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Yaffa Farjun: A Young Woman With A Mission – An AMIT Feature

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

When Yaffa Farjun graduated from the AMIT Florin Taman High School in Tzfat, Israel, in 1994, she never imagined that 15 years later she would return to her old school, to the very same building where she had once studied, not just as a member of the staff, but – at the tender age of 33 – as the school’s newly appointed principal.  After graduation, Farjun had been keen to discover the world that lay outside of Tzfat and spent over a decade teaching in the center of the country. But following the outbreak of the second Lebanon war, she felt a duty to return to the north and to her native city.

 

The outbreak of the war coincided with the inauguration of a new pioneering training program for school principals initiated by Dr. Amnon Eldar, director general of AMIT’s educational network. Pinpointed by Eldar as a talented high-flyer with immense leadership potential, Farjun was among the first AMIT teachers to be brought into the new program. Within a year she was appointed principal of AMIT Tzfat’s general track, and last year took the reins as principal over the entire school, comprising the general track and the Evelyn Schreiber Ulpana, and overseeing 250 students and a staff of 50 teachers.

 

Farjun was born in Tzfat to a Sephardi family which can trace its origins back to the Spanish exile. The celebrated Abohav synagogue in the old Jewish quarter is decorated with a candelabra donated by her grandparents, Yaffa and Bekhor Farjun, and a plaque in one of the quarter’s narrow alleyways commemorates her uncle Yitzhak Farjun, who was killed at the age of 23 in the War of Independence.  As a ninth-generation Tzfat native, Farjun is proud of her roots and a motivational factor in taking up her appointment was to contribute to her community.

 

From early on Farjun knew that education was her calling. After working as an instructor-guide with disadvantaged populations for her National Service, Farjun went on to study education at Bar Ilan University, completing her BA degree in 2000 and her MA in 2003. In 2001 she began teaching at the AMIT Eisenberg High School for Girls in Tel Aviv where she introduced and wrote the curriculum for a youth empowerment program.

 

           “Every school has leaders who have a negative influence. We identified these girls and built an individual empowerment program for each one, with the goal of turning their leadership skills into positive ones,” she explained.

 

The program was extremely successful and it didn’t take long before Farjun’s own leadership skills were recognized by AMIT’s Amnon Eldar who quickly enrolled her in his new training program for potential principals.

 

What is immediately clear from a one-day visit to the school is the very visible presence of its young, dynamic principal. Farjun makes a point of welcoming the girls in the morning, addressing them every day after morning prayers and wishing them goodbye when they leave for home. She defines her ethos thus: “I set very clear, firm lines, but I also like to have a personal relationship with the girls.” To achieve this, she personally teaches every grade in the school: giving a beit midrash class once a week to all the grades, a personal empowerment seminar to grades 9 and 10, and a class where she meets small groups of girls from every grade to discuss events in the news.

 

In her two year stint as head of the general track, Farjun has already included many innovations: a school uniform, introducing new subjects such as art, drama and theater, puppetry, pilates, an end-of-the-year musical, a song competition and a new reading program to encourage the girls to read more. Her efforts have paid off. Standards are improving and a feeling of unity has emerged as a result of the extra-curricular activities. A group of ninth grade girls, who took part in last year’s musical, gush with glowing praise of their new principal. “She’s the best in the world she’s caring and understands what we need she even comes to school on her days off we all cried when school ended last year.”  Overhearing this last remark, Farjun could not resist adding, “And I cried too!”

 

Warm praise of Farjun, especially of her exceptional organizational skills, is also echoed among the staff.  “Yaffa is very dynamic, energetic and organized,” notes teacher Ruth Sassy. “She identifies problems and resolves them quickly. And she plans ahead, never improvising.”  To this, Farjun’s former class teacher, Rahel Amrussi, adds, “She is an expert in recognizing people’s good points and developing them seeing her return to the school as principal is like having nurtured a seed and seeing it turn into a flower.”  

 

Farjun herself credits AMIT for the invaluable training she has received and for its ongoing support. “I have an AMIT mentor who advises me on every subject – budgeting, administration, timetables, etc., and this gives me tremendous confidence.” 

 

After a full day at school, Farjun finds the energy and time to accompany her students on a midnight slichot tour of Tzfat. On her days off, she often travels to Petach Tikvah to take part in AMIT’s training course for school principals. She is a woman with a mission – to empower her students to succeed and be happy, and to put AMIT and Tzfat on the educational map of Israel.

 

 

AMIT enables Israel’s youth to realize their potential and strengthens Israeli society by educating and nurturing children from diverse backgrounds within a framework of academic excellence, religious values and Zionist ideals.

 

AMIT educates and cares for Israel’s youth, including the most vulnerable.  Some 70 per cent of AMIT students cope with educational, psychological, economic and/or social risk factors.  AMIT approaches each child as an individual, maximizing his or her potential, and enabling our students to become vital, productive members of Israeli society.  The AMIT schools promote religious tolerance, service to the state and the recognition that every child is blessed with unique talents and abilities.  Founded in 1925, AMIT operates more than 75 schools, youth villages, surrogate family residences and other programs, constituting Israel’s only government-recognized network of religious Jewish education incorporating academic and technological studies.

 

 

            Helga Abraham is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to AMIT Magazine.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Kudos To Albert Kahn
 

   May I add briefly to a story well told by Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum in his always fascinating My Machberes column? A lifetime of experience has taught me how hard it is to bring about change in yeshivas and day schools. This is all the more reason why I am full of admiration for Albert Kahn, who with total devotion and without let-up has advocated the implementation of term life insurance for yeshiva rebbes. In the space of several years he has accomplished an enormous amount of good.

   All who are involved in Torah education should be grateful for his truly significant achievement.
 

Marvin Schick

Via E-Mail
 
That ‘Pride’ Event
 
   The notion of having a gay celebration or parade in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, is absolutely deplorable (“Fear ‘Pride’ Event In Jerusalem Will Spark World Islamic Furor,” front-page news story, June 23). Our only claim to Israel, and to being a people, is the Torah. By celebrating a lifestyle that’s condemned by the Torah in no uncertain terms, the secular Israeli government effectively relinquishes its right to the Holy Land.
 
   It’s bad enough that Israel’s secular leaders gave away land with some twisted idea that this would bring peace. Embracing a perverted lifestyle, which is not a question of saving lives, is inexcusable. This secular Israeli government is responsible for some of Israel’s worst ills. It’s time Israeli leaders realized the truth of the Scriptures, which state, roughly paraphrased, the Land will spit out those who do not adhere to Torah laws. Has there been any better proof of this than what we’ve seen over the last few years?
 
   On the other hand, enlisting the help of Arabs to avert the gay onslaught is about as bad as embracing gays. We, the Jews and the Arabs, do not have common ground here. Jews will never go out and wantonly kill innocent people on the streets for any cause.
Encouraging Arabs to do what they did in response to the Muhammad cartoons is simply wrong.
 
   We need to impress upon the secular Israeli government that the Bible, the Book that practically the entire world believes in, is not to be taken lightly.
 

David Balsam

Brooklyn, NY
 

 

Abdicating Intellect
 
   I was deeply disappointed by reader Zalman Bloom’s entire approach (Letters, June 23) to Rabbi Pinchas Rosenthal’s response to his critics (Letters, June 16). The idea of emunas chachamim does not mean abdicating one’s intellect and suspending one’s ability to analyze ideas critically in order to defer to the opinions of the “great Torah scholars of our day.”
 
   Such an approach does not produce talmidei chachamim but rather ignorant automatons. Mr. Bloom’s close-minded attitude is not in line with the idea of am chacham v’navon. I only hope that more open-minded individuals will choose to engage in meaningful dialogue with the many young mechanchim who are as successful in reaching today’s youth as Rabbi Rosenthal must be based on his approach.
 

Jeffrey Frances

Rockville, MD

 

Ulpanat AMIT Noga

   We would like to correct some misperceptions in Samuel M. Ehrenhalt’s June 16 op-ed piece, “Reflections on a Flight Back from Israel,” regarding the situation at Ulpanat AMIT Noga in Ramat Bet Shemesh.

   There are not demonstrations at the school every day. The demonstrations only take place on Fridays when, in fact, the students of Ulpanat AMIT Noga are not at school. They are on a five-day-a-week schedule and do not have classes on Friday. The girls who are exposed to these demonstrations are students at the Ulpanat Gila, which is not an AMIT school. This still concerns us deeply, however, and we are working with the municipality to protect all the students to the greatest extent possible.

   And while it is true that AMIT Noga was moved to a haredi neighborhood, this is only temporary. Come September 1, the school will be relocated to the modern, religious Zionist neighborhood of Nahal Refaim.

   With the critical situation in the city of Sderot, where AMIT enrolls hundreds of students whom we are trying to keep safe from daily Kassam rocket attacks, we did not want our continuing efforts on behalf of the children of Israel to be marred by inaccurate information.

Barbara Goldberg

Director of Communications

AMIT

 

   Samuel M. Ehrenhalt Responds: It is good to have an expression of Amit’s concern about the Ramat Bet Shemesh situation. AMIT’s director of communications does not dispute any of the facts on the ground I cited on the two-year history of this wretched business.
 

   Under the circumstances, AMIT’s effort to move the school to a more tolerant venue will no doubt be welcomed by the children and their parents. That it was necessitated by baseless animosity is one of the grotesque realities of Israeli life today.


 

 

Special Invitation
      Do you remember August 19, 2003 (21 Av), the date of the Number Two bus bombing in Yerushalayim? The bus was returning from the Kotel packed with families. Most of the victims were little children. Twenty-three were killed, more than 100 injured.
 
      Do you remember the Cohen family? Mother, father, and all five children were hurt. The heartbreaking news was broadcast for hours – Ora Cohen crying, not knowing how many of her children were still alive.
 
      The family members were separated, hospitalized in different locations. It took days for all of us to be reunited. Miraculously, the entire family survived the bombing, but all sustained serious injuries.
 
      Shifra, our one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, lost her vision in her left eye. She required many surgical procedures to save the eye and to remove shrapnel from her tiny face. Everyone in the family is still undergoing surgeries and treatments, particularly for partial hearing loss.
 
      The last member of the family found alive – under three dead bodies, hours after the attack – was one-month-old Elchanan, suffering from a broken hip.
 
      Elchanan was born on the 16th of Tamuz at 5:05 p.m. Now, three years later, hodu l’Hashem ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo, we, the Cohen family, invite everyone to celebrate Elchanan’s chalakeh (first haircut). The ceremony will be held, b’ezrat Hashem, on the 16th of Tamuz, Wednesday, July 12, at 5:05 p.m. at the Kotel plaza.
 
      Please join us to thank the Boreh Ha’olam for the nissim and niflaot He has done for us. Let’s get together to show our ahavat chinam one to another and unite at this special occasion as am hanivchar shel Hakodesh Baruch Hu. Let’s recite Nishmat Kol Chai together at our family’s very special moment.
 
      Refreshments will be served (Badatz Aida HaCharedit).
 

Ora Cohen

(Via E-Mail)

 


  

Sarah Lehmann Responds To Her Critics

      I have received an overwhelmingly positive response to my article “Why I Boycotted the Israel Day Parade” (op-ed, June 9), with many people telling me I voiced their own sentiments. The authors of the few letters to the editor on the subject that appeared in last week’s Jewish Press apparently did not read my article carefully, because they totally misconstrued its meaning and were, at best, confused about its intent.

      Of course “numbers count,” as reader Amy Wall stated in her letter, but an article in The Jewish Press is a far more effective protest than appearing at the parade in an orange shirt. Ms. Wall, in writing that the “existence of the State of Israel is a miracle,” seems to have lifted those words verbatim out of the article I wrote. It’s precisely because of this miracle that I deem it of the utmost significance to speak out on Israel’s behalf rather than merely praise it. At a time when Israel is in a state of crisis, beset by enemies around it and, worse, from within, it is incumbent on all of us to do our utmost to safeguard that gift that Hashem miraculously bestowed upon us.

      As to Serge Kadinsky’s comment that “Orthodox American Jews who abandon their Zionism … are essentially handing the fate of the Holy Land to secularists,” he obviously did not read to the end or even the middle of my article. The conclusion I reached was precisely the opposite. Indeed, after I went through a catharsis of sorts following last year’s disengagement from Gaza, my support of Israel, as the article detailed, became even stronger.

      Furthermore, my activism on behalf of Israel has taken many forms over the past few years, including visiting the residents of Gush Katif before their eviction and raising awareness and support for them ever since. So much for my supposed abandonment of Israel. It is precisely because of the abandonment by Jews here and in Israel of their brethren in YESHA and their reluctance to protest the Israeli government’s suicidal policies that we find ourselves in the situation we are in.

      Leslie Brand asserts in her letter that the relatively small number of Jews in Gaza made the disengagement necessary. Though she writes that she made aliyah, I deduce from her position that she did not settle in Sderot or Ashkelon. Did she send letters to the editor to protest the forced evacuation of her Jewish brothers from their homes and then write on their behalf when they became homeless refugees?

      Regarding Ms. Brands’s claim that had there been “even a quarter of a million [Jews in Gaza] there would have been no disengagement,” are 50,000-100,000 Jews, roughly the number slated to be evacuated under Olmert’s new convergence plan, enough?

      Not everyone is privileged to live in the Holy Land, but support of Israel is better served by those who are truly loyal and devoted yet reside outside its borders than by the perfidious who reside within.

Sara Lehmann

Brooklyn, NY

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-143/2006/06/28/

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