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January 18, 2012 2:11 pm

As Economy Continues Slow Pace, American Graduates Choose to Teach in Israel

avatar by Zachary Lichaa

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Jacob Rishon assisting in the classroom. Photo: Masa Israel

On Tuesday, Masa Israel, which places young Jews into Israeli work and volunteer programs for 6 to 12 months at a time announced that 200 spots will be available for next years Israel Teaching Fellows program.  The number might not seem significant if it weren’t for the fact that this years pilot program served just 68 people.

“We knew this was going to be a slam dunk because so many young adults are interested in making a difference with kids.  So many people are doing Teach for America, teaching in Japan and South Korea, and for a lot of Jewish young adults its a great thing to do this in Israel where you’re adding another dimension,” Masa’s North American Director Avi Rubel told the Algemeiner.

The program, which is subsidized by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Jewish Agency for Israel (which is funded mainly by the Jewish Federations of North America), runs for 10 months and places their people into underprivileged communities, where language and other professional skills are desperately needed.

“Kids who act out in ways I’ve never seen in America, they actually want to learn.  I think that’s the biggest sign of success. Language really is crucial for them to succeed down the road and it’s very difficult to get many jobs in Israel if you don’t speak english”, said Rachel Feldman.

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Ms. Feldman graduated Northwestern University in 2006 and is currently over in Israel as part of this years pilot program.

Rubel says the stagnant economy has probably played a role in the increased level of interest of teaching overseas.

“Our post college programs,  which run 21-30, that’s where we’ve seen our biggest growth since the recession hit.  I think that’s definitely connected.  Young people graduating from college don’t have the same options they had 5 or 10 years ago.”

At the most basic level, the program is helping to fill a void in educating a group of children that might otherwise be neglected.

“It’s added hands for a very very important skill,” Ms. Feldman said.

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