Growing up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, it is understandable how Tamar Brendzel, 24, can have a hard time with the “sabra” nature of Israelis. It’s a far cry from the “Minnesota nice” nature of the community she grew up in. However, the ups and downs she faces during her year in Israel are all part of the experience that has had a huge impact on her life.
Tamar grew up attending synagogue and Hebrew school, but it was her Taglit-Birthright trip, during her freshman year of college, that exposed her to Masa and the idea of spending an extended period of time in Israel. This Indiana University Bloomington biology major was inspired. Her parents both lived in Israel for a year after college and their connection to Israel motivated her to find her own connection, leading her to choose the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program. Her interest in serving neglected communities in Israel by encouraging education made the MITF Rechovot program a perfect fit for her.
Tamar works at Sinai Elementary School, a religious school with a primarily Ethiopian and Yemenite student population, teaching English to grades fourth through sixth. Many of her students come from low socio-economic status. Along with her teaching and biweekly Ulpan classes, she volunteers once a week at a Matnas (community center) in Rehovot.
Tamar feels that one of my most important jobs as an English teacher is to show the students that she values them and is rooting for their success. Many of her students do not get this level of love and support at home. Her biggest successes have been getting disengaged students to reengage by showing them how fun and important English can be through songs, plays, and games. Something that gives Tamar hope is that even with all the problems her students face, both in school and in Israeli society, they are smart, fun, resilient, and loving and she believes they can be successful in the future.
Currently, Tamar is searching for a job in the science and education fields. Even though the year is coming to an end, Tamar is thankful for everything she has learned, the amazing friends she has made, and the unique and meaningful experience that will last her a lifetime.