These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

KEEPing Israeli Kids on Track to Succeed

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Sydni Adler

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In Israel, universities and many jobs require their applicants to be fluent in English. Unfortunately, many low-income children struggle with English acquisition as a result of lack of personal attention in school and family life. Every year, several Pardes students volunteer with KEEP (Kol HaNeshama’s English Enrichment Program), a program to help 4th-6th graders from low-income schools with their English skills, in a hands-on, personal setting. KEEP meets for an hour and a half every week, and during that hour and a half, the children and volunteers switch off between doing homework and participating in large and small group activities. During the homework sessions, volunteers and students interact in either one-on-one or two-on-one sessions. According to volunteer Megan Linden (Year ’14), the children benefit from the attention they receive from the adult role models they get to know as part of KEEP as much as they benefit from the English education.

Megan Linden (Year Program '14)

Megan Linden
(Year Program ’14)

As a previous and future educator, Megan Linden has learned a great deal from her time as a volunteer for KEEP. In the past, Megan has taught both preschool and religious school and has often come up against challenging limitations in the American schooling system. At KEEP, Megan admires her ability to embrace a certain “freedom of curriculum.” Although KEEP runs on a general lesson plan for each week, volunteers are free to find other ways of inspiring students to embrace English education. Through games, activities, and sometimes even running around in circles, the volunteers at KEEP can model their teaching styles on the children’s specific learning styles. For example, Megan relates, 6th grade boys have always been a challenging age group for her throughout her teaching. Because Megan comes from a similar relationship to Hebrew as these boys do to English, and because she is able to utilize creative teaching techniques that play to these boys’ restlessness and individual needs, Megan has found the ability to bond with and to willingly teach this group of students. “The rewards are right there,” Megan says. When she brings students from an unwillingness to speak English at all to a full, smiling participation in the space of an hour and a half, Megan knows she has done her job of fostering a positive attitude towards a subject that will shape these students’ lives.

At Pardes, we constantly ask the question of how our experiences shape and are shaped by our connections to Judaism. As Levi Lauer said in a lecture at Pardes on Tuesday, “You study so you know what to do.” Although learning is the primary way that Megan connects to Judaism, in the long term, Megan would rather be doing than learning. Through KEEP, Megan says, she is “doing her Judaism,” her tikkun olam. By giving these children an educational boost, Megan is giving something to Israel in return for the Jewish homeland and inspiration that Israel provides for her. Although she may never live in Israel again, while she is here, Megan is using her strengths to inspire the future leaders of Israel. With the help of KEEP and volunteers like Megan Linden, every child in Israel may soon gain equal access to future achievement.

To ask questions, or to get information about volunteer, e-mail meganlinden AT gmail DOT com