The 2016-17 Scholar, Mia Gray has just returned and sent this to the Foundation:
Dear Sam, Marsha, and everyone at the Yoni Jesner Foundation,
I have just returned home after 11 months in Israel, which I can honestly say changed my life. I owe this to you.
It's difficult to summarize this past year because so much of it is beyond words. From the friends I made to the places I traveled, the experiences I had and the things I learned.
Every day brought a new adventure, and in this I found meaning. I explored my Zionism with the conclusion that after university I am going to make aliyah; I also furthered my Judaism, and my beliefs were strengthened and entrenched throughout the year.
But most of all, while I was in Israel, I grew. I left England as a teenager, and returned an adult, sure of myself and all that I stand for. This year I gained more than I ever imagined I would, and my horizons have expanded, so I now feel ready to navigate whatever life throws at me.
My programme felt tailor-made for me, and I found my place within it. From learning in Midrasha, the intensity of Marva, the challenge of Shvil Yisrael, it was beyond my wildest dreams.
Returning home, I realise that life goes back to normal, and it can never compare to what I just experienced, but it's not over really, it's never over really, because it's seared into my heart and memories forever.
It's no secret that without the Yoni Jesner Scholarship, I wouldn't have been able to go on my gap year. You made all the above possible, and while it's so difficult to show you my gratitude in one email, I hope that you understand that you didn't just give me a year, you gave me a lifetime. My decisions for the future were made off the back of this year, and my personality has shaped around it. You've given me my best friends, my strengthened religion, and a worlds-worth of memories. In short, you helped change my life for the better.
I can't thank you enough, and you should know that I'm forever indebted to you.
With all my gratitude,