half of the money will go to JNF.
According to its website, JNF has planted more than 250 million trees, built 210 reservoirs and dams, developed more than 250,000 acres of land and created more than 1,000 parks. It also focuses on educating students around the world about Israel and the environment.
When Pollock started this project last year after her father did some research online, her goal was to raise $10,000, $5,000 for her and $5,000 for Israel. She is currently at a little more than $2,400.
“First I asked friends and family [to donate], then I started reaching out to the community, like my parents’ co-workers,” she said.
Each tree costs $36. Along with a tree planted in Israel’s desert, the buyer gets a personalized certificate. Donations can be made in honor of special occasions, named for loved ones or in memory of a loved one. Pollock hopes to reach her goal by January 2014, when the deadline is to apply to schools in Israel. There are multiple schools to choose from, and students narrow down their choices their senior year when representatives from different schools come to talk to the students.
“A lot of Orthodox Jewish girls spend their time in Israel, post-high school and study in Orthodox schools. It is a very big thing to go and realize who you are and what your history is,” Pollock said.
In 2012, Pollock spoke in front of the JNF board in D.C. to speak about how she was fundraising for Israel and her trip to Israel. Her speech included information about how she started, why she was doing what she was doing and how the program can help other people, just to get a student’s input.
“I was surprisingly not nervous. I thought I would be but I had my speech prepared, and apparently I spoke pretty well,” Pollock said.
Her plan after her time in Israel is to start off at Montgomery College and transfer into Towson University for its occupational therapy program. She will apply to both the American and Israeli schools in the fall of her senior year.
“My long held dream has always been to spend a year post-high school in the Land of Israel. I plan to spend my year immersed in deepening my learning and understanding of Yiddishkeit,” Sarah said.
To help Pollock towards her goal, visit http://support.jnf.org/site/TR/Events/SecurePages?px=3544480&pg=personal&fr_id=1010.