CBB has formed a partnership with the Givat Haviva International School (GHIS) in Israel – a diverse community of student leaders promoting cross-cultural cooperation – as part of our community’s Tikkun Olam initiative to heal the world and build a more peaceful future. CBB members donate time and financial gifts to support the work of this transformative high school. To learn more, contact CBB Director of Community Engagement, Mariela Socolovsky at email@example.com. In today’s CBB Voices Blog post, CBB member Sue Levine reflects on her experience as an academic tutor to a GHIS student. – Ed.
“Kayf halukum,” I was instructed by my young student, meant “how are you” in Arabic. I repeated those words over and over and still I struggled with remembering. How was I to tutor a student in English who has already mastered Hebrew and Arabic and was also teaching herself Spanish?
Yet “Kayf halukum” began some of the most illuminating, inspiring (and yes, even entertaining) sessions that I have experienced in a long time. My brief conversations with friends often paled in depth to my upcoming dialogue where my student practiced her evolving English.
I had flashbacks to my early teens. Was I as poised, winsome, respectful, feisty, clear-headed, and honest as the student to whom I was assigned? I think not.
Once I had accepted an English tutoring assignment with a new Givat Haviva International School (GHIS)10th grade student, I felt the jitters associated with the responsibility and preparation. I worried that a 15 year old Muslim surfer wouldn’t respond to a white-haired woman equal to or older than her own grandmother.
Aisha and I agreed to meet weekly at a designated time on Google Meet, a program similar to Zoom. I recognized that she, too, was apprehensive as she often fidgeted with her long brown waves, alternately wrapping them into a bun and then letting them drop to her shoulders.
We quickly became friends. I expected an adequate exchange but walked away from each session with an ever-increasing admiration for this young woman and for the school that selected her among its many applicants.
Aisha lives in an Arab town in Israel surrounded by close family and friends. As devout Muslims, her parents are raising 5 career-oriented daughters and 1 son, the youngest. The oldest three currently attend university in Israel and Aisha hopes to earn her medical credentials in an English-speaking country.
In many ways Aisha’s family is not much different from ours. Even though both parents work, her mother takes on more child-rearing responsibilities. She is determined to provide opportunities that were unavailable to her when she was growing up. Travel and integrated (Jews and Muslim) camps are part of her plan. Consequently, Aisha counts many Jews as her friends.
Most schools are segregated in Israel. Aisha’s Arab schools expected students to “think the same way”. Children are discouraged from questioning.
In contrast, Aisha loves her first year at GHIS; in fact, the string of Jewish holidays only made her anxious to return to classes sooner. She enjoys the range of creative activities that both cement relationships and give her a better understanding of the subject matter. Teachers are approachable and determined that their students understand all content. They encourage questions and sit in on political discussions only to ensure respectful dialogue.
Students are exposed to foreign customs and traditions—experiencing the costumes (Halloween), food and dances (Cultural Day) of other students’ homelands.
Tutoring is not difficult or time-consuming. Talk about family, friends, interests, values. Branch off into American sports, fashion and celebrities. Laugh over some of our ridiculous American expressions (did you know that some Americans refer to “it’s raining cats and dogs” as a “frog strangler”?). It takes no longer than ½-1 hour a week. (For more information or to sign-up, contact CBB member and GHIS Committee member, Diane Blau. firstname.lastname@example.org.)
My months-long association just ended and I feel honored to have had Aisha in my life. As a teen with a sound moral compass who embraces her womanhood and who embodies drive and vision, I am certain she has a promising future. I am confident she will weigh the complexities of life with intelligence and leadership.
Sadly, not all GHIS students are as fortunate as Aisha. Many have little familial support, both emotionally and financially. That’s why I urge you to join me in supporting GHIS with a charitable donation made out to CBB/GHIS. Together, we can provide those at the frontlines of controversy our support. Together we can turn our dear homeland into a kinder, more peaceful place.
Sue Levine is a CBB member who loves Rummy Cube, foreign movies, chocolate (preferably See’s), family, genealogy and Daughters of Abraham (not in that order).