4 Questions for B’Tzedek Volunteer Stephanie Schneiderby Leah Koenig | May 16, 2011 | 0 comments
Stephanie Schneider is graduating with Honors from Colorado State University in May and has been accepted as a social justice volunteer for a nine-month program in India and Israel. The program, called Leadership and International Fellowship Experience (LIFE), is run by B’Tzedek and begins in October.
What is B’Tzedek/LIFE?
B’Tzedek means “in Justice” and “through Justice.” The organization’s mission is to develop leadership for social change and social justice amongst youth and young adults in Israel and Jewish communities internationally. It specializes in service learning programs in Israel and overseas.
LIFE is a nine-month, leadership development program in Israel and India for college graduates. A service-learning program for participants from across the Jewish world with your Israeli peers, LIFE starts in Israel with a two-week orientation, continues in India for four months and finishes with four and a half months in Israel.
LIFE volunteers have made a huge difference. In Israel, they have established an Israeli version of “Doctors Without Borders,” now active in Haiti, improved the status of women in the workplace, and introduced sustainability practices in the Jerusalem City Council. In India, LIFE has improved drinking water for 3 million people, advanced child labor law enforcement, and brought arts programs to children in two hundred villages.
What is inspiring you to spend nine months of your life in B’Tzedek?
I began my journey in the summer of 2009 a few months after I had surgery to remove a cyst from my neck. I began to feel as though my life was meaningless and I needed more substance to my life. I started to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and I fell in love with helping people make what seemed to be the impossible, possible. After that I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world helping more people to make possibilities a reality.
Being able to go to Israel and work with NGOs to make a difference is extremely important to me because, having family that came to Israel after the war – as well as my grandmother being a survivor of the Holocaust – I feel that having the privilege to make a difference is truly an honor. I had the privilege of going to Israel on Birthright in the winter of 2009 and when I left, I knew I had to come back. In my search for a program that fit for me, I came across LIFE. I knew that it was meant to be, I knew that serving in Israel for social justice was an opportunity that was true to my heart.
Also, having the ability to go to a developing country, such as India, is a phenomenal opportunity. I read a book titled “Creating a World Without Poverty”, which talked about what I had experienced with Habitat, making the impossible possible. I was incredibly moved and knew that if something like that can work in Bangladesh, which is bordered by India, why not everywhere else? I know that I can make a difference in the world and help those who may not be able to see the light realize that it is right in front of them.
Read the rest of the interview at Boulder Jewish News’ website.