By Charles Bernsen
As one of the two chaperones on last month’s Get Connected trip to Israel, Adi Ben Dor accompanied the 15 Nashville teenagers on a visit to a Bedouin camp in the desert.
There she ran into a young man she had once counseled for drug addiction in her previous work with children at risk for drug abuse and other social and emotional dysfunctions. Clean and employed now, he thanked her and expressed his determination to stay away from drugs.
“Things like that make you realize that this is the right field to be working in,” said Ben Dor, who for the past year has been the community shlicha (Israel emissary) at the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
Ben Dor returns this month to Israel, where she is enrolling at Oranim Academic College to get a master’s degree and special training in teaching and counseling at-risk children.
“This is my field,” she said. “This is a place I can leave a mark.”
In a bit of serendipity, replacing Ben Dor as community shlicah next month is Sharon Ben Ami, who also has experience working with at-risk children. As an undergraduate at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo, she worked at Chinuch L’psagot, a nonprofit that provides enrichment programs for underprivileged children. Since October she has worked as a manager at the Branco Weiss Institute, an nonprofit that develops and implements teaching and organizational innovations in Israeli schools with the aim of reducing educational disparities.
Asked about her most memorable experience as shilcah, Ben Dor mentioned the recent Get Connected trip.
“To go to Israel with the Nashville students and see the country through their eyes was quite revealing,” Ben Dor said. When the group went to the Kotel, for example, “one of the first things they asked was why the men’s section is so much bigger than the women’s section – the boys asked this. It took Israelis 50 years to ask about that.”
In general, being a shlicah has helped her understand the effort required to be a Jew in the diaspora.
“It makes you realize that even in Israel we should not take anything for granted,” she said. •