BY LEAH LEVY / AJT //

The Greenfield Hebrew Academy recently hosted a breakfast to honor the supporters of the B’not Sherut program, which brings to the school young Israeli volunteers who have chosen to perform one or two years of national service in lieu of time in the IDF.

Ateret Kfir (left) and Linor Nahum give students at GHA a direct connection to Israel. PHOTO/courtesy GHA

Ateret Kfir (left) and Linor Nahum give students at GHA a direct connection to Israel. PHOTO/courtesy GHA

These young women serve in many different capacities: working in education (including special education and helping at-risk teens), administration and law, medical assistance (including hospitals, geriatrics, nursing homes and health clinics), internal security, disadvantaged communities, immigrant assistance, environmental issues and other related non-profit organizations.

Then, after one year of service within Israel, the best of the B’not Sherut may volunteer for an additional year of service in the Diaspora countries. They extend their time of service and travel far from home and are a precious gift to the communities they serve.

GHA’s breakfast was attended by several of the sponsors who fund the highly successful program (now in its second year) as well as by staff members and GHA’s own B’not Sherut, Ateret Kfir and Linor Nahum.

“We can teach our children about Israel — and we do — but our B’not Sherut teach them to live Israel,” said GHA Head of School Rabbi Lee Buckman.“Of course, they do a great deal to help our students and our school. They arrange special programs and fun activities; they tutor students in Ivrit; and they help out students, teachers, and staff.

“But they do more [too]. They don’t just come for a year and disappear from our lives; they keep that connection, they make the kids feel like they have friends in Israel.”

Kfir and Nahum have been close friends since high school and were delighted to have the opportunity to work together here in Atlanta. The latter, from Shoham, completed her first year of service in Akko (Acre); she taught Jewish identity and values in a secular elementary school in the mornings and worked with at-risk youth in the afternoons. She had never been to the United States before arriving last year and cheerfully credits her impressive English skills to “high school classes and the movies.”

Kfir is from Petach Tikva and spent her first year of service in Jerusalem working with developmentally disabled teens. Her only previous experience in the U.S. was a family trip when she was in middle school, but she knew that she wanted to do a year of national service overseas.

“And I wanted Atlanta the most because I heard it was a great community and I felt like it was a good fit,” Kfir said.

“You have to be really determined to go overseas, because it’s a very long process, with all kinds of tests and interviews and preparations before you are accepted,” Nahum added.

Sponsors of the program have been delighted with the accomplishments of the B’not Sherut. Stan Sunshine knows how significant a task it is to bring their love for Israel to life as Ateret and Linor do every day.

“Israel is the pivot point around which worldwide Judaism revolves, and studying it is very different than meeting it,” Sunshine said.

Dikla Birnbaum added, “Children who have never been there will think of Israel, and they’ll see Ateret and Linor.”

Ateret responded, “We try to bring happiness and spirit to everything we do. We want to show them the other side of Israel, the side that doesn’t make the news.”

In addition to their work at GHA, the B’not Sherut are also leaders of B’nei Akiva, a religious Zionist youth club whose local branch is headquartered at the Young Israel of Toco Hills.

Supporter Dr. Jay Cinnamon summed up the impact of the pair both within the walls of GHA and without.

“They bring a spark, a love for Israel and for the children; and that love is incredibly powerful,” he said. “You can’t get that from a textbook – only from people.”

Leah Levy is a paraprofessional at GHA and the author of “The Waiting Wall,” a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2010.