I thought I’d just pen a few words about Ulpana Alumot, which is where one of my kids ended up after a very difficult first year in a different ulpana.
That first ulpana we sent her too looked so good on paper: it came with the frummest of frum credentials, had nice dorms, and was in the middle of no-where, so even going for pizza counted as major excitement. My daughter was so lonely and miserable there, it’s hard to describe it. She also felt very suffocated by all the pious sentiments and sanctimonious judgments being bandied around the place by people she didn’t really respect, and who often didn’t act like mensches themselves.
At one point, she wanted to drop out of school altogether (!), and I spent a lot of time praying about it all, and about her, and asking God to help her find a place where she could really be her, and be encouraged to develop an authentic inner connection with God, without so much emphasis on the externals all the time, important as they undoubtedly are.
Long story short, at the end of last year, I phoned up to see if she could apply to one Ulpana, and somehow her name got registered for a completely different, new Ulpana called Alumot.
On the face of it, Alumot really didn’t sound so promising. It’s got a strong focus on agriculture, and it expects its students to wake up at 5.30am to go work in fields and orchards before starting their school day, as part of their ‘inner development’ ethos.
At that point, 5.30am was much nearer to ‘bedtime’ than ‘waking up time’, so I really didn’t think it was such an option for my daughter, but God somehow stuck her name on the list for the open day, so I encouraged her to try it out, anyway.
Dear reader, my daughter loved it!
She’s been in that Ulpana now for four months, and I can honestly see that in all the ways that really count, she’s made enormous spiritual progress. Her and her friends have big, sincere talks about God, life and the universe; they sing and dance like crazy people; they are just them, without all the pressures of having to conform to an external standard of what a frum teenage girl should look like, think like and act like, and Alumot has honestly done wonders for my daughter’s self-esteem, and her connection to Yiddishkeit and God.
It’s not all roses (she’s still 16, after all…), but I’ve been very, very impressed with the Ulpana’s ethos, teachers and overall interaction with the girls.
Now, here’s who it WON’T suit: Anyone who likes a more ‘button-downed’, formal learning environment where there is a lot of rules and etiquette. Alumot expects a lot from its students in some ways (5.30am!!!), but in others it gives its students a lot of ‘space’ to make mistakes, and find their own way.
It’s also a very new school, so they’re still working out their learning schedules and figuring out what additional subjects, etc, they’re going to be offer the older girls.
But if your teenage daughter, or one of her friends, is looking for a place where she can really be ‘her’; if she’s looking for a place that values internal spirituality more than outside appearances; if she’s hankering for something more ‘real’ and less superficial, and if she’s not scared to roll her sleeves up and get a bit of dirt under her fingernails, then Alumot could be a very good option to consider.
You can find out more about the school (in Hebrew) HERE. If you know anyone that might suit Alumot, please pass this on. I know from my own experience that without Alumot on the scene, my daughter would have struggled mightily to find an Ulpana that would let her just be ‘her’. And at this age, and this stage of life, and in this generation, that can have some profound consequences.
The last thing to tell you is that most of the girls I’ve met from Alumot have really impressed me with their sincerity, depth and idealism. Yes, some of them have crazy hair and dress very ‘grungy’ - my daughter also went through a stage of doing that last year - but on the inside, they are such spiritual diamonds!
So again, if this sounds like something that might suit your teenage girl, or one of her friends, please click HERE for more details.