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Reflections on ICEI and Yahel

This blog post is written by Lev, a new Yahel alum from the 2020-21 Fellowship! Lev is reflecting on his time volunteering with the Israel Center for Education Innovation. Learn more about their work here.


Wow! Yahel is already over? The time has absolutely flown by. While lockdowns, missiles, and general meshugas have made this year a particularly unique one, my most consistent experience this year has been interning at the Israel Center for Education Innovation (ICEI). From the first zoom call with ICEI’s Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships, Lee Perlman, I wanted to take on the placement. The organization’s commitment to working with teachers and principals to reinvigorate literacy instruction along with local communal investment to help families access educational resources and support their children’s learning, seemed almost too comprehensive to be true.

Before our first meeting, Lee asked me to research ICEI and write down all of the questions I might have. I showed up at the ICEI Atzmaut Plus Offices in Ramat Eliyahu in Rishon LeZion ready to dig my teeth into whatever work assignments were thrown my way. Lee’s form for onboarding was unexpected to say the least; we were to talk through every question I had, unpack every part of ICEI’s organizational structure so that I could have as complete an understanding of the organization as possible. He planned to utilize my academic research background in a variety of different capacities and wanted me to be comfortable engaging with different areas of the organization.


My first meeting with my soon-to-be-boss is representative of values that both ICEI and Yahel hold and manifest in their service to communities; an emphasis on learning, critical thinking, and grassroots action. Lee demonstrated from the start that I was not only an intern for ICEI but an asset that he wanted to utilize to maximum potential. Similarly, throughout the Yahel fellowship, the timely application of learning sessions enabled me to gain a multifaceted perspective on the community I was delving into through social work and teaching. These learning sessions enabled me to engage with my coworkers, students, and peers with tact and respect.


As the year puttered to a start, I found myself wishing that I had more time in my schedule to work on the projects Lee sent my way. From researching the education system in the UAE, and opportunities for professional collaboration and as a potential stream of revenue, to writing a conversational script between ICEI’s Executive Director, renowned Israeli writer Etgar Keret, and two of ICEI’s most ambitious alumni 7th graders, every hour spent working for ICEI led me to engage with the non-profit sector and educational community in a host of nuanced ways.


Throughout the year, Lee’s and my working relationship expanded in a variety of different capacities, the most fascinating of which consisted of brainstorming and critically analyzing how ICEI worked with students who had won writing awards or excelled in ICEI literacy programming. These conversations pertaining to the ethics of education, fundraising, and interactions between private sector and state responsibility, not only pushed me to question how I view non-profit fundraising but introduced me to new avenues of argumentation and reason. As a sociology and philosophy nerd, one could expect that I would find these insightful conversations motivating and mentally stimulating.


Next year, I will be returning to academia to pursue a Masters in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. Prior to working with ICEI and Lee, I was sure I wanted to set out on the long and arduous road of getting a PhD in sociology. After delving into the extensive work and culture of the educational non-profit sector, I am left perplexed as to how I want to proceed with my career. Whether to stay in academia or dig back into the fascinating world of non-profit social change initiatives. The Yahel Social Change Fellowship promised professional development but didn’t warn me it would be so compelling that I would want to leave academia.


Thanks Lee and ICEI,

Lev Paasche-Orlow