By Jessica Brown
This past Spring I traveled to Israel with wonderful group of women from my synagogue, Brooklyn Heights ￼Synagogue. Our tour, led by our Rabbi, Molly Kane and tour guide Kayla Ship of Keshet – The Center for ￼Educational Tourism in Israel, featured a unique itinerary that provided opportunities not available to the ￼typical tourist.
When our group arrived in Israel this past April and I saw the sign on our bus reading "Brooklyn Heights Synagogue Women of Valor" I demurred, thinking we surely did not deserve this title. But soon it became clear that the sign was not referring to us; rather, we would soon be meeting some women truly deserving of the title.
We met many remarkable women, including members of both the Knesset and the Jerusalem City Council. But many of us agreed that the most extraordinary woman we met was Shirin Natour Hafi, principal of the Arabic High School in Lod. What makes Shirin so extraordinary? Well to quote Haaretz, who named Shirin as one of "66 Israeli Women You Should Know" earlier this year, "An Israeli Arab armed with a bachelor's degree in Hebrew literature and a master's degree in Arabic from Bar Ilan University, Shirin Natour Hafi is nothing less than a hero in her hometown of Lod in central Israel."
Through rigorous education focusing on science and technology Shirin is succeeding in giving hope to the young men and women in the impoverished town of Lod, not far from Ben Gurion airport. Despite many obstacles, including local gangs and parents who see marriage rather than schooling as the preferred option for their teenage daughters, Shirin is making progress building her students' self- esteem and setting them off on a trajectory toward higher education and gainful participation in the modern Israeli economy.
When we asked how we could best help, Shirin told us of a collaborative project with her school and Schneider Children's Medical Center in Israel aimed at helping young women from the Arab community become doctors and nurses. The cost to help support the participation of the 13 girls in the program is about $1,000 per participant, and our goal would be to raise the $13,000 necessary to fund the program, which is also supported by volunteers including Schneider's former director, and many in-kind services from the hospital.
￼The Israeli non- profit that already helps support Shirin's school, Tovanot B'Hinuch, is governed by a ￼steering committee of members of the Israeli business community, led by hi-tech entrepreneurs Yossi ￼Vardi and Yael Lipman. Tovanot B'Hinuch is affiliated with Jewish Federations of North America. Thus we ￼are able to make our donations via UJA Federation of NY.
￼As Shirin would say "It's not easy". But Shirin has shown she has the strength, intelligence, compassion, ￼and sheer chutzpah to accomplish much in the face of great obstacles, and it is our privilege to do what ￼we can to help support her efforts.
￼We hope you will consider joining us in making a tax deductible donation. Please make checks payable to UJA-Federation of New York with "Brooklyn Heights Mitzvah Project" in the memo line.
Checks can be mailed to:
UJA-Federation of New York
130 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022
Lori's contact information is:
BHS will be participating in an exciting year-long program which will bring Shinshinim – abbreviation for Service Year Shlichim [emissaries from Israel] -- into our BHS community. This program is in sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel and UJA Federation, and brings four (4) recent Israeli High School graduates to Brooklyn Brownstone as informal educators.
The shinshinim will be more broadly supervised by a Senior shaliach – named Orly Daboosh Nitzan – who will coordinate all of their activities.
Who are the Shinshinim? From an original pool of over 400 applicants our shinshinim have been selected for this program. Previous experiences in group work, leadership skills, and English language capability were just a few of the criteria. The selection process is a rigorous one. These talented young people have made the difficult decision to defer their army service for a year, and instead, to offer themselves as ambassadors of their country.
They will serve as informal educators at a synagogue, at a Day School, often at a youth movement and/or supplementary school. They will teach about Israel and Israeli culture, about Jewish identity and Jewish celebration. They will prepare community-wide programs about Israel. They will help with the synagogues’ youth groups, teen groups, and will touch virtually every part of the synagogue congregational life. They will work in the classrooms of the Day School, and participate in extracurricular and school wide programming. They will be a real living bridge between the community and Israel, bringing back their experiences here in Brooklyn to their communities in Israel.