This week’s participant blog post is written by Rachel Jetter, one of the incredible participants on this year’s Yahel Social Change Program.
In addition to teaching English, I am working in the office of our local community-partner, Friends By Nature (FBN). Currently, my major projects in the office include fundraising for and promoting our community team in the 2014 Tel Aviv Marathon (be on the look out for more information!), establishing partnerships with synagogues, summer camps and Day Schools to run our “Mifgash” pen pal program, expanding our social media network through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and newsletters, and more importantly – grant writing to fund all of these initiatives! Coming from a Jewish non-profit in Manhattan, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in the FBN office. I assumed we’d be doing similar things: programming, marketing, fundraising and outreach, all from a Jewish lens. While these goals are the same, the office experience is completely different than I expected, but I still dove in headfirst.
Instead of dress clothes, I wear jeans and a t-shirt. Instead of sitting at my cubicle, I table hop around our apartment-style office. Instead of memos structuring my day and work environment, I get the more than occasional interruption at my “desk.” But perhaps the most important difference is the meal schedule: instead of having a lunch break, I get sufganiyot (Israeli donuts!) and warm pita with Nutella shoved in my hand every 30 minutes (rejecting this offer is considered rude by my colleagues as well as my stomach). Before coming to Israel, I would have looked at these differences as unprofessional and weaknesses to the organization’s success; now, I have quickly embraced FBN’s, non-corporate structure and have learned how to thrive in this new environment.
By wearing jeans and a t-shirt, my work and personality is valued more than my presentation. By knocking down those cubicle walls, deeper relationships are being built and my Hebrew ear is improving every day. Those “occasional interruptions” make me more aware of the activities in the office. I feel like I am part of the entire organization, rather than simply a member of a specific department, and I can contribute to more initiatives.
Every day, I witness firsthand the challenges of being a part of a small Israeli non-profit: work within developing communities, the difficulties of fundraising, and how to bridge cultural gaps in society. These are aspects that I hadn’t experienced while working in a large organization in New York City. This position has broadened my perspectives and given me valuable skills that make me more well rounded and experienced for jobs back in the States. However, I’m struggling with the thought of one day leaving my new work style along with my enthusiastic and professional co-workers.