Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Daily Inspiration

By: Rachel Gerber
ENP Volunteer Coordinator

Just over a year ago I made Aliyah and I stumbled upon ENP. Well, it's more like ENP was a gift that came into my life at the perfect time. As I learned hebrew in Ulpan most mornings I spent afternoons in the ENP offices. I arrived with no hebrew comprehension, and with much patience and understanding the Staff at ENP welcomed me and took the time to try to teach me as we worked. Although the language barrier was evident, I never once felt that my Hebrew (or lack thereof) was met with anything but patience and understanding.

In May I began my position as the Volunteer Coordinator at ENP, yet another blessing in my post-Aliyah life. Over the last eight months of working at ENP I have been blessed to witness the daily inspiration that is ENP's work; to hear the phone calls and read the emails for requests for assistance and watch them transform into success stories, smiles on kids faces, and good grades on report cards, is nothing short of a daily miracle.

So, while we go through our daily routines or for those of us snowed in, in Jerusalem, as we enjoy magical snow days I hope we can also take a moment to appreciate these daily miracles, and feel inspired by the amazing work being done!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

ENP: Home Away From Home

By: Benji Bernstein
Intern, Rothberg International School

My name is Benji Bernstein and I've been volunteering at a youth center sponsored by the ENP this semester. I've been having an incredible experience working with the kids there these past couple months.

To be honest, I did not really know what to expect when I first walked into the underground youth facility in Beit Shemesh. However, as soon as I arrived, the staff and teens there made me feel at home. "Do you want to play me in ping pong?" I was asked in Hebrew by one of the 14 year old kids. As a huge table tennis fan, I naturally jumped at the opportunity. After we started playing, about five other kids lined up around the table. "Can I have next game?" one asked. As they determined the order of who would play after, I began to talk to the kids, and to really get to know them. I've learned a lot from them since.

For instance, each time I go, I have a great time learning about new Israeli music from them. As we talk, play sports, or do homework together, Israeli hip-hop is often blasting on the massive speakers at the center. This creates a festive atmosphere in the facility, and gives an added level of excitement to every activity.

There are some truly amazing things going on at this place in Beit Shemesh. When you look at each of the kids, their smiles are enough to show you how positive of an impact this youth center really has on them. They are all great friends with each other, and they usually don't stop laughing from the time that they walk through the door. It is clear that the facility is like a second home to them. It's a place where many of them spend a great deal of their free time, and it is even more meaningful to realize that this place keeps these kids focused on the right things. The madrichim (or guides) who work there are like big brothers to the kids, and it's easy to see how significant and positive of an influence they have on them. It's genuinely like a family, and I think all of the kids there would overwhelmingly agree.

I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity to volunteer with the ENP during my semester abroad in Israel. It's definitely going to be sad when I have to say goodbye to everyone in Beit Shemesh in a few weeks.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Breaking through Barriers

By: Penina Romanek
Intern, J-Internship Program

            While interning for ENP, I have learned how forming meaningful relationships can break through any type of barrier. I was apprehensive at the beginning of interning because I thought only speaking a little bit of Hebrew would hinder me in forming connections with the children. However, I have not felt that at all.

Sharing a common language is not the foundation in which relationships are built upon. When I communicate with the children, I smile and show through my body language how much I care about them. They do the same onto me. One of the best parts of my day is when I enter the youth center and then hear, “Penina!” coming from the voices of the girls. The girls then run up to me and give me a hug and even the boys make a point to show me they remember the songs I taught them on the piano.
    I am so grateful for the opportunity ENP has given me to be a positive role model and to see the beauty that is inside each and every child. Seeing them smile and express themselves is what has made my experience in Israel fulfilling. Just like the children and I are breaking through language barriers to form meaningful relationships with one another, Ethiopian-Israeli youth are breaking through the barriers of coming to a new country. I have the unique opportunity to witness the youth realize their potentials, and I am so thankful.