Girls learn martial arts (illustration)
Girls learn martial arts (illustration) Gershon Elinson/Flash 90

DROR is a relatively new organization, but it has made a quick impact in dozens of Israeli girls' lives, turning things around for them by utilizing a unique form of intensive tutoring, while complimenting those efforts with women's sports.

Arutz Sheva spoke with Sima Menora, founding director of DROR and the mother of Rikki and Racheli, two sisters tragically killed in a plane crash in 2013. The organization's name is an acronym for Derech Rikki v'Racheli - Rikki and Racheli's Way.

Menora said the girls' experience in education and sports made it a no-brainer to carry on their memory by founding the organization.

"They once faced issues in school and someone suggested we send them for an evaluation and tutoring," she said. "It was intense, but it turned their education around. Within two months they were acing tests!"

The program DROR offers girls between the 7th and 9th grades is an intensive after-school program that is designed to alleviate anxiety on the one hand and build confidence on the other.

Twice a week, students stay after school - sometimes for eight hours - enduring intensive learning experiences, and then being asked to take a test in the material. Currently 54 girls are enrolled in the program.

Menora notes "they say afterwards 'Oh, I can do this! I can get a 100!' It also says a lot about the capability and dedication of these girls."

"They were sometimes really on the edge, but this program is making all the difference. We are talking about in terms of colleges they will go to, jobs they can get and even the men they will marry. It really has turned lives around."

Issues in education were weighing down on other aspects of the students' lives, says Menora. The program is unique because it is so intensive and gets students to practice taking tests immediately after learning new material, and given that test-taking is one of the more nerve-wracking experience of school, the program amounts to a sort of basic training.

DROR also emphasizes sports to augment the experience of the girls in the program. The mind-body connection is paramount, as Menora emphasizes in the organization’s motto, “With the mind and body operating at optimum, the sky’s the limit.”

It is an approach Menora says clearly can be applied to anyone, noting "I want everyone to enjoy how much exercise changes your life."

She says she was inspired by her daughters' habit to play tennis twice a week and how "it changed the way they carried themselves and they held themselves in higher esteem." As a result, there are supplementary activities for the girls in the program to focus on specific sports.

The selection is far ranging, including kickboxing, hip hop dancing, Krav Maga and of course tennis, with Menora noting "the sports teach girls how to work as a team, focuses on positive body image and the like."

When asked if she felt this might also be a stepping stone to improve girls' physical education in Israel, she opined that the program could make a difference. However, she felt that it was not the main focus of her organization, and there can be some imbalance in how physical education is looked at for boys and for girls.

“Many schools don’t push girls in these classes," Menora said. "It is different from school to school but I feel it is important to all girls all the time.”

“I tell people to embrace a sport they liked when they were younger or that they can do with a friend. Getting outside itself can be very motivating. Aside from the endorphins, people can really miss it when they get older, even once they reach high school.”

Menora comments that she is thankful for the partnership DROR has developed with Keren Azireli (the Azrieli Fund) to identify students who would benefit the most from this sort of approach.

DROR also takes part in the Jerusalem Marathon, an annual showcase of non-profit organizations. One of the girls who will be running was somewhat stunned that this time around, she would be campaigning for something so immediately important to her life.

“She said, ‘Wait, I’m raising money for myself?!’” Menora said of the girl. “Seeing these girls succeed A) is very motivating and B) shows we’re doing something right. It literally changes the paths of their lives from one of mediocrity and failure to one of success.”