April 15, 2024
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Volunteer Opportunities in Israel

A visit to Israel is always exciting, with much to experience. However, a visit that includes an opportunity for you and your family to volunteer is a particularly meaningful and rewarding way to discover Israel. Including a volunteer option for your visit, or having your teen volunteer in Israel while they are studying there, allows for opportunities to make a positive impact on Israeli society, form social connections and learn new skills while contributing to a cause that is in keeping with your interests.

Susan’s House, 31 Kanfei Nesharim Street, Jerusalem, is a unique nonprofit organization that is dedicated to empowering at-risk teens to create positive futures for themselves through artistic expression, personal investment and creative initiatives. Established in 2002 by Eyal Kaplansky in loving memory of his wife, Susan, who lost her battle with cancer at age 38, Susan’s House honors her dream of working with young people through art and helping them shape their futures for the better.

“Susan’s House is a workplace for youth, but much more than that. It is a safe place that gives the youth opportunity to learn social skills, financial skills, coping with frustration and feeling empowered by creating and being part of a group,” said Michal Rozenberg, the organization’s executive director.

Teens come to Susan’s House from very difficult backgrounds. Many are on the streets, suffering from complex traumas. Rehabilitation and empowerment become possible at Susan’s House. Here they learn to create beautiful pieces of artwork, working in glass, jewelry and textiles, as well many basic life skills: finding employment, team work, time management, meeting objectives, decision making and gaining confidence. The youngsters are mentored by artists and art teachers from the finest art schools in Israel, such as Bezalel Art Academy. Additionally, while the teens work, they are accompanied by a professional, dedicated team of artists, volunteers, therapists, social workers and child psychologists. Sixty percent of teens who graduate from Susan’s House join the IDF or National Service.

When you and your family visit Susan’s House, you will be taken on a tour behind the scenes. The tour is free and takes approximately an hour to an hour and a half. You can meet the teens who create the amazing works of art displayed in the gift shop, and hear their stories. You can go between workstations and watch them creating their art. If you choose to create your own artwork, several options are offered. The tour ends at the gift center, where you can buy the finished products. All income generated by the sales is used for funding the continuation of the project and the ongoing development of the participating youths.

Susan’s House also hosts small and large groups, family trips, shul trips, Federation visits, birthday parties (which can be customized), bar/bat mitzvah parties, youth groups, pre-university and seminary groups.

And of course, it is possible to volunteer at Susan’s House. “Some volunteers come on a weekly basis. For one-time volunteering, we often need help with packing or painting some of the products,” said Rozenberg. “We work in two shifts at Susan’s House. The kids who come are ages 15 to 18. The morning shift is from 9 a.m. till 2 p.m., for the youth who don’t go to school. The afternoon shift is from 3 till 8 p.m., for kids who come right after school.

“At every shift there’s a hot meal; kids and staff eat together,” Rozenberg continued. “Every day, one of the kids and a volunteer choose the menu, and they prepare the meal together. We also have volunteers who work more in the arts departments with the kids. We have glass, jewelry and ceramic departments, where the kids learn to create beautiful things that are later sold in our shop and online.”

Just let Susan’s House know that you or you and your family would like to volunteer when you book your tour, and an opportunity will be arranged at that time.

For more information: susanshouse.org.il. Phone: +972 2-672-5069

Susan’s House also operates in Eilat. New Branch: Beit Shemesh.

Ohr Meir U’Bracha, The Terror Victims Support Center, 3/1 Yakim Street, Jerusalem, also has volunteer opportunities. The organization was founded in 2002 by Liora Tedgi, a mother of 10 who was injured in a car bomb attack in Jerusalem.

At the time of the attack, Tedgi had seven children and was pregnant with twins. She lost one of the fetuses. Esther, who works with her, said, “B”H, it was a miracle that she survived. She davened to Hashem to help her deal with her trauma so that she could help others. Hashem helped. She then davened to Hashem for twins again, and a year later had twin girls. B”H, now she has 10 children.”

Terror attacks destroy not only the lives of those who perish or are injured, but also those who survive. Hundreds of terror victims fall between the cracks of the Israeli government’s aid initiatives. Tedgi set up Ohr Meir U’Bracha in response to the unmet and unrecognized needs of victims of terror and their families. These victims do not receive help because their injuries are deemed insufficient to be recognized as medical disabilities or because they still are in the process of being assessed for disability. Assessment can take two or more years. Ohr Meir U’Bracha, though, gives immediate assistance whenever possible.

Describing some volunteer activities at Ohr Meir U’Bracha, Esther said, “Ohr Meir U’Bracha, The Terror Victims Support Center, is there for over 400 families on a weekly basis and hundreds more for Pesach and other holidays. We package prime fresh food for the families for Shabbos and the week. The packaging is done on Thursday mornings from about 8 a.m. till about 9:30 a.m.

“On Chanukah we take a busload of volunteers and we give out toys and doughnuts to children, with music and love. We then head out to an army base and hand out hundreds of jackets, hats, gloves, scarfs, undergarments, socks and tzitzit. The tzitzit are green. to match and camouflage with their uniforms. We also hand out doughnuts and sandwiches with love and appreciation for all that they do, b”H.”

For more information about Ohr Meir U’Bracha and for volunteer opportunities:

http://www.terror-victims.org.il

[email protected]

+972-2-582-4630

USA 1-718-705-7444

If you are looking for a one-time opportunity, a short-term commitment or a long-term commitment, check out Ruach Tova (“Good Spirit” in Hebrew). This organization is Israel’s leader in the field of volunteering, specializing in matching volunteers with organizations and works only in Israel.

“We work only with professional volunteer organizations in Israel, which we at Ruach Tova recognize take volunteers seriously. We do not take volunteers’ time and efforts for granted,” said Ido Lotan, CEO.

“If you want to draw volunteers into your organization, you have to be attractive and accessible to them. Volunteers sacrifice their free time, and volunteer organizations play in a very competitive arena. We emphasize the volunteer experience—that’s when the spark is lit—and the idea is to keep it alive. The effectiveness of the volunteering activity actually starts the second time one volunteers; then there is a chance that it will become part of one’s life.”

Lotan continued: “We are the Netflix of volunteering. We built our website the same way we search for VOD

content. The difference is that instead of watching a trailer, you need to actually spend a few hours of your time for a greater cause.”

Kaynan Rabino, VP of Vision Ventures, the Ted Arison Family Foundation, said: “Ruach Tova joined the Arison Group in 2008 to further advance volunteering and make it accessible to everyone. We have the largest database in the country of organizations looking for volunteers, and we operate a free call center and website where anyone can join a volunteer project. Our flagship project, Good Deeds Day, was initiated in 2007 by businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison, in order to spread awareness and connect more people to doing good and volunteerism. Today 30% of the population takes part in Israel along with millions from 100-plus countries around the world.”

For more information: https:www.ruachtova.org.il


Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

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