Israeli teens join US peers to build homes in Nicaragua

Haifa high school principal says two-week project serves not only the people in Nicaragua, but also the students.

nicaragua home 88 (photo credit: )
nicaragua home 88
(photo credit: )
Seven students from the Leo Baeck High School in Haifa are joining American peers for two weeks in Nicaragua to build homes for poor communities. The group is flying to New York to meet up with youth from Shaaray Tefila Synagogue in Bedford, New York, a Reform congregation that sends a youth delegation to Nicaragua for the project every year. The Israeli group's trip is being sponsored by the non-profit organization Bridges to Community. Leo Baeck principal Yael Katz said the two-week project serves not only the people in Nicaragua, but also the students. "[Bridges to Community] has two parts. One is promoting our Jewish identity as part of the Jewish people - connecting Jews around the world through a community like Shaaray Tefila. "Secondly, one of the biggest values we try to promote is tikkun olam. We have the opportunity to go to Nicaragua, not only together with Shaaray Tefila but also with two churches in the area. This combination of interfaith [meetings] and helping those who cannot afford homes is unique," she said. The project is one of many humanitarian aid initiatives that have sprung from the relationship between Leo Baeck and the Reform community in North America. Katz said promoting tikkun olam and social action projects sets an example for young Israelis. "It is very important because while we're talking about students finishing their matriculation, education is also how you [act] as a citizen. We need to take part in tikkun olam with our friends, families and communities, and as part of worldwide efforts to help those less fortunate." Amir Kessler, 17, one of the Leo Baeck participants, said he was excited not only by what he would do during the program, but what he would learn from the experience. "I think seeing how people live in a place without fresh water and homes gives you a perspective on your own life... so you can appreciate it more and give from what you do have," Kessler said. According to Katz, the group's experience will help them eventually contribute to the community in which they live. "We really believe this is the way we have to be as [individual] citizens, and as part of the community as a whole."