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Yahel Alumni

Jens Jacobson Yahel Social Change Program 2014-15

Jens Jacobsen spent nine months in 2014-2015 in Ramat Eliyahu, Rishon LeZion, on the Yahel Social Change Program. Jens’ main volunteer placement was as an English tutor at the religious high school in Ramat Eliyahu, where he provided extra language help to groups of young students. He also worked with local youth in both an after-school activity center and an English tutoring program run by a neighborhood NGO dedicated to assisting Ethiopian-Israeli families. Along with another Yahelnik, Jens created a social-justice oriented English-language curriculum with a story that took place in the neighborhood. At the end of their time in Ramat Eliyahu, Jens and others were able to put the curriculum to use in their volunteer work.

“Yahel fundamentally changed how I understand the concept of community, and the sort of community I want to contribute to in the future.”

After Yahel, Jens returned to his native Canada and completed his graduate studies in Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. He is now a policy analyst for Transport Canada, supporting Transport Canada’s engagement with international organizations on maritime issues. His time with Yahel gave him the ability to integrate different working styles into a team; juggling volunteer placements, group projects and relationship building in Ramat Eliyahu offered a similar dynamic to the workplace. ”Yahel was an intense experience in terms of teamwork and learning to recognize and value the different strengths people bring to the table. I often think back to Yahel as a reference when I encounter working styles different to my own”. In his local neighborhood, Jens and his partner, a fellow Yahelnikit, have sought out opportunities for community engagement and action. “As we get involved in our community, we are trying to remember and emulate as far as possible some of the amazing examples of community leadership we witnessed while in Ramat Eliyahu, and hoping to make tikkun olam a regular part of our local community life”. The Yahel Social Change Program gave Jens many of the tools he needs to support an intentional personal and professional life.

“In Yahel we often heard the phrase ‘engaging with Israel in all its complexity’ – that was as accurate a phrase as any to describe what I experienced. When I came back to Canada I found I made fewer assumptions than before, and found a lot more complexity in my home country than I knew when I left. This has served me well as a citizen, a Jewish Canadian, and now in my job in policy analysis.”

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