April 22, 2024
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April 22, 2024
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Tali Pineles: Spreading Kindness Through Volunteering

West Orange native Tali Pineles is only 17 years of age, but her resume boasts an impressive list of volunteer projects and social initiatives that she has led. Since she arrived in Israel with her family in 2014, Pineles has dedicated herself to helping at-risk youth and children with disabilities or serious illness.

Two years ago, when she was serving as a counselor in the Ezra youth movement in her city of Rehovot, Pineles observed that the children and teens in a low-income neighborhood not too far from her own home did not have a chapter of their own. The children often wandered the streets until late at night and sometimes caused trouble. Distraught over the disparities she saw between the experiences in the two neighborhoods, Pineles took action and founded a chapter for youth in the low-income neighborhood.

As part of her responsibilities, Pineles managed twice-weekly activities for 40 children in grades one to seven and oversaw eight counselors. She went on house calls with the other counselors to introduce themselves to the parents and let them know that these activities were available for their children. Though many of the children were uncomfortable when they first joined the programming and had difficulty trusting the counselors, over the course of the year, relationships developed and many of the children formed strong bonds with the teens. Pineles stresses that even the children with the most difficult behavioral problems who come from broken homes would show up for activities. “The fact that they know they have a place they can come to and talk to counselors who care about them and see other kids, that is really inspiring to me,” she said.

Pineles’ volunteering did not stop there. Last year she began mentoring a 5-year-old boy named Yishai who has cancer and also Down syndrome. Pineles visits Yishai three times a week and takes him to the zoo, park or on other excursions. She also visits him in the hospital when he is undergoing treatments.

Pineles connected to Yishai after she volunteered as a photographer at an event hosted by the organization Lehosheet Yad. Shortly after, she received a phone call from the same organization, asking if she would be able to help “a child who needs her.” Despite her other commitments, Pineles said yes. She knows that Yishai appreciates her support from the hugs he gives her. She also volunteers with the Kav L’chayim organization for children with special needs, helping to run camps, trips and Shabbat weekends. And during the pandemic she volunteered with Leket, helping families in need put food on their table.

Pineles estimates that she spends 15 hours each week volunteering. She is able to balance her volunteer schedule with her school and studying, though acknowledges that it is not always easy. “There are times you really want to do it [the volunteering] but it’s hard,” she said. “Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I just want to do something else. And then I remember why I do it.”

One of the earliest memories of a volunteer project goes back to the time she donated her hair as a 5-year-old. Pineles says that from a young age she learned from her parents about the importance of giving back, and these values continue to inform her decisions today. She feels especially proud that she is able to realize these values in Israel. “I am here to help my nation and the people who need me,” she expressed.

Pineles has received accolades for her services in many different forms, including hugs, smiles and sometimes a simple word of thanks. She was recently awarded the Nefesh B’Nefesh Maor Youth Prize that recognizes outstanding young immigrants who have made an impressive impact in their community, serving as “a guiding light” for others to follow. Her mother nominated her for the prize without letting her know. At first, Pineles did not want to accept the award, but later she changed her mind. She hopes the prize will show others that even an ordinary person can carry out extraordinary good and touch somebody’s life in a meaningful way.

“In the end I get way more from it than I give,” Pineles insisted. “Yishai gives me so much more than I can ever give to him. That is going to be worth it forever.” She already has her eyes on her next endeavor. She is planning to volunteer with children with special needs at Shalva as part of her national service. And in the long term? “Meaningful things, helping others and a job that inspires.” These are the elements Pineles hopes she will carry forward into every piece of her work.


Alisa Bodner is a Fair Lawn native who immigrated to Israel a decade ago. She is a nonprofit management professional who enjoys writing in her free time.

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