It could be said that Yael Buechler was destined to come to JTS. Her father graduated from The Rabbinical School in 1985 and raised Yael and her four younger siblings in an observant, Hebrew speaking home. The impact was profound: “I’ve known since I was a very little girl that I wanted to be a rabbi,” she said.
Now in her fourth year, Yael found right away that The Rabbinical School had far exceeded even her high expectations: “I was really amazed at the diversity of students here. [It] brings more variety to the learning and challenges and pushes each of us to learn more,” she said.
Yael’s degree in Jewish Studies from Brandeis and her experiences in Israel have also helped shape her understanding of Judaism. “Being in Jerusalem was spiritually amazing, I felt that my prayers were just engulfed by the intensity of being in Israel,” Yael said. Having been to Israel so frequently, she can even pick the fruit from a peach tree that she planted years ago on Tu Beshvat at her cousin’s home in Beit Shemesh.
When she isn’t planting peach trees, collecting vintage Siddurim or running marathons, Yael also manages to bring the spirit of Judaism into other recreational activities. “I do weekly creative manicures which are often associated with the torah portion or holidays that are upcoming. You put a little fun into Torah,” she said. Sure enough, her nails were decorated with colorful scales connected to this week’s parashah’s theme of fairness. For Passover, she incorporates the ten plagues, with each nail depicting a different plague.
It isn’t just fellow rabbinical students who enjoy Yael’s nail art; NBC’s Today Show featured her on the program. But the biggest thrill of that experience was meeting Barry Manilow, of whom she is a huge fan and who was on the show the same day. “We schmoozed and talked a little about all the performances I’ve been to. We even talked about Shabbat because he realized that I couldn’t go to his Friday-night concerts,” Yael fondly recalled.
From the Beit Midrash to Barry Manilow, Yael’s passion for Judaism has made The Jewish Theological Seminary the perfect home for her rabbinical education. Says Yael, “There was no question about my going to JTS, this was the place I wanted to be.”