Yahel | Connecting to Social Innovation

The recent elections in Israel have once again shown how dynamic and ever-changing the political sphere is in this country. But while political parties may come and go, civil society in Israel continues to steadily develop and grow and has an increasing influence on all aspects of daily life.

We at Yahel are constantly striving to strengthen the arena of civil society and to connect young adults to the changemakers who are working to improve this country each day. While many people associate Israel with ‘Start-Up Nation’ - a hub for the hi-tech industry, not many know about its diverse and innovative social change initiatives.
Yahel Social Change Program participants together with the staff of Friends by Nature at a staff training

It is for this reason that it is so exciting for me to see our programs expand and our partnerships grow. In 2012, Yahel had 60 participants taking part in 4 different service-learning programs, ranging from 10-days to 9-months. As we start 2013, we are gearing up for a year with close to 120 participants in 7 programs all across the country.

I hope you will enjoy reading about how we connect to social innovation through our programs.

Thank you for all your continued support of Yahel.

Dana Talmi, Director

Connecting Across the Ocean | University of Maryland Hillel Insight Program

This January, an outstanding group of students from the University of Maryland Hillel joined Yahel for an alternative winter break program in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood of Rishon L'Tzion. The program was built in collaboration with G’arin Ichud, one of the activist communities a part of the Friends by Nature network. Throughout the program these students contributed to 4 different volunteers projects in the neighborhood.

We call these programs, "Insight Programs," because they are designed to give participants a deeper look at some of the social realities of Israel through hands on service, meetings with local community leaders, activists and educational discussions.

The 16 students spent 10 days living with Ethiopian-Israeli families in the neighborhood, many of whom immigrated to Israel as recently as 2006. The students became part of these families, spending late nights chatting over coffee and popcorn and waking early to serve alongside members of this close-knit community.

They volunteered for a total of 420 hours in the local community, planting, weeding, hammering, painting  and, perhaps most importantly, forming life-changing relationships...

Meet Yonatan Isser, a senior at UMD, who reflected on this life-changing experience in a beautifully written blog:

In my Jewish journey so far I have been exposed to spirituality through prayer and textual learning. I have done chesed activities on an informal basis and participated as a Jewish outreach advisor in a national Jewish organization. But despite my 13+years of Jewish education/involvement, I picked up an important piece of the puzzle on the Yahel service trip.”

You can read his entire reflection on the trip: here

What is Greater, Study or Action? | Yahel Social Change Program

The Babylonian Talmud in Masechet Kiddushin asks, what is greater, study or action? It offers several positions and then concludes that study is greater because it leads to action (40b). In the context of the Yahel Social Change Program, we see study as a foundation which frames the hands-on service work that our participants engage in each day.

The 8 Yahelnikim have been living, working and studying in the Shapira neighborhood of Gedera since September. They have met with many changemakers such as a representative from an Ethiopian Legal Advocacy Group,
Tebeka and they have explored many topics ranging from cross-cultural communication, working with youth at-risk, teaching English as a Second Language, community empowerment and many more.

Currently, the Yahel group is learning about Jewish thought and ethics with Rabbi Levi Lauer, CEO of
ATZUM - Justice Works and previous director of PARDES.   The learning in the Yahel Social Change Program provide the participants with a deeper picture of the local realities of Shapira, complemented by a broader national and historical context.

The Yahelnikim have also traveled throughout the country in their quest to deepen their understanding of Israel. You can read Jessica Baverman's
blog post about the group’s visit in October to Jerusalem where they celebrated Sigd, an important Ethiopian holiday. In November, the Yahelnikim spent one week in the north for a seminar on Israeli social change movements; they visited Meghar, a Druze village, and met with representatives of a local social change organization called Ofakim l”Atid” (Horizons for the Future).  They stayed at Kibbutz Hannaton, a living model for an intentional and pluralistic religious community, and also visited Kibbutz Mishol, one of the biggest urban Kibbutzim in Israel, established in a struggling neighborhood of Nazareth Illit. For a poetic reflection on this seminar, you can read the words of Yahel Social Change Program participant, Benson Ansell, who captured its dynamism.

This learning has grounded our participants' work. Each participant dedicates at least 30-hours per week volunteering hands-on in the Gedera community. Some work with local youth in the Friends by Nature youth center or as Big Brothers/Sisters in the local community center. Others work in the Gedera community garden and in urban agriculture projects. Some work in grantwriting, foundation research and program development in the Friends by Nature office. Some teach English in three different schools in Gedera and this year some are part of a new project, teaching English as part of a continuing education program for Ethiopian-Israeli adults. All of the Yahelnikim spend afternoons tutoring English in the homework at home academic assistance program.

What is more important, then, study or action? These past four-months have been filled with a cycle of service and learning which direct and inform each other. We look forward to our continued service together and encourage all who are interested in learning more about our program to visit our
website or read our blog, where we post regular updates from the participants, in their own voices, about the life, service and learning in the Shapira neighborhood of Gedera.
Accepting Applications!

We are seeking outstanding applicants to join our cohort of 16 participants in the fourth year of the Yahel Social Change Program - our 9 month post-college service learning program.

Participants will spend the year in an Ethiopian-Israel community, working in grassroots social change efforts in partnership with local community leaders and the nonprofit Friends by Nature. The program will be run in the Shapira neighborhood of Gedera and the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood of Rishon L'Tzion.

Know college graduates passionate about social change? Connect us!
Forward this email or connect them directly to Ross, our recruitment coordinator: ross@yahelisrael.com.

Take Strides to Make Strides!

Yahel, Friends by Nature and our supporters are running as a team in the Tel Aviv Marathon this March to promote our shared vision for a more tolerant Israeli society.  The team is being trained by Ethiopian-Israeli Olympic Marathon runner Wadj Zavadiyeh!

The ROI Community will match all contributions made to this campaign - up to $5,000!

If you're passionate about this work, run with us! Or consider your support through a donation.

Shachar from the Gedera Gar'in at a recent team training

Spotlight on Volunteering

This year, a two-year high school equivalency course has opened for Ethiopian-Israeli adults in Gedera. Hebrew and Math were initially taught, and now with the support of five Yahel Social Change Program participants English is included in the curriculum.

This is an exciting new project and we are pleased to be collaborating on it with the Gedera community center and the Israeli Ministry of Education.

The Yahel volunteers bring great energy and motivation.  It is extremely valuable for the students to interact with native English speakers.”

-Perach Ben Gad, Director of Academic Programs at the Gedera Community Center

Yahel in the Media:

Israel's Channel 10 News interviewed two Yahel Social Change Program Participants-- Watch their Interview, which you can see starting at 24:50.

Dickinson College spotlighted three Alumnae working with the Yahel Social Change Program.

The Tikkun Daily picked up a blog post by Yahel Social Change Program Participant Savyonne Steindler.

Upcoming Programs:

We're very excited for our upcoming...
Insight Program in Gedera with teens from B'nai Jeshrun Synagogue of New York. February 2013

Insight Program in Arad with students from the
University of Vermont Hillel. May 2013

Insight Program with the
Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, bringing together students from Drexel, Temple, UPenn, Swarthmore and Haverford College. June 2013

Teen Service Learning Program in Yavneh with teens from
Camp Tawonga. July - August 2013

Repair the World Onward Israel Service Learning Initiative - a 6-week program for college students in Be'er Sheva. July - August 2013


Connect With Us:

Proud Grantee of:

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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