Program seeks English tutors for recent immigrants to Israel

Wanted: volunteers willing to teach English to Russian and Ethiopian immigrants. Some travel involved.

Intrigued?

Loretta Helman of Toronto, hopes so. Helman recently spoke to about a dozen people at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon and to the Jewish Federation Women's Alliance of San Rafael in an effort to stir interest in an unusual volunteer program which she founded, Yad B'Yad.

Recruits must be willing to travel to Israel during the summer to conduct this goodwill mission.

Although the turnout for her talk was not exactly overwhelming, Helman remained upbeat.

"I'm not discouraged. This is the first time Yad B'Yad has made some outreach in the Bay Area. I don't think the small turnout has to do with fear of terrorism. I simply think it's a matter of the economy,'' Helman said.

She also praised the recruitment efforts of Kol Shofar's Madelon Van Lier — who undertook the volunteer mission, liked its results and is now the program's solo recruiter in the Bay Area.

Van Lier, too, voiced optimism, and echoed Helman's sentiments. "I really haven't heard anyone express that they're afraid to go to Israel," she said.

"Anyone who's been [to Israel] knows the media hype is always worse from the outside. I can't say we've experienced any problems with potential volunteers not wanting to go because they're scared.''

Helman, a South African-born, full-time career management consultant, created Yad B'Yad after she went on a United Jewish Appeal mission in 1991. She came away with the belief that much more needed to be done regarding the Jewish state's absorption efforts of immigrants.

On her own time and with her own money, Helman found help by issuing an all-points bulletin for volunteers and by contacting the Israel Forum to aid her in building the cultural exchange program.

It aims at making immigrants in Israel better equipped in the business world. One way to accomplish this, Helman believes, is by teaching them to speak, read and write English.

Volunteers need no previous teaching experience and are required to put in a minimum of two weeks in Israel. The program begins July 1.

Applicants must be between 24 and 68 years old. The cost ranges from $1,200 to $2,000. Sometimes home hospitality with an Israeli family is provided.

For more information, call Madelon Van Lier, (415) 485-1355.