By Deb Silverthorn
When Trina Baskin left Dallas for a gap year in Israel, few around her believed, while it was not goodbye, that it was “shalom” and the last time she’d call the U.S. home. Indeed, after attending NCSY’s Michlelet Mechina and Midreshet HaRova, Baskin made aliyah in January 2022. For the last 14 months she has been an olah, a new resident, loving every minute of it. She lives in Kiryat Moshe in Jerusalem.
The daughter of Nadine Gold and John Baskin and sister of Ariana, Baskin graduated from Ann and Nate Levine Academy and then Akiba Yavneh Academy (AYA) in 2021. The strong Jewish community all around her played a great part in her ultimate future.
“My family thought I was kidding about aliyah at first, but then realized it was the right decision for me. I know moving across the world, with time differences and work schedules, isn’t easy but I appreciate the opportunity every single day,” said Baskin.
She was serious enough that she didn’t file any college applications. Teachers like Sara Block and Chana Ben-Abraham laid the foundation, with their dedication to their students’ understanding of heritage and tradition.
“Trina would learn halacha and go home and live it. We’d talk about Shabbat and she’d go home and make challah and invite guests. She’s always brought learning to life and takes living mitzvot very personally with a genuine appreciation of Yiddishkeit,” said Block, AYA’s Judaic studies administrator, rebbetzin of Chabad of Legacy West and Baskin’s Jewish thought and law teacher at AYA.
Ben-Abraham added, “Trina is one of my most creative students, always thoughtful and dedicated to any assignment. I have two paintings she did, of the Kotel and the Beit HaMikdash, in my dining room and they’re exquisite.”
Ben-Abraham, NCSY Dallas city director, now at Levine Academy, taught Baskin while working at AYA. “She’d sit at our Shabbat table, with a light in her eyes, asking many questions and then slowly changing how she lives according to the answers. She’s found joy in becoming more connected and more observant — always though doing mitzvot in a quiet way; she never wants to be noticed or given credit.” She characterized Baskin as an example and a friend to younger students who look up to her and are excited to see her when she visits.
Before graduating from AYA, Baskin, who was raised at Congregation Anshai Torah and Temple Shalom and had been to Israel with her Levine eighth-grade class, spent four weeks on NCSY’s Jerusalem Journey and visited her sister, who did Masa’s Aardvark Israel program.
Baskin’s time now is spent doing Sherut Leumi service, an alternative to serving in the Israel Defense Forces, as a first-grade teaching assistant. In September, when she completes her service, she plans to attend university at IDC (Interdisciplinary Center)Herzliya to study communications.
Finding herself living a more observant Jewish life in Israel, Baskin enjoys hosting friends for Shabbat and the holidays. While she has no family nearby, she says the community of friends she has made and neighbors is strong and she never feels alone.
“You don’t need to ‘know’ people here for them to make you feel welcome. I’ve made friends of others doing my service, from around the world. We are all experiencing the same ‘away from home’ but feeling at home,” she says.
Home recently for a surprise visit, Baskin packed her suitcase with Trader Joe’s chili-lime chips, coffee and seasonings. Packed in her heart were great hugs and the love of her family.
“I knew when she left, she wasn’t coming back here to live. It’s hard because I miss her of course but for her, this is an amazing experience. I’m very proud of her. Everything she’s ever done is 100%. In Israel, she is thriving and so happy. She’s always been a happy person; now, even more so,” said her mother.
Baskin finds that learning to do much on her own for the first time, whether it is opening bank accounts or managing health appointments and the details of making aliyah, is rewarding.
“I remember walking down Ben-Yehuda Street thinking ‘this could be my life,’” she said. “To be here, not as a tourist but just every day, living here — and now I am and it’s the coolest thing ever. Ever!”