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      US Jews Give Soft Love for Tough Israeli Youth

      Young US Jews, mostly Birthright alumni, are teaching English to underprivileged Israeli youth. "Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) at work.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 8/2/2011, 8:35 AM

      MASA program volunteer
      MASA program volunteer
      Arutz Sheva courtesy of MASA

      "Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) is working: Young American Jews, most of them Birthright alumni, are teaching English to underprivileged Israeli youth as part of a new Jewish Agency-sponsored MASA Israel Journey and Ministry of Education pilot program.

      Two-thirds of the 75 “teaching fellows” are alumni of the Birthright program, which brings first-time visitors to Israel to explore their Jewish roots.

      Teachers in the pilot 10-month program, which began Monday, are working in underprivileged neighborhoods in metropolitan Tel Aviv, from Ramle-Lod to Netanya.

      "I knew I wanted to teach after college, and teaching in Israel allows me to do a mitzvah for the Jewish people," said Jacob Parzen, a recent graduate from the University of Chicagom who first traveled to Israel with Birthright. "I'm excited to work with Israeli kids because they are the future of the country. Helping them establish a solid foundation in English is important for their success and the national success."

      Like Jacob, American University alumna Tami Wolf also wanted to volunteer in Israel following her Birthright trip. "There are so many programs to teach English abroad, but I don't feel a connection to any of the other places like I do to Israel," said Tami. "Israel's future is important to me personally."

      Following an initial training period, the fellows will live in small groups in Israeli communities and teach for 20 hours a week. The fellows will also choose and design secondary volunteer projects in their communities. Ongoing pedagogical support, Hebrew ulpan, host families and trips will be provided throughout their time in Israel.