Elizabeth Breit, Volunteer

ELIZABETH BREIT, a senior at Yale University, volunteered for a month in the English department at Hand in Hand's Jerusalem school in 2009.

Volunteering in Jerusalem.

I can hardly believe that just under a month ago, I wandered around the beautiful, cool stone courtyard of the school's new building for the first time, wondering how I would ever remember anyone's name. Now, watching the end-of-the-year party, sitting next to an 8th-grader who translates for me, effortlessly, from Hebrew and Arabic into English, I am moved by the endless stream of faces who have become friends.

I'm reluctant to call my experience here "work," when these days move so fast I can't believe they've passed at all. Volunteering at the Jerusalem school has been the most fun, rewarding and unpredictable experience of my life.

This school is remarkable not only for its unique vision, creativity, and passion, but also for its warmth, familiarity, and affection, which enveloped me the moment I set foot in a classroom. Within the first week I was invited to my students' choral concert, lent a guitar to join in junior high music lessons, and was welcomed along on a field trip to the Knesset, Israel's legislature. I learned from just as much as I taught the kids who addressed me in a steady stream of alternating Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

As a senior at Yale University, I am writing my thesis on the instruction of religion in the Israeli educational system. This school has taught me about the system's great potential, as well as its myriad of obstacles. I am thrilled to be able to spend the rest of my summer in Israel. Along with three other university student interns, I will tap into this school's immense potential by participating in an English-speaking summer camp during the month of July. Any school that convinces students to remain during the summer holiday must be a magical place indeed. 

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