How can I sing the praises of this organization? Before I came to Israel, they helped me get ready to come. They were obviously sincerely interested in my interests and my placement at Hiddush, an organization which supports religious freedom and equality was incredibly rewarding, starting with the telephone conversation with Rabbi Uri Regev, the president of that organization, before I came. Once here, I talked with my immediate “supervisor” (I would probably say “support”) about everything from customary practices with respect to tipping to all the degrees Jewish practice here. I learned a bit about Israeli politics, although I still find it difficult to distinguish all the smaller parties. Hiddush was a wonderful “home base” for me. My assignment was to write (a) publishable article(s) concerning why the practice of bus segregation persists within the ultra-orthodox/haredi communities despite changes in the law and vociferous objections among the rest of Israelis. This proved to be a challenging task for me since, when I was writing about psychological issues, I was thinking about religious/political issues and vice versa.
As to Skilled Volunteers for Israel, I can’t say enough about Marla’s, Terry’s, and Judy’s professionalism and warmth. My orientation conversation with Marla before I left home was enlightening in some respects and confirmed some things I thought I knew. My orientation meeting with Terry here in Jerusalem was reassuring. Terry has been a special person throughout my stay, warm, incredibly thoughtful, attentive to detail, and patient, for example, letting me discover for myself that ulpan plus volunteering was probably too much. My fellow volunteers (Judy and Paul Zorfass) were also delightful, and the three of us talked about all coming back to Israel next year at the same time. And, as I hoped, I’ve made a small circle of friends through MahJong (Terry is the one who referred me to the group!), people I hope to reconnect with each time I return to Israel.
The most important thing to me about this whole experience of living in Israel for three and a half months has been the volunteering. It helped me organize my time and gave me purpose for being here. And, yet the extent of my commitment did not interfere with other learning (ulpan and classes at Pardes); tasks of living while adjusting to the pace of life here (shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.); seeing places in Israel outside of Jerusalem; experiencing Israeli optimism and concern for their country’s security; and, mostly, meeting people who live here and learning about how that is for them.
Celebrating Purim in Jerusalem – Nancy Huntsman (left) and SVFI Volunteer Coordinator Terry Hendin