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Archive for : Education

Young Judeans Reach Out to Israel’s Sudanese Refugees

Young Judea’s Year Course – a nine-month program for recent high school graduates who want to immerse themselves in learning, cultural exchange and service in Israel – is an increasingly popular way for students to spend their “gap year” between graduating high school and starting college. There are numerous program options that allow students to tailor their trip to their interests. And then there are students like Noah Berman and Sean Macdonald who start their own.

A year prior to starting Year Course, Berman and Macdonald participated in a Young Judea summer program Machon, where they were exposed to many facets of life in Israel, including the community of Sudanese and Darfurian refugees living in Israel. Inspired by the plight of this community, many of whom have faced discrimination and poverty throughout their lives, they and a group of other students decided to create an extra volunteer track for Year Course participants.

The result was Garin Tzedek, a program that engaged more than 50 Year Course volunteers in working with the refugee community. According to Berman, there are approximately 20,000-25,000 African refugees currently living in Israel, of which 35-45% are Sudanese or Darfuri. They primarily live in Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood, Eilat, Be’er Sheva and Arad (where the Year Course participants primarily worked.) During their year, the volunteers taught English to members of the community, helped to set up a health clinic, fundraised and raised awareness across Israel about the community’s needs.
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Monday Morning Link Roundup

Yesterday was Fathers’ Day, and in honor of the special occasion, here are some inspiring reads and service opportunities, both dad-related and not, from around the blogosphere.


  • (Robyn Stegman) A blogger gushes about the influence her dad has had on her service work, and embarks on a unique fundraising project to say thanks. (You can help out with the fundraising efforts here.)
  • (Take Part) The state of Florida gets one step closer to shedding its title as the only state in the nation with an explicit ban on gay adoption.
  • (JTA) In related news, next week (June 27-29) three Jewishly-focused LGBT advocacy groups will join together in the Bay Area with more than 100 leaders of the Jewish LGBT movement for a first-of-its-kind visioning meeting.
  • (Good) Writer and business-management theoriest Tony Schwartz is fighting back on behalf of the long-lost lunch break. Starting June 23, every Wednesday is Take Back Your Lunch day – join the fight by enjoying your lunch.
  • (How to Change the World) An oldie-but-goodie essay discusses how to change the world by being a mensch.
  • (JTA) Philanthropists Eli and Edyth Broad recently pledged to donate 75% of their personal fortune (which stands at about 5.7 billion) during their lifetime. Read more about the incredible couple here.


  • (JustCoz) A new online platform JustCoz enables non-profits to expand their social media reach by “donating” a tweet a day to the site. Register here to begin spreading the word about the causes your NGO or charity is passionate about on JustCoz. (FYI – Judging by names alone, at least two of the three founders, Yotam Troim and Ronen Raz are members of the tribe.)

Machshava Tova Narrows Israel’s Digital Gap

From Intel’s satellite empire, to the seemingly countless number of internet startups popping up each year, Israel is known for its techno-savvy. What fewer people know is that within this digitally gifted country exists a significant technological gap. Many lower income and otherwise marginalized individuals and families have unequal access to computers and computer training.

Since 2003, the organization Machshava Tova has worked to narrow this striking gap, and create a more equal technological (and therefore economic) playing field for all of Israel’s residents. Through their innovative programming, they reach more than 5,000 people each year – Jewish and Arab, secular to ultra-Orthodox, new immigrants and long-time residents – in cities across the country. CEO and co-founder, Daniel Weil, took the time to discuss Machshava Tova’s work and the importance of fostering a community of technologically-empowered citizens.
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Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future Engages Students in Service

Yeshiva University may be best known as a college that combines Torah learning with serious secular studies, and a premiere institution for training orthodox rabbis. But in recent years, YU has also become a hotbed of service and volunteerism.

Founded in 2005, YU’s Center for the Jewish Future “draws on Yeshiva University’s rich intellectual resources to renew and refresh, strengthen and support…” Jewish communities through learning and service work. The Center is responsible for creating many innovative programs, including direct service trips like their upcoming mission to New Orleans (May 25th-June 1) where students engage in volunteerism and disaster recovery, meet with Jewish communal leaders, and discuss tzedakah and sustainable aid.
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On Their Own: Two Volunteers Take the Road Less Traveled

The Jewish community is filled with opportunities to do meaningful, direct service work all over the world. But Naomi Orensten and Hed Ehrlich – a couple living in Israel – wanted something different. Orensten (a program associate at the Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel office) and Ehrlich (a lawyer) were getting married, and decided to organize an independent service trip for their honeymoon.

Hundreds of emails, several long-distance conference calls and two round trip tickets to Cambodia later, they landed at the doorstep of the Harpswell Foundation – a non-profit organization that works to provide education, housing, and leadership training to young women in the developing world. The couple’s task was to collect information about the employment opportunities available to Cambodian women once they graduated from school, and explore how the foundation’s supplemental education program could work with the available opportunities.

With the successful experience now behind them, Orensten and Ehrlich took the time to speak with me about planning an independent service trip, the situation in Cambodia today, and meeting a bona fide princess.
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Weekly Torah: Parshat Behar-Bechukotai 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Guy Izhak Austrian.

Parshat Behar-Bechukotai includes some of the Torah’s most haunting verses, in which God warns the people about the calamities that will result from failure to live a life centered on God and Torah. Among these, God warns:

I will set My face against you; you will be routed by your enemies and dominated by those who hate you; you shall flee though there is no pursuer of you (v’ein rodef etchem). ((Leviticus 26:17.))

This verse chills us with its terse depiction of physical violence accompanied by psychological terror. But the verse also contains an enigma: If we are being routed by our enemies, then how can it be that “there is no pursuer”? Aren’t our enemies pursuing us? Apparently, then, this pursuer must be something else entirely.
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Thursday Link Roundup

Here are some inspiring service-related bits and bytes to read with your morning coffee:


  • By now you’ve likely seen Google’s amazing new “Search On” advertisement tracking a US to Paris love story. Now check out the cute parody about radical Jewish activist Emma Goldman.
  • JTA: Read this inspiring story about Jewish doctor, Rick Hodes’, lifesaving work in Ethiopia – and the new HBO documentary film and book about him.
  • The state of Michigan is facing serious budget woes and high unemployment rates. In a wonderfully proactive move, the government is conducting a 10-city listening tour called “Michigan’s Voices for Volunteerism” to hear public input about how to expand service and people-to-people support within the state.
  • Forward: The first woman ordained as a Conservative rabbi, Amy Eilberg, reflects on her past 25 years in service, and the state of women’s rights within the Jewish community.


  • Philanthropy News Digest: Nominations are now being accepted for the 2010 Mario Savio Young Activist Award. If you know an young (16-26) activist who is doing outstanding work in the fields of social change, promoting peace, human rights, economic or social justice, or freedom of expression, nominate them by June 30, here.
  • To Mama With Love In honor of Mothers’ Day – coming up this Sunday, May 9 – an amazing organization is offering people the chance to send their mom a sweet online shout out, while raising money to build homes for kids in need.

Yaldeinu Young Leaders Travel to Cuba

Last month, six young Jewish leaders travelled from their home in Canada to Cuba. Along with them, they brought thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment (to donate to families in need) and a curiosity about Cuba’s small, but tight-knit Jewish community.

Their trip was organized by Yaldeinu, a Toronto-based organization “dedicated to providing formal and informal Jewish education to Jewish children and young adults in Israel and developing countries.” Yaldeinu’s main programs center around providing scholarship money for students in developing countries to attend day school education and bringing kids from countries with a small Jewish population (e.g. Bolivia, where the community stands around 300 people) for a summer camp experience in Canada.
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Photo Journal: Service in Israel with Otzma

Otzma is a 10-month program that offers 20-26 year olds the opportunity to live and volunteer in Israel. Founded in the mid-1980s and still going strong, the program is designed to build ties between North American Jews and Israel, provide opportunities for experiential education, and offer ways for people to make meaningful service contributions to Israeli communities.

So what does Otzma really look like? Current participant and freelance photographer Meira Gottlieb shared this photographic depiction of her Otzma service.

The photos show the full range of service experiences, from teaching yoga and English, to working with kids in classrooms and after-school programs, to helping out gardening at a moshav. Check out the slideshow below – and for full captions, click through to Flickr.