Two young Israeli women are teaching at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway’s Lower School as part of the Bat Ami volunteer program, an alternative to serving in their country’s military.
Bat Ami, which means “daughter of my nation,” sends groups of 18- to 20-year-old Orthodox women from Israel to communities in Australia, Canada and the U.S. to celebrate the Jewish holidays and educate students and community members about Israeli life and culture.
Yuval Shechter, of Haifa, and Odeya Yoker, of Gevatshmuel, both 19, are now living with the Pollack family in Woodmere. They are serving for one year, which began in August.
The girls who participate go through an application process, which involves a series of interviews and tests. They must be able to speak and write English, and have a grasp not only of Judaism but also of current events.
Tova Zucker, HAFTR’s Bat Ami project coordinator, said the program has opened the door to national civil service for Israeli women, and has allowed them to contribute to their country in another way besides military service. Bnot sherut, the Hebrew name for the women, which means young woman volunteer, are “wonderful for the school,” Zucker added, because they bring what is near and dear to them to what is near and dear to HAFTR: Israel.
“This program for young women offers support, placement and empowerment, while helping them find their strengths, which they are encouraged to use during their volunteering, and also encourages social leadership,” Zucker said. “This is a great program for young women, and these girls are wonderful people.”
Program participants are matched with local families and school where they volunteer to teach. Their living expenses are covered by the program.
“This is a big experience of our lives,” Shechter said. “To be able to spend one year in the U.S. is something that not all Israeli people get to do.”