My name is Natanya Meyer and I am repairing the world. Today is Wednesday and I am walking to my "Moadonit" activity center, balancing a sack full of art supplies between my arms and my bright blue guitar on my back. When I arrive, 16 eager children run to the gate to greet me, clapping their hands, and chanting their favorite song, as they do every week since I began more than six months ago. I smile and marvel at their remarkable memory. Today is music day.
As a Chicago-area native who benefitted from a strong upbringing in the Reform movement, spending my year in Israel was the natural "next step" after University. My love of Judaism and passion for the Jewish community is powerfully connected to Tikkun Olam, our social responsibility as a Jewish People to repair the world.
Here in Tel Aviv, I work and study with an important program, appropriately titled "Tikkun Olam Tel-Aviv Jaffa." It is one of more than 200 projects sponsored by MASA—an initiative that brings Jewish young adults from the Diaspora for long-term living and learning experiences.
I chose Tikkun Olam because I can live where I work. My apartment is in south Tel Aviv, amongst some of the poorest Israeli citizens, as well as refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrant workers. These are populations sparking some of the most controversial social and political conflicts within our modern world and in our Jewish consciousness.
I spent my first five months traveling between four sites where I mentored and taught English, music, and art. This was an incredibly demanding but rewarding introduction to Israeli society, and I was able to see tangible changes in the lives of the people I worked for.
Currently, I am an intern at The Jaffa Institute, a private, non-profit, multi-service social agency that assists severely disadvantaged children and their families right here in the neighborhoods that I have grown to love so much. This highly respected organization provides educational, recreational and social enrichment programs that work to break the cycle of poverty in this area.
Every day I work on various grant applications to help run more than 30 programs sponsored by The Jaffa Institute. I have gained the skills to work directly with a wide range of clients, and am now learning tools specific to the administrative and donation-oriented side of a non-profit organization.
Yes, I have moved from working "in the field" to a position "behind the desk," but I am not mourning the loss. My year in Israel has equipped me with a multi-faceted experience of how service agencies operate. I am in a strong position to return to Chicago and pursue a profession within the Jewish community.
Natanya Meyer, originally from Lake Zurich, is a recent graduate of Tulane University, participating in a 10-month Masa program called Tikkun Olam, where she serves as the grants intern for The Jaffa Insitute. Originally published in JUF News.