WHEN Melbourne parents Ronn and Maxine Bechler’s daughter Ellie was among five students at non-Jewish schools planning to go on the year 10 NSW Board of Jewish Education (BJE) Israel program in 2017, they were amazed that, unlike for her Sydney counterparts, there was no funding structure available for the Melbourne kids.
Through Israel For Youth (I4Y), the Bechlers, as co-founders, are working with other donors to enable a far wider segment of Australian Jewish year 10 students to receive a $5000 per capita subsidy for the six-week program already used by Jewish schools.
Based at Alexander Muss High School (AMHSI) near Tel Aviv, the program combines classroom learning with field trips. Australians mingle with local students, giving them a real taste of Israel. The program is already used by Bialik College and by Sydney’s Emanuel School.
Ronn Bechler, I4Y’s president, said the foundation coordinates with UJEB to raise funds for a voucher system similar to Youth to Israel (Y2I), funded by the NSW Board of Jewish Education through the Jewish Communal Appeal which subsidises attendees from NSW, ACT and Queensland.
The need to cover Victoria and other states was identified in the Gen17 survey, just as the need for the Y2I program, founded in 2014, was identified by Gen08.
Meanwhile, 19 Jewish students from states not served by Y2I already went on the AMHSI visit through UJEB in 2018, and 25 last year. With I4Y, Ronn hopes more than 30 will go this year. Students from McKinnon and Brighton secondary colleges, Glen Eira College, Geelong Grammar and other schools have participated, with registrations in from Adelaide and Darwin.
“You have a wide range of kids on it, from those who are shomer Shabbat, to kids with no affiliation, and kids with one Jewish parent, and many first-time visitors,” Ronn told The AJN, noting students commit to a comprehensive leadership and development experience on their return.
“In Sydney, an Israel visiting voucher is issued to every bar and bat mitzvah,” said Ronn. “I encourage Jewish communities in Victoria, Tasmania, SA, NT and WA to spread the word.”
UJEB executive principal Itzik Sztokman stated, “A year 10 Israel experience is so important in ensuring strong Jewish connections. Israel For Youth will ensure that UJEB can continue to provide this program to a growing number of teens in our community.”
The Israel For Youth Foundation will be formally launched by Caulfield MP David Southwick on March 19 and an information night will be held on March 30. For further details, contact Ronn Bechler, 0400 009 774, email firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.israelforyouthfoundation.org.au.