Meet Michael Duke, a participant on MITF – Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Tel Aviv, and learn about his journey in Israel:
“I remember thinking that when I landed Israel for the Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship (MITF), a program where I’d be teaching English in Israeli elementary schools for a year, this didn’t look too different. Sure, the signs were in a language I could kind of read, and maybe there were a few more people wearing kippot than one might expect in a baggage claim area, but it still felt normal. I’d get into my taxi and immediately fall asleep at the hostel I was staying at for the first night. The next day was when I realized I wasn’t in North America. As I failed to order a coffee in my pidgin Hebrew, the humid heat of August in Tel Aviv began to weigh down both my body and spirit. That night would lead to failed adventures of trying to find food with my very new roommates. I was hungry, unfamiliar with my surroundings, and practically illiterate. Even worse, I felt alone that first. I couldn’t go to my favorite synagogue back home for Shabbat, I couldn’t retreat to the Hillel House on campus, I couldn’t kvetch with my old friends over a cup of tea. I felt like I was surrounded by a million people in bustling Tel Aviv, but without any community.
And then something clicked. The teachers at my school began to become my friends, my roommates and other program members began to bond, and I began to feel comfortable. The only thing missing was my tradition of going to synagogue for Shabbat and learning opportunities. I was blessed when Rabbi Meir Azari of the Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism, came to speak with us fellows. He invited us into his congregation, and I began attending services and volunteering. I am now tutoring some extraordinary folks who are converting to Judaism process at the Daniel Centers . The conversion process at The Daniel Centers is an incredibly unique and important process in Israel, as it is the only Reform style conversion within the state that is recognized as a legitimate conversion. When I think of the most important lessons Judaism teaches, I am reminded of the necessity of community, and I’m proud to say that I have found such an amazing community here in Israel.
The work I do allows me to give back to this community. Everyday I work with young Israelis, teaching them skills that will help them connect to communities around the world. And due to my presence, they are being exposed to other identities that make up all of our Jewish communities, such as the Reform and the queer individuals of Am Yisrael. MITF has proved itself to be a wonderful program, and I am so grateful to be able to participate. This opportunity has allowed me to both see and contribute to the future of the Jewish people and the state of Israel in a way that is so rewarding and personal”.
MITF Tel Aviv+ is the only MITF track where you get to live and teach in Tel Aviv – Israel’s most exciting city and cultural hub!