Is Kol Ami Really 'Life Prep'? By Hannah Greenwald, NJ, USA

Most Mechinot are preparation for the army, but Kol Ami is meant to be 'preparation for life'. What does that even mean though? Can anything really prepare you for life?

After four out of six months at Kol Ami, I can definitely say that Kol Ami has left me feeling more prepared for my future than I could ever have expected.

Here are the top 5 LIFE LESSONS I've learned so far:

5. Cooking!

After years of my mother trying to teach me to cook to no avail, Mechina left me with no choice. Not only do I now know how to cook, but I know how to cook for 30!

No gas? No problem. No oven? No problem. No eggs, butter, or oil? No problem.

The conditions may not always be ideal, and the kitchen definitely gets hectic and stressful when everyone's counting on you and you have 30 minutes left... but what better way to learn problem solving? There's a lot of trial and error and not every meal comes out so great, but at least I'm finally trying! ;)

4. How to Teach a Class

At Mechina, we're encouraged to give our own classes on topics that interest us. This is a great opportunity not only to educate the group about something, but also to further educate ourselves. After sitting through many classes already, I know what works and what doesn't. No one likes to sit through a boring class, so no one wants to give a boring class! I know that most people my age have no idea how to teach a lesson, and won't even have the opportunity to learn in college... I've already given multiple classes on topics ranging from gun violence in the U.S. to Jewish identity. Now I need to work on giving classes in Hebrew..!

3. Open Mindedness

So you get to Mechina on the first day, and suddenly you're surrounded by people from all over the world- Australians, Canadians, Israelis, South Africans.... religious, secular, traditional...

At first, it seemed a bit like we had nothing in common, but that's definitely not the case. Everyone at Kol Ami chose to take 6 months out of their lives to do something meaningful. We all have our whole lives ahead of us, whether that means army service, university, work etc.

I had to learn to be more careful with what I say, how I say things, and also to broaden my horizons. The way I was brought up is certainly not the only way, and the only way to really gain perspective is through meeting and living with different people. Kol Ami gives you that opportunity!

2. Take Nothing for Granted

At Mechina, nothing, really nothing, is provided for you. From the food to the classes to the schedule, everything is up to you. For that reason, we are divided amongst different va'adot (committees), all of whom are responsible for different aspects of Mechina life. There's a Va'ada for scheduling, for community service, for management, for recruitment and more. We bring in speakers, we budget our food, we plan tiyulim (trips), we make whatever changes we deem necessary... If something goes wrong, we have no one to blame but ourselves. While that responsibility can be scary and frustrating and times, it's also liberating and exciting.

1. Jewish Leadership

Kol Ami is the 'Jewish Peoplehood Leadership Academy'. That concept can't really accurately be explained though. It means something different for everyone, and I'm sure that even after six months here, the meaning will continue to change for me in my life. For me, to be a Jewish Leader means to fully understand and embrace the hugely varied spectrum of Judaism and Jews around the world, whilst also leading by example and making Judaism a priority always.

I know, however, that Jewish Peoplehood means something different for every single person on the Mechina. That's what makes this place and this concept so special, and if being a Jew means anything, then I definitely think it's worth the time to work on it.

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