Success has many parents

Elvia Fisher decided to help her fellow olim finding a way to improve the quality of education and created CityKids. Nearly three years after its founding CityKids helps more than 2,000 families in Tel Aviv.

Elvia Fisher (photo credit: courtesy)
Elvia Fisher
(photo credit: courtesy)
When Elvia Fisher made aliya from Connecticut in 2009, her intention was to work with adults with disabilities. But she had to establish a steady stream of income before she could make that possible. So she decided to nanny.
After working for two separate families – one American immigrant family and one Israeli family – she found she couldn’t ignore the shared concerns the two had about the quality of education their children were receiving.
Fisher saw this as a major issue for Tel Aviv in general, and as an immigrant herself, she decided to act to help her fellow olim find a way to improve the quality of education through an English-speaking medium. Her solution was to found CityKids, a community center focused on providing day-care and educational opportunities for children. Nearly three years after its founding, CityKids helps more than 2,000 families in Tel Aviv.
It was this proactive interest in improving educational opportunities for the city’s children that convinced Zippi Brand, founder of the new Simu Lev Horim Party, that Fisher should be on the party’s city council ballot.
Simu Lev Horim, which translates to “Attention, Parents,” focuses mainly on restructuring the budget to allocate more funds to education, as well as restructuring the school day to provide a higher-quality education.
“In Tel Aviv, most kindergartens have a student-to-teacher ratio of about 35:1, with maybe one assistant,” Fisher says. “When Zippi heard about that, she decided to petition the city council to get another assistant into those rooms, and she won. After that success, she saw the possibility for more educational reform, and decided to found a party dedicated to that.”
In many ways, the things Simu Lev Horim hopes to change will put Tel Aviv schools more on par with schools in Western countries. While the normal school day in Tel Aviv lasts until 1 p.m., its American counterpart lasts until 4 p.m. And in contrast to Tel Aviv’s 35:1 student-teacher ratio for kindergartens – which often goes on to exceed 40:1 once children start first grade – many American schools cap the ratio at 25:1 for the duration of the student’s entire school career.
“Because of the shortened school day, students aren’t getting nearly enough education in the arts and sciences,” says Fisher. “Unless the student is admitted to an arts school or a nature school, there aren’t any good options for students to get a quality education in these areas.”
One of the main ways Simu Lev Horim plans to combat this problem is by providing after-school programs that would essentially extend the school day to the length of an American one.
“It would be beneficial to everyone involved,” Fisher says. “Parents wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with their children for the second half of the day, while they’re still at work, and students would benefit from a more in-depth and quality education.”
Restructuring the school day is not the only issue on Simu Lev Horim’s platform, though.
“On a broader level, we’re dedicated to promoting a holistic approach to improving the ability for parents to raise kids in Tel Aviv,” says Fisher.
This includes providing more affordable cultural activities and opportunities for children, cleaning and maintaining the city’s parks, and strengthening youth programs such as the Israel Scouts programs throughout Tel Aviv.
“There are certain branches of the Scouts that are doing really well and which are particularly strong, but a main priority for Simu Lev Horim is to ensure that there isn’t any inequality in the way that strength is dispersed throughout the city,” says Fisher. “It’s really important to emphasize that we want to improve the education system and youth opportunities not just for the wealthiest families in Tel Aviv, but for everyone, from north Tel Aviv to south Tel Aviv to Jaffa.”
While the party is still new, surveys predict that it has already clinched two seats and is fighting for a third.
“Since the party was born out of Zippi’s success, we see ourselves as being well-positioned to provide more change and improvement in Tel Aviv,” Fisher says. “We have a history of success, and we hope to see more of that in the next five years.”