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Archive for : Israel

Responding to Conflict in Israel with Service

After a period of relative quiet in Israel, the region has recently seen a renewal of violence – from the murder of the Fogel family last month, to last week’s surge of fighting and rockets between Israel and Gaza. In a bit of hopeful news, yesterday Israel and Hamas discussed a possible ceasefire, but calm has not been restored to the area as of yet, and the long-term prognosis is, of course, still tenuous.

This renewed violence is devastating for peaceful citizens on both sides of the conflict, and also for American Jews watching from afar. Meanwhile, there are both immediate steps that need to be taken to aid victims of the violence, as well as long-term action necessary to usher in the peace that, ultimately, is our goal.
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Repair Interview: David Lasday and Bring it In

David Lasday has been playing sports his whole life – now he is using his passion to inspire kids and connect communities in Israel and the States through his new organization Bring it In – Israel. The organization’s Israel fellowship offers young Jews (18-24) the opportunity to become certified Jewish sport coaches by volunteering with disadvantaged youth throughout Israel.

David took a few minutes to talk to Repair the World about the power of sports in community building, the values and life skills one learns on the court, and his intention to help “create a new kind of sports hero.”
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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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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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Photo Journal: In the Forest with BINA and JNF

Just about every Jewish kid (and many non-Jewish kids too) has had a tree planted in their honor in Israel. Far fewer have ever actually seen said tree…or even visited a forest in Israel. But on a recent service trip with BINA and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), participants found themselves up close and personal with a bona fide Galilean grove.

BINA was founded in 1996 with the goal of being a “vibrant center [in Israel] for Jewish learning and Tikkun Olam.” Their programs for young adults include study, social action/justice work, and community leadership, including a 5-10 month program that engages 22-28 year olds in both service and Jewish learning. (Participants choose between a coexistence track and a community service track.) The organization also runs a secular yeshiva in Tel Aviv, along with a wide variety of other programs.
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Spotlight On: Yom Ha’atzmaut’s (Israel Independence Day): Connections to Service

On May 14, 1948, the modern State of Israel was formally established. The day itself, of course, marked the culmination of decades of struggle by early zionist leaders, and the realization of Theodore Herzl’s dream. In the years since Israel’s founding, many Jewish communities around the world have incorporated the corresponding Jewish date (the 5th day of the month of Iyyar) into the holiday calendar. The holiday is preceded by a Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, Yom Hazikaron or Day of Remembrance.

There is not yet a formal, agreed-upon way of observing Yom Ha’atzmaut, though it is a national holiday in Israel, which means virtually everyone gets the day off of work or school. In America, many Jewish communities celebrate by throwing concerts, parades, readings and prayer services, and singing Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, to show their solidarity. In 2008, Israel turned 60 years old, which sparked even more celebration and festivals than other years.

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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.

On Tap: Jewish Service Fellowships

It’s that time of year again: the spring application rush. The deadlines for many 2010 service fellowships are looming large, which means that hopeful volunteers around the country are rounding up their references and polishing their application essays.

Here are 6 fellowship deadlines (+ 3 special opportunities for entrepreneurs) not to miss:

Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps:
20-something “corps members” live in New York, DC, New Orleans or Chicago for 1-year and work with non-profit organizations doing anti-poverty work. In addition to their service work, corps members live together in community and engage in Jewish learning and meaningful community building.
Deadline: Passed Feb 12, but they are still accepting applications on a rolling basis.
Apply now
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