• Tara Feldman is fulfilling her dreams.

    Nathan Roi, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©

Through Israel-Diaspora bonds, Kol Ami academies help young adults fulfill their dreams

New York native Tara Feldman, 18, is a staunch supporter of Israel and envisions herself in an IDF combat role. After working to counter antisemitism and defend the Jewish State as a high school student in America, she describes herself as a modern-day Maccabee.

Like any major transition in life, joining the military—especially as an immigrant—requires significant preparation. Tara has received precisely the support she needs at one of The Jewish Agency’s Kol Ami: Jewish Peoplehood Academies.

These post-high school academies bring together young Israelis and their Jewish peers from abroad, with the aim of strengthening the participants’ connection to the Jewish people. The curriculum includes personal growth and empowerment; learning and volunteering together to benefit Israeli society and each other; studying public diplomacy, Jewish texts, and the concept of a unified Jewish people. Most of the participants from abroad complete the program after three months, and continue their Israel experience as part of other programs, while their Israeli peers and participants like Tara continue at the academy for an additional 3 months to prepare for their military service. 

In the U.S., Tara had studied at a Jewish school until age 12, but then attended a secular boarding school for high school. There, she encountered antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment. Tara says she responded by becoming a de facto “ambassador of Israel” at the school.

“It was very difficult because I lived with people who doubted Israel's right to exist, and some said bad things about Jews,” she recalls.

Yet Tara says she does not regret attending the boarding school, as her time there helped her understand Israel's importance and her role in relation to the Jewish state. "I realized that I had to defend Israel. This was my duty. Yes, it was a difficult experience, and some days I cried. But I was not ready to leave. I did not think I could go back to my bubble, my parents, and give up.”

Ultimately, Tara says her struggle against hatred “only strengthened me.”

Now at the Kol Ami Kiryat Anavim academy, she has bonded with a diverse array of peers ranging from Australians to Israelis.

“I really loved the idea of an international preparatory academy,” she says. “I am learning about the Jewish people by gaining familiarity with people from around world. Now, I can relate better to events that happen in the world. I would not have found this aspect at a different preparatory academy in Israel.”

Tara says that while it is not easy being away from her parents, the academy is “the perfect place for me to be me.” Israeli families welcome her into their homes for major Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, while the Israeli participants at Kol Ami help Tara with her Hebrew-language skills. She calls her peers “like brothers and sisters to me.”

“It’s a wonderful place to fulfill my dreams and the tasks I set for myself,” Tara says.

For more information on The Jewish Agency’s Kol Ami: Jewish Peoplehood Academies, visit: http://www.jewishagency.org/jewish-social-action/mechinot/kol-ami.

This article was originally reported by Nathan Roi for The Jewish Agency for Israel.

08 Jan 2018 / 21 Tevet 5778 0
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