My introduction to Skilled Volunteers for Israel began with the thorough application process used to learn about each other. It was impressive to see the care that Marla Gamoran and her colleagues demonstrated in the initial activities. I don’t know if I was different than most potential volunteers since my background is more small business, entrepreneurial, technology and consulting in nature. It was very helpful to interact with Marla and my wife Judy (another potential volunteer) about choices available to us.
We discussed a few options and then narrowed these down to two items of interest. The first was to work with students and English teachers in the public school system of Jerusalem. The second was to spend a portion of my time contributing at a Jewish research and leadership center, the Shalom Hartman Institute. Both of these areas turned out to be interesting and productive in very different ways. SVFI was able to arrange for me to assist at the Gymnasia Rehovia, also known as Gymnasia Ivrit, a well known Jerusalem school for students in middle through high school. There I worked for 4-5 hours, three days a week, with a wonderful group of English language teachers coordinated by Elka and Sara, and provided assistance mostly to students who were struggling to learn English. We worked either at a table in the back of the classroom or I moved us to a quieter location in the school library. Generally, assistance was in the form of English short article and related text readings and then answering related comprehension questions.
I especially like working with students in this broad age range. I observed again and again the informal cooperative way they worked as comrades, comfortably asking and offering each other help. For example, they were willing share pens, pencils, erasers and even textbooks. I’m not sure U.S. kids display similar traits.
The feedback from the teachers was that the students appreciated either the one-to-one or the one-to-many small group interactions that we participated in together.
Volunteering at the Shalom Hartman Institute, near the First Station was for one day per week. Here the volunteer activities were about databases and technology. I am interested in both of these areas and found the work engaging. At the same time it meant that I needed to familiarize myself with Google docs and Google spread (a substitute to excel in the Google world) and some special purpose media processing protocols they had in place. Since the Hartman Institute is undertaking a major database and online media conversion. it was nice to know that the work I was doing would have value from a broader, organizational perspective.
In the start up of both volunteer activities I was fortunate to have Terry Hendin from SVFI help me to figure out bus schedules for travel to my volunteer locations and also make the preliminary introductions to the contact points within the organizations. Terry also checked in with us to make sure that our volunteer assignments were being productive. Thank you to SVFI for a terrific experience in getting to know students, teachers, and working environments in Jerusalem.