6 July 2012
Galit Ben Aharon is a 41-year old mother of four who has always dreamed of becoming a teacher. She works as a teacher's assistant in the Argentina Experimental School in Jerusalem's disadvantaged Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood.
She said, "My dream has always been to be a teacher. But like so many people from deprived backgrounds, getting a college education was never a possibility."
Now she is not only fulfilling her own dream but helping 30 other women also qualify as professional teachers.
Ben Aharon is one of three recipients of this year's NIF Yaffa London-Yaari Prize for Women of Outstanding Achievements. She will use her prize to launch a group of 30 community leaders in her Jerusalem neighborhood who can influence social justice initiatives.
Ben Aharon is a long-time activist for social change through NIF grantee Mimizrach Shemesh – The Jewish Social Leadership Center, which supports educational and community activities that promote pluralistic Judaism based on the principles of social justice.
She recalled, "In my activities in the community, I was drawn to a group of women who lacked solutions for their desire to help society and needed direction. They were looking for somebody to lead them."
Ben Aharon found that many of the women she knew wanted to become teachers but felt frustrated that their dream was doomed to fail. She formed an organization called Second Chance and approached several teachers colleges who politely rebuffed her approach. Then she met the director of the David Yellin Teachers College in Jerusalem. "She told me that the sparkle in your eyes sold me the project."
So now Ben Aharon and 30 women in her community are on the way to receiving their teaching degrees. "One professional at the teaching college told me not to be disappointed when some of the women start to drop out. She said she had seen it all before. I'm proud to say that all 30 women finished the first year."
Ben Aharon looking forward to training her new group in social leadership with the Yaffa London-Yaari Prize. She said, "We have found people of great potential but they don't yet have the strength and belief in themselves to be community leaders. We will empower them and motivate them."
She added, "We can do so much to change and improve our neighborhood through the community center and schools, local committees and municipality. You need money but more importantly you need the will and the motivation and the strength that comes from people joining together for a cause."