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Dear friend,
These past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about leadership. In a time in Israel where many citizens are stepping up to make their voice heard and to effect change in their reality – the question of leadership is an important one here in Israel and around the world.
In our programs we examine the subject of leadership through the lenses of initiative and responsibility. What does it mean to really show up in a community, to thoughtfully listen to local needs, to respect local knowledge but also to not shy away from taking responsibility when needed? These questions are an integral part of what our fellows and participants experience during their time in Israel and hopefully take back home to their communities as Yahel alumni.
When thinking about examples of leaders – I think about the Eritrean refugee who is working on providing academic enrichment opportunities for Eritrean children in his community - without any resources or formal backing. I think about the Director of a youth center who is a true role model for his teens and is fighting to keep them off the streets. I think about the community social worker who is under compensated and over extended and yet continues to advocate for every family in need. I think about the woman who runs the after-school program and uses her own funds to ensure the children in her group have decent meals and games to play. I think about the Yahel fellow who is showing up every week to work with a group of teens, even when they do not always know how to show their appreciation. I think of the fellows who are initiating community events with local partners, our alumni around the world who will be leading service days this summer, and so many others. 
In this newsletter we have chosen to delve a bit deeper into the idea of leadership and see what it looks like on many levels. For me, ultimately, leadership means taking responsibility for the reality around us and always finding ways to change a situation for the better. This is what we strive to do at Yahel.
Dana Talmi
Executive Director

Leadership Matters
Meet our Community Partner:
Tomi Shay
Tomi is a teacher with an impressive 32 years of experience in the education system. His passion for education led him to found the Lod Farm School, where he has served as principal for the past 12 years.
The farm school is a unique educational institution that provides students from all backgrounds with an opportunity to learn about agriculture, sustainability, and shared responsibility.
The educational system in Lod is diverse, yet divided. Every week, 1,200 students from different schools in Lod come to the farm school to engage in hands-on learning experiences, and throughout the year, they have the opportunity to interact with students who they would otherwise likely never encounter. The farm is staffed by both Arab and Jewish teachers, of various religiosities, teaching the children from various schools in their native language. All signage around the school is in Hebrew and Arabic, and a core of the students' education is focused on working towards collective goals.
“Tomi is the most diplomatic person I've ever met--it's a surprise he isn't involved in politics. Instead, he's devoted himself towards nature, education, and the spirit of growth. His strength and modesty are contagious and I cherish every day working with him in the Farm School.”
-Ethan, Lod Fellow
Tomi's vision for the farm school is to create a shared society between Jews and Arabs and within the diversity of both communities. He believes that every student who comes to the farm school should feel safe and at home, and he provides them with responsibilities and opportunities to take food home with them. Through Tomi's leadership and commitment to education, the Lod Farm School has become a place where students can grow, learn, and thrive in a diverse and inclusive environment.
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Interested in reading more about The Farm School?
From Alum, Adrienne Bernstein
Adrienne Bernstein
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Yahel Program: The Social Change Fellowship, 2015-2016
Yahel City: Lod
What have you been up to since finishing the Yahel Social Change Fellowship?
After Yahel, I moved to London, UK where I've lived for the past 7 years! I work for a consulting firm in their international development unit. The programmes I've worked on focus on global public health, including tackling drug resistance and health systems strengthening.
What motivates you to do this work?
Like many development fields, health is a space where politics, history, economics, gender, race, class, sociology, and geography all collide. This means there’s a lot of collaboration and learning going on. As much as our work is about designing and implementing programmes to tackle big health challenges around the world, it’s also about asking questions and challenging assumptions.
How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
Holding structured feedback sessions has been key for growing and learning from leadership opportunities. Many of the leaders I admire consistently check in with their teams, ask for feedback, and are excellent listeners. When I’ve led on projects or pieces of work, having regular feedback sessions with team members has helped me learn, make adjustments as needed, but also makes sure the team I work with feels heard - and I think this creates a shared sense of ownership over the work we are doing.
Did your experience on Yahel influence any of the leadership skills that you have today? If so, how?
I was part of the first cohort in Lod, so a big part of our programme was making inroads in the community and setting up volunteer placements. This experience underscored the importance of listening in leadership, which has probably led me to prioritize feedback and reflection.
Working in Lod as the first Yahel cohort took a lot of initiative, but we also had to temper this to ensure our placements and projects made sense for our timeframe and capacity. For example, when we conducted our community needs-based assessments, we found lots of areas that needed support, but chose to focus on those where we could have the most impact for the nine months in which we were based in the community. This helped me develop an approach to leading with sustainability in mind; taking view of the challenges, opportunities, stakeholders involved as well as resources available, and not being afraid to start small.
What piece of advice would you give to someone stepping into a leadership role? 
Observe and consider the leaders you work with. When you work on a project that’s successful, reflect on what the leader did effectively - and ask that person directly to find out techniques, strategies or approaches they use. Similarly, when things don’t go so well as a team, ask where the leadership gaps were and, hopefully, the leader will be open to discussing this experience and what could have gone better.
The Journey TO Leadership
From Current fellow, Kyle Kun
Kyle Kun
Hometown: Crescent City, California
Yahel Program: The Social Change Fellowship, 2022-2023
Yahel City: Rishon LeZion
Can you share with us what you're doing at your placements at the elementary school and Moadonit (after school center) in Rishon LeZion? 
At the elementary school, I am very persistent in encouraging the students. I come up with games and activities related to their homework. I do my best to make everything relaxed and fun for them. I don’t have any real secret knowledge to share. I am just consistent and try to provide a fun way to learn. I listen to them and allow them to speak. I do everything to show I respect their time and them. 
Is there anyone on the fellowship (a staff member, a peer, a community partner) who is a role model for you regarding leadership? If so, how?
Yes, there are a few people I look up to. I look up to Shoshana (Rishon LeZion's City Coordinator), she has been a great listener and she has given me very good and much-needed advice. I take inspiration from a few fellows. Brandon and Marcus for their confidence. Ally and Mo for their insight. Gabby for her enthusiasm. Alex for their humor. Amanda for her curiosity. I also look up to Hagit, the teacher I work with. She has a lot of patience. I am also inspired by Menberu and Rivka from my placement at ICEI (The Israel Center for Educational Innovation). They are both very patient and hard-working. Menberu’s story really moved me. His passion for what he does has inspired me. Rivka’s work ethic and know-how always manage to amaze me.
Do you consider yourself a leader?
I don’t see myself as a leader, it isn’t exactly something I thought I would be. I guess I need to accept that I am a leader in what I do. I need to find a way to have more faith in myself. Which will happen in time as I accomplish more goals. 
Do you feel like your experience on the fellowship will influence how and what you do when you return home?
Absolutely. Time here has shown me what I need to improve. I need to come out of my shell a bit more. I need to also allow myself more confidence. Being here has shown me that I am capable and that sometimes I have decent insight. I have a foundation, I just need to build upon it further.
What piece of advice would you give to someone stepping into a leadership role?
Be patient. Patience, understanding, and reliability are important traits to adopt. You need to be able to listen. Leadership to me is a responsibility, not a perk. It needs to be taken seriously and cautiously. People end up looking to you for guidance, which is frightening. You have to be able to adapt and accept this. You are supposed to be of service to the people who look to you. Do not be afraid to ask for advice. Everyone needs it, no one is the exception to this. I still struggle with this; don’t be afraid to stop and relax. Others can handle tasks as well. You don’t need to do everything yourself all of the time. It is fine to ask for help.
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Leading Behind the Scenes
The Yahel Board
Leadership is not always the people in the front – those that everyone sees and hears. Sometimes the most profound leadership is actually done behind the scenes – like our wonderful Yahel board members. Based both in the US and Israel, the Yahel board provides strategic direction for the organization, ensures the financial viability of the organization and continuously helps propel the organization forward. This is a wonderful opportunity to thank our Board Chair – Shelly Mitchell, and all our other board members – Lee Sherman, Joanne Moore, Susan Abravanel, Moshiko Emmer, Becca Garfinkel, Samantha Sisisky, Amy Weiss and Lior Benisty for all the wonderful work they do!

Sparking Change:
CJP's Visit to Haifa
Earlier this month, we had a wonderful visit by our partners and friends at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP). Through grant-making and innovative philanthropy, CJP builds partnerships, develops resources, and funds big ideas to build a stronger Jewish community and create a better world for all.
Our Haifa Fellows spent the day showing some of CJP's groups around Haifa to share the work that they're doing here. Thank you, CJP for a great visit!
Become a
Yahel Fellow
Applications for the 2023-2024 Yahel Social Change Fellowship are open, but spaces are filling up fast. If you or someone you know is passionate about creating positive change in the world, don't miss this opportunity to make a real impact on underserved communities in Israel, immerse yourself in Israeli society, and gain valuable personal and professional skills.
Are you or someone you know passionate about creating positive change in the world?
The 2023-2024 Yahel Social Change Fellowship will run from September 20, 2023 - June 30, 2024.

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