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Margolies study abroad scholarship enriches student’s experience in Israel

Ever since I was a young child and took my first trip to Israel, I knew that it held a special place in my heart. I did not know quite what it was at the time, but I knew that I had to return at some point. My family and I took our second trip to the Holy Land for my younger brother’s Bar Mitzvah, and I left with that same feeling inside of me.

For about five years, I believed that I wanted to serve in the IDF after high school or in between college. When I came to the University of Kansas, everything changed. I found clarity and I knew that I needed to go study abroad and live in the land on my own to truly find myself and what it is that I love about this incredible country.

When I figured this out, it was almost too late to sign up and start the study abroad process. The deadline was about six days away. Determined to get myself to Israel, I wrote my petition for three days straight with the help of my incredible father (yes, I had to petition to go due to the travel warning from Kansas), applied to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, figured out my credit transfers, and met with Dr. John Younger from the Department of Jewish Studies to apply for the Jewish Studies study abroad scholarship.

The end of my second semester of freshman year was full of stress and nerves, not knowing if my petition would be approved to go abroad as well as not knowing if I would be accepted to Hebrew University. The end of April 2016 came and I had incredible news all in the span of three days; I was accepted to Hebrew University, the Overseas Committee approved my petition so I was set to go to Israel, and I had received the incredible scholarship in memory of Rabbi Morris Margolies! Despite the stressful process, to say that it was worth it would be a true understatement.

When I arrived in Israel, I knew that I had come home. I had no intention of growing in my Judaism, but that’s just what happened. My family began our religious journey about 10 years ago, but my parents never forced it upon my brothers or I. They made choices for themselves and their journey, and allowed us to make our own choices with Judaism so that we could really make it our own personal and true connection. Something in me always had a burning passion for Judaism, despite my rebellious teenage stage in high school, but I could never figure out quite what it was. I remember meeting with my chavrusa (Talmudic study partner) for the first time in Israel and she asked me, “What do you want to learn?” And I sat there, staring blankly and answered, “Everything.” She simply smiled and said, “Let’s get started.”

Learning and growing in my Judaism is what shaped my study abroad experience and I have made many changes and improvements to my life because of it. After I started learning and growing, I finally understood Rabbi Margolies’ dedication to Judaism and why he loved instilling knowledge and passion in fellow Jews. Experiencing Israel is not something that can be put into words. Israel becomes a part of you and it consumes so much of your heart and mind; it is beyond special and it is a true gift from G-d.

My study abroad experience is something that changed the course of my life forever and because of that, I will be eternally grateful to all of the people who helped me get there. To my amazing family, for their endless support and constantly sticking with me through all of my impulsive decisions. To my loving boyfriend, for never giving up on me and for encouraging me to follow my dreams all the way across the world. To my friends, for accepting me for who I am. To my chavrusa all the way in Israel, for changing the way that I view life and all of the gifts within it, and for teaching me to see Hashem in everything and everyone. To Rabbi Adi Isaacs in Israel and all of the THRIVE staff, for allowing me to experience Israel for myself, but always providing me with the feeling of home, comfort, family and love. To the KU Department of Jewish Studies, for helping me get to Israel with the scholarship in memory of Rabbi Margolies. Last but not least, to Hashem, for pushing me to follow my heart and allowing me to slowly find pieces of myself. Thank you all. Thank you, Israel, for filling my life, my family’s lives, my friends’ lives, and every single Jew’s life with so much joy and pride. Am Yisrael Chai!

Abby Chargo studied abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during the Fall 2016 semester with the help of the Rabbi Margolies Study Abroad Scholarship funded by Harvey Bodker. Chargo hails from Minnetonka, Minnesota, and just completed her sophomore year. She is pursuing a major in journalism and a minor in Jewish studies.