The Maimonides Heritage Sherut Le’Umi Midrasha was launched September 2007 and has had a huge impact on the residents of Tiberias. Of the 38 women who served in the program in 2007 13 came back for the 2008-2009 year of service. Our program is overseen by Rabbi Chaim Fogel, member of the Israel board and MHC volunteer.
About the Program
Sherut Leumi, an alternative to serving in the Israeli army for women, is a program that engages highly motivated and idealistic military age citizens in community-based work. Those who participate in the program work in a great number of services, providing the country and, more importantly individual cities or institutions, with extra manpower, acting as extra help, often needed in many areas of Israeli life.
To receive the services of Bnot Sherut (participants of the program) a given institution requesting their services normally has to pay one third of the women’s salary. Most of the social services and educational institutions in Tiberias lack the proper funding necessary to maintain their regular operations and certainly can not afford the services of the Benot Sherut.
The Maimonides Heritage Center proudly sponsors over thirty-five (35) Bnot Sherut who provide all kinds of service throughout the city of Tiberias. In addition to their community work the Maimonides Heritage Center offers the young women a wonderful educational opportunity to study in our Midrasha. The Bnot Sherut work for four days a week and engage in study one-and-a-half days a week.
The Midrasha is based at the Setton Family Hospitality Center and is home away from home for the Bnot Sherut. The Midrasha Program is overseen by Rabbi Gilead Messing who lives in Tiberias with his wife and 6 children. The classes offered at the Midrasha include (but are not limited to):
1. Classes on Jewish culture and religion with an emphasis on the works and philosophy of Maimonides.
2. Leadership training that would assist in their roles as integral components of community development.
3. Social work classes related to domestic issues, personal issues, or social intervention.
The bulk of the girls’ time is spent giving back to the city of Tiberias and fulfill our mission which is to revitalize the community and to bring hope to the citizens of Tiberias, many of which are plagued by destitution and domestic issues. This initiative has been incredibly successful and address many of the problems that afflict the community on a daily basis by achieving the following goals:
1. Moadonim (After School Clubs): The local public schools in Tiberias lack the necessary funding to provide meaningful afterschool programs for the thousands of children that live there. School ends at 1:30 PM which leaves kids in limbo for most of the day. In addition many children come from broken homes or homes with all kinds of problems. Oftentimes as a result of the situation at home, children take to the streets, spending their after-school hours getting in trouble or being exposed to the grittiness of city life. For these reasons, with the strength of our volunteers we put in place five Mo’adonim, after-school clubs. These Mo’adonim operate between the hours of one to five PM and serve many purposes: to keep kids off the streets and to provide them with assistance with their homework as well as other educational activities that assist the educational progress of Tiberias’s youth.
2. Takhkemoni School: Similarly, the Bnot Sherut function in several capacities in a formal educational setting at the Takhemoni School, Tiberias’s religious public school. The school has over six hundred children from the poorest families in Tiberias enrolled and is significantly understaffed. As a result, these children are denied the opportunity to reach their potential for growth and become victims of stifled development. The Bnot Sherut serve in every capacity that the school requires them, specifically doing administrative work that teachers seldom have the time to finish, acting as tutors to children who require further assistance beyond the regular classroom instruction, and serving as teacher’s assistants in the classroom to facilitate the dynamic learning experience that suits a classroom best.
3. Tiberias’s Poriyah Hospital benefits tremendously from the program. Bnot Sherut take care of the various administrative services required in the hospital, ensuring that the needs of patients beyond the strictly medical are provided for. Also, some of the Bnot Sherut are certified in EMT/EMS and assist in ensuring the medical well-being of the patients.
4. Bet Avot (nursing home): of Tiberias also receives assistance in the form of several Bnot Sherut. The Bet Avot houses over three hundred elderly living in minimal conditions, barely providing the basic necessities for sustained living. In addition, the Bet Avot is significantly understaffed. Bnot Sherut provide for the elderly residents, assisting them with the basic functions of life made difficult by their inability to live on their own, and arranges activities for the elderly in an attempt to retain high morale in a home that can easily depress its inhabitants.
5. B’nai Akiva: Tiberias’s chapter of B’nai Akiva, Israel’s largest religious youth movement, is run in part by the Bnot Sherut. In Israel, B’nai Akiva is in important part of growing up and greatly facilitates the acquisition of leadership and social skills among the youth of the entire country. Bnot Sherut give over a sense of the leadership training they are provided at the Midrasha, imparting it to the children, who have the opportunity to improve the quality of life of both Israel and Tiberias if taught the proper skills. As it is imperative in this day and age that Israel raises strong leaders, it is important that B’nai Akiva has proper leadership. Currently the Tiberias chapter lacks strong leadership, but with the Bnot Sherut helping to run various Pe’ulot (activities) as well as religious and leadership training, B’nai Akiva in Tiberias is achieving its true potential
6. Community Building: In addition to the various projects (above) that the Bnot Sherut are engaged in, they take part in group activities that ensure that they remain a cohesive group that represents the Maimonides Heritage Center properly. The girls participate in two Shabbatonim, one during the holiday of Chanukah and one at the end of the year to serve as a wrap up to a year of accomplishment and growth. Bnot Sherut also take on community programs, assuming leadership roles. Community programs include: a Melaveh Malka (post-Shabbat celebration) on the Tayelet (boardwalk, the hub of culture in Tiberias), the construction of a Sukkah on the Tayelet, Chanukah parties and activities for the community’s youth, organizing that baskets be sent out for Purim as well as a Purim Carnival, and commemorations of Israel’s most important national holiday, Yom Ha’atzma’ut.
The city of Tiberias requires great assistance in a great deal of its social services and programming. To ensure the maintenance of Tiberias’s basic needs, we need your help. Help us continue to fund the Sherut Le’Umi Midrasha in Tiberias by making a donation right now!