Atlantans Tutor Israeli Teens with Israel Connect

Atlantans Tutor Israeli Teens with Israel Connect

Once a week, over 1,000 mentors lead one-on-one video meetings focused on English conversation, reading comprehension and vocabulary development.

Now that many Atlanta families have packed up their children for a break year in Israel, four Atlantans are getting ready to Zoom to Israel to mentor Israeli teens in English. Anne Grabois-Davis, Kayla Engle-Lewis, Raya Zalik, and I will start 5782 mentoring Israeli teens this fall through the Israel Connect program.

Kayla Engle-Lewis is a tutor for Israel Connect.

The Israel Connect organization, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, pairs volunteer mentors in North America with students across Israel to improve their English proficiency, increase their access to higher education and put them on the path to economic mobility. Israel Connect was started in 2013 and now has over 1,000 mentors. The mentors are matched with Israeli teens, and use Zoom to offer 20 weekly Israel-oriented worksheets to direct the discussion.

Although English is part of the Israeli high school curriculum, working one-on-one with an English speaker greatly expands the students’ vocabulary and confidence. English fluency is also important for advanced college placement after their service in the IDF and may open up specialized programs even within the army. The Israeli students are assigned English-speaking tutors in coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Education to enhance their spoken and colloquial English skills.

Atlanta native and Israel Connect tutor Julian Yudelson.

Once a week, from the comfort of their homes, Israel Connect mentors lead one-on-one video meetings focused on English conversation, reading comprehension and vocabulary development. Through an immersive online approach, mentors give students the skills — and the confidence — to prepare for Israel’s university entrance exams, which focus heavily on English proficiency, setting them up for future success.

I first found out about Israel Connect through a contact at Or Hadash as COVID was shutting down volunteer opportunities. I tutored Orel, a ninth grader in Rehovot. In addition to reading about the 20 locations in Israel together, we were able to discuss the Israeli and American political systems during several elections in the last year.

Anne Grabois Davis is an Israel Connect Tutor.

I am a native of Atlanta and a graduate of Grady High School, class of 1956. I grew up at Ahavath Achim and was active in AZA Chapter 518 and the USY chapter of the AA. I met my wife, B.J. Heyman, at an event sponsored by the then-Bureau of Jewish Education to encourage mixing of the teens from the different congregations. We were married at The Temple in 1961. After leaving Atlanta in 1964, B.J. and I continued the strong Jewish community involvement we grew up with in every city we lived in.

Raya Zalik stared tutoring last year and is eager to continue. She says that during the pandemic and the isolation it brought, it was a rewarding experience for her to help an Israeli student, a 14-year-old girl living in a Moshav in the Jordan Valley.

“It was the first time I taught English via Zoom,” she said. “Over time, my student’s vocabulary grew, and she was more confident to converse. Her grades at school improved. The curriculum was interesting, as at each weekly meeting a different important site in Israel was presented with illustrations, facts and history.”The only requirement to be a tutor is an internet connection, a commitment of forty-five minutes a week at a set time, and an interest in Israel’s future generations. Israel Connect still has students anxious to connect with you for this school year. If you are interested in becoming a tutor, all you have to do is go to and start your registration process.

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