Posted on March 27, 2014 by Sydni Adler
A few weeks ago, Meira was listening to a riddle, when the teenager sitting next to her said, “This makes my head hurt. See, this is why I don’t think about God.” Every Tuesday night, Meira spends her time volunteering with an insightful, passionate group of teenagers at Crossroads, a non-profit organization that helps English-speaking teens at risk deal with every day life in Jerusalem. The organization operates every Sunday to Thursday night, with classes, activities, optional therapy, and a space for the teenagers to hang out with friends and volunteers. Every Thursday night, Crossroads performs street outreach in areas of the city where teenagers are known to gather, promoting themselves as both a community center and a potential place to find therapy.
At Crossroads, Meira’s job is simply to hang out with the teenagers, acting as a big sister figure and someone to turn to in dire situations. As Meira has a Masters in social work, she is always interested in how much her studies apply at Crossroads, but also, at how often she is able to sit back and soak up the learning that she receives from the teenagers in the program. As the program is completely areligious, Meira finds the diversity of kids, from all areas of the Jerusalem religious spectrum, provides a sort of safe space that Jerusalem may not always offer. Any conversation is permissible at Crossroads, unless it involves violence or direct offense to another person. As a result, the teenagers have the ability to explore sexuality, experience with drugs, and countless other topics in an environment that provides both freedom of speech and the protection that both the staff and the walls of the center can always provide.
For Meira, Crossroads acts as both an extension and an escape from her personal struggles with Judaism. As she comes from a very traditional background, she finds herself in a sort of “delayed adolescence.” Thus, when she started at Crossroads, she was nervous that she was going to struggle through reliving her adolescence through others’. However, through the openness of both students and staff, she’s learned how to view others’ radical struggle with a new eye for non-judgment. At Crossroads, Meira has learned how to truly listen, answer questions with connections, and understand that individual’s discomfort or hostility often come from some sort of pain. Through such intense listening, Meira has found that her teenagers are the “most truthful people in the world, able to see the world with all of its flaws and tell it like it is.” And of course, through art class, games, drama class and just hanging out, Meira finds joy in every Tuesday night because, beyond the struggle, “they’re so cute!”