Written by Amy Lieberman, English B'Yachad Tutor.
Throughout all of my time being a tutor with English B'Yachad, (EBY) which is now over three years, I have always shared photographs with my students as a means of not only communicating but connecting.
I personally love to take photos, with my iPhone, and I do love to share my photos.
Before October 7 I often shared the beauty all around me; where I live, a beautiful flower, my dog, my kids, and my Temple.
Since October 7, 2023, I've been trying to capture scenes for my EBY students that show them our connection to Israel. For example, the New York Governor directed state landmarks to be illuminated in blue and white in solidarity with Israel.
I didn't even need to be the "photographer" of the photos I wanted to share. So when I found photos of the Empire State building in blue and white, I took a photo of a photo and sent it to my students.
I've also been to a number of vigils where at the end of the vigil we stood together and sang HaTikva. I filmed a little 18 second video of that moment and sent it to my students.
I began to understand that my students did not have a real understanding of our American Jewish connection to Israel.
For me, Israel is my home away from home. Home is where the heart is and my heart belongs in Israel.
Like many American Jews, I do not physically live in Israel but I feel it is our homeland. I want to convey this feeling, this connection. And I believe that my students feel more connected to me the more I am connected to Israel. I've even taken photos of the Israeli flag in my synagogue to show how deep and present is that connection with Israel.
I'm fortunate that I'm able to continue to meet and speak with my students. Recently, one of my students just wanted to talk together as a distraction from the news. Honestly, I also really needed the same distraction.
This student is a person who wants to learn what she calls ‘higher words.’ Her English is pretty good and she wants to learn more than the basics. I wrote to her and sent her a picture of a woolly bear caterpillar. I explained that this photo was meant to give her a bit of ‘levity’. I defined the word levity. I further explained how people believe whether or not we are going to have a long winter based on the width of the woolly bear's rusty band. The photo was cute, my student learned a new word and it offered both of us our needed distraction.
I believe photos can convey so much. We have all seen the power of images through the news, social media, etc.
So my message is.... Why not try your hand at taking a photo or two of things that are meaningful to you and send them to your student? Perhaps a photo of Times Square with the sign We <3 Israel as an idea! And remember, you don't have to go to Times Square. Such photos are posted everywhere and you can simply take a photo of a photo. I hope this little suggestion will resonate with some of you. Photos can connect us. They open doors and provide insight into other worlds; they communicate feelings and events. They are powerful.
And remember, your photos don't have to be perfect. They don't have to be anything but from the heart conveying a desire to share.