Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The Israeli Soldiers and The Ginn Academy: Fighting for the Future
A couple of weeks ago, I was a bit baffled when I was asked to be at The Ginn Academy on a different day than usual because a group of Israeli soldiers was coming to the school. Why would a group of Israeli soldiers from the other side of the world come to The Ginn Academy, I wondered. Once I learned the whole story though, it all made perfect sense. Despite our vast geographical and cultural differences, this group would prove to be full of inspiring lessons for our young men.
The Ginn Academy is very lucky to have a group of loyal volunteers from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland who come in each week to tutor some of our students in reading. Part of the Federation's Public Education Initiative, the volunteers not only help the boys to learn but also provide a consistent and reliable support presence throughout the school year. Our school is one of seven in the Cleveland area to benefit from this organization's generous efforts.
Enter the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force. The Cleveland Jewish Federation focuses some of its efforts on a specific unit of the Israeli military called Havat HaShomer, which specializes in remedial education and extra training for disadvantaged youth who need the additional instruction and experience before becoming part of the IDF.
In a country where military service is compulsory, details of an individual's service are an important part of personal identity. People who were not involved for whatever reason (trouble with the law, incomplete schooling) are almost certainly bound for social and career troubles. The Havat HaShomer unit provides a second chance for these Israelis to succeed in their society.
Four soldiers, including one successful graduate of Havat HaShomer, Sergeant Dima Zvulunuv, told their stories to the GA Juniors. First Lieutenant Gal Sasson is a commander at Havat HaShomer and First Lieutenant Rotem Amiel is a MAKAM officer, which means she works closely with the special populations involved with Havat HaShomer.
Sergeant Zvulunuv explained to the boys about his own experiences and how he's made the transition from troubled teen to squad leader. Dima moved from the former Soviet Union to Israel with his mother and brother when he was 3 years old. He got into a lot of trouble in his teen years and because of his criminal record, when it came time to enlist, he was rejected by the army. After another four attempts he was accepted into Havat HaShomer for a second chance for a better life.
Lieutenant Colonel Moshe Levy, former deputy base commander at Havat HaShomer, explained to the GA students how willpower, persistence, belief in himself and his ability to succeed, determination, and his belief that hard work would lead to success were all crucial for Dima to successfully complete the program and change the course of his life for the better. These lessons are certainly valuable to anyone at any point in life, but for impressionable teenage boys, they are especially important.
In meeting with the soldiers and our friends from the Jewish Federation after the presentation, Coach Ginn expressed his gratitude for their visit and compared their mission with his own. "We're both fighting for the future. Whether it's a man or a soldier, we have to reach our full potential. Without that the world is at risk," Coach said. "Some people don't fit the normal situation. Everyone has potential. Sometimes we just have to dig it out!"
We are thankful to have such support from The Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the very timely and relevant guests who shared their stories with us. We believe that seeds were planted in the boys' minds that day and are infinitely appreciative of those that are willing to help others in whatever ways they can.
Kindest Regards from The Ginn Academy