A Funny Thing happened on the Way to Missing the Boat

As I was preparing to come and live in Israel in the summer of 2005, I identified four interests that I wanted to pursue as a volunteer once I arrived, (I had retired in June, would make aliyah in September and, of course, thought I would be full of vim, vigor and vitality once I got to Israel).

One of those goals was to use my educational training and experience in a productive manner. Happily, my absorption went extraordinarily well and indeed I was eager to roll up my sleeves and pitch in - but into what? I kept my eyes and ears open, but was not able to find a place to use my experience and training as a school administrator, teacher trainer, teacher credentializer for Head Start, and more. I was becoming despondent. This did not make sense. I knew there were needs. I wanted to say to someone, "Please, I want to help". But to whom? Not having the opportunity to express my Zionist drive as a young person, was it too late in life to participate in fulfilling my Zionist dream? (Bnei Akiva apparently had done a successful indoctrination job on me as a teenager.)

Had I missed the boat?

Serendipity, chance, luck or good old New York chutzpah entered the picture. Late one afternoon as I was pondering my frustration, the phone rang. The friend who call said, "Quick, call this number, there is a volunteers' meeting in Netanya." It was Nina Zuck's phone number and she was holding and Insight Meeting in an hour. I grabbed by resume, jumped into a taxi, and found to my delight and relief, a meeting of ESRA in Netanya. The people were friendly, welcoming and full of ideas and energy.

Several weeks later, Nina called and asked whether I would like to coordinate the English Tutorial program for the high schools in Netanya? Knowing nothing about Israeli high schools, nothing about bagrut, nothing about what I was getting into, I said, "Of course - why not?"

And so we began.

We met with the English coordinator for two high schools, who explained what would be required of the tutors. We recruited tutors and set up a meeting-workshop-training and guidance session for the tutors and then assigned them to the two high schools.  Eventually, we added a third high school to our list.

We recently held a "Time to Take Stock" meeting for our 12 tutors in order to provide them with an opportunity to share, learn from each other and draw up wish lists. It seems that the tutors are feeling very pleased with the way the system works for them. Incidentally, the feedback from the students, the English teachers and the coordinators has also been very positive.

Of course, none of this would have come to pass if it had not been for Nina's wise counsel, continuing guidance and friendship. We expect to expand our program to include elementary and junior high schools as well. And, thanks to Nina, I can tread my way through this maze, remaining on the right track.

As for myself, well, okay, so I'm not pitching hay on a kibbutz or driving a tractor or handling an Uzi, not even close. Buy it is very satisfying to be involved in this project and making use of myself for others.

Not only did I catch the plane, but thanks to ESRA, I did not miss the boat.


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About the author

Ivy Schwartz

Ivy Schwartz was born and bred in New York City and schooled in the New York City public school system. She earned a B.A. from Hunter College, City University of NY, and an M.A. and M.ED. in C...

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