By Frank Stein
It is heartwarming to see how Jewish people come together when difficult times strike. While it may be hard to feel exactly what our brethren are going through across the ocean, every Jew feels involved with each other. It is our connection that keeps us united; Jews abroad have fostered and nurtured a bond with our brothers in Israel.
Israel Connect is an incredible example of this connection we have with our brothers in Israel, only enhanced by the digital age. With this simple, but iconic, ideal of Judaism in mind, Ottawa’s Rabbi Sender and Sarah Gordon, Chabad Shluchim to Ottawa, Canada, have created a program to harness the wisdom of elders for the youth of Israel.
Retired individuals have been volunteering their time, once a week for 15-minutes, to help students in Israel achieve academic success.
The volunteers are paired up with Israeli students, who are trying to improve their English language skills. They use Skype to speak to each other on a weekly basis, while using a professional curriculum based on Jewish values.
“It is truly heartwarming to see how eager members of the community are to help students in Israel, whom they have never met. This program has really taken off and flourished, beyond our wildest expectations,” says Rabbi Gordon. “The connections seem to even go beyond the weekly meetings.”
“English skills are so important in Israel today, especially when you get to the high school and university level, all the textbooks are in English and research is done in English,” says Mrs. Gordon. “The only way to really learn a language is through immersion, and now through Israel Connect, immersion is made possible for students in Israel.”
The small program developed in Ottawa, very quickly caught the attention of other shluchim across North America.
Rabbi Leibel Kudan, a Shliach in Hollywood Florida, successfully incorporated the program in his community.
“As soon as I heard about the program, I immediately contacted the Gordons, I felt it would be a great fit for the residents of my community,” says Rabbi Kudan. “I am happy to say, that not only have the member of our community immensely enjoyed the program, and learned so much as well, but I have found it very user friendly and easy to run.”
“We have found that Israel Connect is a great way to engage people in a Chabad program,” says Mrs. Ahuva New, Chabad of East Boca Raton, Florida.
“There seems to be something that “speaks” to everyone, let it be a person with strong feelings towards Israel, education, children, or even the foster care centers and orphanages the program services. Israel Connect is a very easy and tangible way for people to be involved in helping youth in Israel, something that is increasingly timely and appealing.”
New added that “on a personal level, I have enjoyed how well organized the program is, and there is tremendous support to make it work.”
For the Gordons, this is just the beginning, “The Lubavitcher Rebbe has always taught to reach out to every person,” says Sarah. “It’s truly a gift to be able to reach out and enhance the lives of so many students and volunteers. With this program everyone is a winner.”
For more info, visit www.IsraelConnect.today