Take off the tourist glasses, and see Jerusalem through a new set of eyes with Volunteer Jerusalem – a brand-new (launching this summer!) 5-day volunteer program for people aged 21-28. The program is focused on community volunteering and deep exploration of this ancient, holy city. Volunteers will help restore buildings at an after-school facility, build community gardens in low-income neighborhoods, renovate orphanages, and lend a hand on many other vital projects. Meanwhile, they will also be introduced to many local residents and cultural activities.

Want to learn more? Below, we asked Volunteer Jerusalem co-founder, Lisa Barkan, to share more about the vision for the program and how you can get involved and apply.

What sets Volunteer Jerusalem apart from other Jewish service programs?
Firstly, our setting is unique in that we are in the center of the capital of the Jewish people. Jerusalem is a gathering place for Jews from all over the world, boasts a rich cultural life, and has diverse people of different backgrounds, neighborhoods and communities.

Secondly, we are not taking volunteers and placing them in organizations to do traditional volunteering but rather working with the city and various institutions to develop projects that they normally would not endeavor to implement but with our volunteer team, professionals where needed and advance planning we can make profound differences in their operations and the services they offer their clientele.

Why did the organization decide to focus the volunteer work on Jerusalem, as opposed to another area in Israel?
We are starting in Jerusalem because here we have both the diversity and the welcoming infrastructure needed to create a solid pilot. Per capita Jerusalem hosts the largest number of both needy residents and NGO’s. In addition, our program has a Jewish experience element where we learn and do Jewish activities like community Shabbat dinners and holiday celebrations in a pluralistic environment thereby complementing the tikun olam ‘lesson’ with other elements of Jewish experiences, education and community.

Both founders are Jerusalem residents – Elan Ezrachi is a third generation resident of Rehavia and I made Aliyah 23 years ago directly to Jerusalem. We do hope to expand to other cities once we have a model we feel confident duplicating.

Volunteer Jerusalem is running two sessions this summer: June 26-30th and July 24-28th. Learn more and check out a sample program itinerary here, and apply here.