Yahel | Newsletter (Turn images on - it looks a whole lot better that way)
Yahel - Israel Service Learning | Going places!

As summer comes to a close and we are nearing Rosh Hashanah, it is a wonderful time to reflect on the year that has passed and to share our excitement about the real growth ahead. This past year, we were able to expand our programs to two new cities and had close to 60 volunteers in programs of different lengths in Gedera, Yavneh, Rishon Le’Zion and Haifa. This expansion included the establishment of new partnerships with activist communities in Yavneh and Haifa, and with the Shahaf Foundation which has joined Repair the World and Masa in supporting our work.

One of the challenges we face in our work is balancing our desire to grow rapidly with our commitment to running responsible and effective service learning programs. I believe strongly that in order to make a real contribution, our service learning programs have to be based on community partnerships which take time to cultivate and nourish. Our longstanding partnership with Friends by Nature continues to deepen and serves as the platform for our work in Yavneh, Gedera and Rishon Le’Zion. We have established the foundations for our work in Haifa and are looking forward to cultivating new partnerships to answer the growing demand for our programs.

The inspiring individuals and communities we work with are at the forefront of many social struggles in Israel today. Working with new and veteran immigrants, combating discrimination and intolerance, influencing the education system on the local and national level -- these are just some of the issues addressed. While I am deeply excited about the prospect of doubling our numbers this coming year, what I am truly touched by is each one of our participants who takes part in this work. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing participants build raised beds alongside youth and elderly in a community center in Yavneh, hearing English being spoken in the Shapira neighborhood in Gedera, seeing an improvement in English grades for many of the students who were tutored by Yahel participants or hearing about alumni who are pursuing an academic or professional career based on their experiences in Israel.

To all the hundreds of individuals who have been part of our work -- our local partners, our participants, our supporters and Yahel’s fantastic staff -- I wish you each a truly meaningful New Year. May this be a year of growth in numbers and in spirit and may the work that we do inspire real change as we join together in the fight for a more just society.

Yahel in Haifa | Boston Onward Israel

This summer, Yahel was proud to be chosen to run a Haifa-based service learning program as part of the newly launched Onward Israel initiative. Seventeen New England college students and recent graduates joined us for this six-week program. The participants lived and worked in the Hadar neighborhood in Haifa, one of the most fascinating areas in this mixed city. The program was a collaboration of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Repair the World and several local partners in Haifa.

Participants were immersed in Hadar, where they lived in rented apartments on Nordau Street. Service work included the creation of a beautiful art installation in a pedestrian walkway recently restored by a group of Hadar-based activists in collaboration with artist Diana Gilon. In addition to this group project, participants volunteered in summer camps, youth centers that work primarily with at-risk youth, an elderly day center and a center dedicated to working with teenage girls. These varied placements allowed participants to interact with a diversity of populations in Haifa – immigrants from Russian-speaking countries, the Arab-Israeli population, the Ethiopian-Israeli community and more.

Participants on the Onward Israel program had a unique opportunity to delve into the real complexities of Israeli society. In addition to the experience of volunteering and learning in Haifa, the group also participated in a seminar in the Negev where they visited Bedouin villages, toured Ben-Gurion’s house and grave in Sde Boker, went on a moonlit hike and much more. The group also participated in a three-day seminar focusing on Jewish Peoplehood with the Jewish Agency and took day trips to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and within Haifa.

It is hard to capture the richness of this experience, and best to hear it straight from the participants’ mouths. Be sure to read this ‘not to miss’ reflection piece from Boston Onward Israel participant Donna Vatnick!

"Overall, I came home understanding the skeleton of the issues in Israel. Except now I have a million more questions. I developed a strong connection with the State in 2009...and became infatuated by it. But now, it's safe to say that the lust has evaporated and love has taken its place."
- Donna Vatnick

Circles of ConnectionCamp Tawonga

This summer, we once again welcomed to Israel a group of 11th and 12th graders from Camp Tawonga, a Jewish camp based in Yosemite, California. The group was based in Yavneh where they collaborated with ‘Garin Gai’, the Friends by Nature youth group, and the local municipality. The core of the four-week service learning program was a wonderful project at a local cultural center for the Ethiopian-Israeli community. Together with local teens and adults, the group constructed raised agricultural beds that allow elderly Ethiopians to cultivate vegetables and herbs. The group stayed at the nearby Kanot youth village and also had the unique experience of spending a traditional Ethiopian Shabbat with host families.

The growing connection between Yahel, Friends by Nature and Camp Tawonga is a wonderful example of the many opportunities that can blossom from such connections. As our partnerships with grassroots organizations, schools and camps continue from year to year, the connections deepen. This summer, in addition to the service learning program we ran in Israel, four Ethiopian-Israeli teens from Gedera and Yavneh traveled to the US to attend Camp Tawonga as part of their Noar program. To add to this circle, we are thrilled to have a Tawonga staff member join our long-term Yahel Social Change Program. He will work with some of the same teens who came to the US. More pictures of the Tawonga service learning program can be found here.  We look forward to seeing what other new programs and partnerships will develop as Yahel continues to foster connections across age groups, oceans and cultures.
Countdown: 13 days

...To the start of the Yahel Social Change Program 2012-2013! We are thrilled to welcome nine extraordinary young adults to Israel, beginning September 23! They will spend 9-months volunteering with Yahel and our partner, Friends by Nature, in Gedera, Israel.

Follow Yahel on Facebook and our blog for updates on this year's Yahel Social Change Program cohort! 

Help Us Grow!

Start off the new year with Tzedakah and help Yahel grow! We need your help to facilitate the growing demand for Yahel’s programs. Your gift will enable us to touch more lives and to expand our programs. With each additional service leaning trip we are able to accommodate 15 students to volunteer together with Israeli communities and learn about the pressing social justice issues facing Israel today. Each program sends ripples of impact across Israel, the Jewish community and the world as service learning participants and community members’ lives are touched by their experiences on Yahel programs.

Yahel Transitions
with 3 hellos!

Ross Weissman is the new Digital Media and Recruitment Associate. He is currently studying for his master’s degree in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University and is very excited to join the Yahel staff.

Haya Adeneny is the new Local Coordinator for the Yahel Social Change Program and the head of Friends by Nature’s youth center. Haya has been a Gedera Gar'in member and Yahel partner for the past 3 years - volunteering in the Shapira neighborhood and is a strong believer in social equality and social change. 

Rachel Olstein Kaplan is the new Associate Director for Yahel. Prior to joining the team, Rachel worked as the Director of Volunteer Services at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda. Rachel has significant experience leading service learning trips around the world, and teaching experience from her time at the Teva Learning Center, where she is now a board member. Rachel received her bachelor's degree from Vassar College and her master's in community leadership and nonprofit management from Hebrew University. 

and 1 goodbye...

Rachel Zieleniec is transitioning out of her position as Yahel's Digital Media and Recruitment Associate to continue full-time at her job in Washington, DC with the Tikkun Olam Women's Foundation. "I attribute where I am today and the woman I have become to my incredible growth and experience with Yahel. My time with the organization has been extremely meaningful and sweet and I can't wait to follow its success moving forward!"

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A Masa Program

The Yahel Social Change Program is a Masa Israel Journey approved program. Grants of up to $3,750 available.

Our mailing address is:
P.O. Box 1692
Zichron Yaakov, 3093816

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