Adrienne Bernstein Yahel Social Change Program 2015-16
In 2015, Adrienne Bernstein arrived in Lod for the start of the Yahel Social Change Program with a specific goal in mind: to do digital communications and resource development for a non-profit organization. Her experience as a journalist in Canada in the years prior had left her with a dedication to storytelling, and she was excited by the opportunity for new challenges in the field in Israel. Adrienne pursued her goal at Jindas, a local non-profit in Lod that practices effective, sustainable urban regeneration and aims to strengthen partnerships between various communities in the city. Lod, a vibrant and complicated place that both Jews and Arabs call home, offers many ways to become immersed in the complexities of the country. Through engaging with these issues while at Jindas, Adrienne grew professionally and personally as a writer; learning to appreciate both objective and subjective forms of storytelling helped strengthen her resolve to be an active voice in difficult conversations.
"When I needed something from the programme, I asked for it. When I had an idea for a project, I made it happen. Having the space to take initiative and step up was an amazing learning experience and the skills I learned through the process have helped me so much professionally since Yahel."
These complexities, though they spurred her growth as a writer and a professional, informed a challenging personal relationship with the state of Israel itself. Adrienne's path to Israel was not marked by strong feelings of homeland or connection. "In terms of my relationship with Israel, I’ve always felt a little pushed and pulled. I’ve always had a hard time agreeing with it politically and have never felt an intrinsic connection to it". Through her experiences working with Jindas, as well as alongside Lod community members in educational projects and in a community garden, Adrienne arrived at a more grounded relationship. "What I did feel connected to was meeting tons of liberal and progressive thinking Israelis, both young and old, who emphatically stated that the Israel they envision is a process and not the country they live in now. It helped me understand that the country isn’t a static state – it’s nuanced and evolving."
After the Yahel Social Change program, Adrienne moved to London to continue her career in the charity sector. After nine months of intense learning that pushed her to seek out different narratives, opportunities and connections, Adrienne felt ready to take on her next challenge with a confident, assertive attitude. "Beyond the hard skills learned, I also gained so much confidence to take on projects – now, in my professional life when I’m delegated a project, I know how to start, how to evaluate the needs and resources, how to make a plan and how to think creatively about how to get it done with stakeholder participation". These lessons learned on Yahel continue to contribute to Adrienne's life and work.