Thursday, Jul 18, 2024

Oorah Nachas Files- “TheZone Girl”

Not everyone who works at Oorah is privileged to see the incredible kiruv work the organization does firsthand. After all, even a kiruv organization needs its fundraisers and its bookkeepers, its administrators and customer service representatives. But working at Oorah, you often get to hear from the ones in the trenches, on the front lines, with their inspirational stories of change and growth. And sometimes, you get an email like this one from a new hire in Eretz Yisroel:

“Just wanted to share something that dawned on me yesterday and has been on our mind ever since. At our outing, where I met many of you for the first time, I was taken aback when Batsheva introduced me as the girl who ‘was a counselor at TheZone.’ I’d never been introduced as ‘TheZone girl’ before, but after some time, I realized that I was introduced as the camp counselor because I have what many dedicated Israeli Oorah staff don’t: a firsthand knowledge of what exactly we work so hard for. I have seen exactly where the money we make is spent.


“In light of this, I would like to share a little bit of my experiences that have inspired my work. I want to tell you about a girl named Sally. Sweet, a little quiet, but always smiling, 16-year-old Sally. I would learn with a group of teens at night. They happened to be a louder, more social group, who needed a bit of direction, but we picked out the Chofetz Chaim’s Ahavas Chesed and we made it a nightly routine in their room. Every night, Sally would join. After every session, Sally would timidly ask her questions. I didn’t give it much thought; I just thought she wanted a bit more conversation. Little did I know how much Sally wanted to grow.


“One night, she told me her guilty secret: she dreamed of going to seminary. ‘Dreamed,’ meaning it would never happen. Her parents were absolutely, vehemently against it. She went to a school where no one made that move, and she didn’t even know how to ask her parents for such a luxury. Having just come back from my first year in seminary, I felt for her. I davened that next day, but I knew how these stories went. I should have known that it would be different for an Oorah girl.


“There I was, a year and a half later, walking down a street in Geula, pulling things together for my upcoming vort, when I hear a familiar voice say, ‘Mazel tov!’ I responded robotically, but at a second glance, my jaw dropped. It was Sally. In Eretz Yisroel.


“I had so many questions for her, but judging by her proud smile and her tzonuah garb, I could tell that it would be too long of a story. The important thing was that Sally had made it to seminary and got a chance to experience and learn as she so much craved, and to shape her future in this foundational year. I was also delighted to hear that she was in a ‘frummerseminary than I had attended my shanah alef year (now THAT’S nachas)!


“Now I can only imagine how each dollar we help to bring in contributes not only to a kid’s personal growth, but to the shaping of our future Jewish homes.”




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