“The most important link in the chain of the mechinot is the counselors,” said Joint Council of Mechinot CEO Dani Zamir as he opened this year’s Back to Mechina conference on Zoom. “Anyone who went to mechina definitely remembers his counselors as influential figures with a formative role. Aside from junior officers in the field, there aren’t many places where you have a direct impact on someone’s life, you can connect and form bonds, and you can be a partner in the incredible process of growing up and flourishing. I hope you’ll join us! Thank you for coming, and good luck.”
“The most important link in the chain of the mechinot is the counselors. Anyone who went to mechina definitely remembers his counselors as influential figures with a formative role”
Come back—as counselors
The conference was held virtually this Friday, under the banner of “Come home, come be a counselor.” It was organized by the Joint Council, which set a goal of encouraging mechina alumni to come back and dedicate an extra year to this influential enterprise by serving on the educational staff of a mechina next year.
At the conference, 250 mechina alumni, service year program alumni and others, learned about being a counselor at a mechina. After they were welcomed and all of the mechinot were introduced, a panel of alumni currently serving as counselors talked about their experiences. Finally, attendees learned about available positions during roundtable discussions with mechina heads and staff.
“Being a mechina counselor is a life-changing experience,” said Mimi Lax, head of the Jewish Agency’s half-year Kol Ami mechinot, in her remarks at the beginning of the conference. “It’s even more formative for the counselors than the students. In my view, this isn’t just about giving assistance to the mechina enterprise. This is one of the most significant roles in the process of building up Israeli society—one in which you can take part. That may be a tall order, but it’s all in our hands.”
“Being a mechina counselor is a tremendous springboard, because it lets you have an intensive experience of real informal education with a direct impact on someone’s life,” said Yael Domb, head of the Jerusalem Mechina. “It impacts on people 24/7 for ten months, and it’s a program for life. When you get a group of people and you can truly impact on them, that’s a powerful experience with a lot of significance.”
Watching it unfold
Later, conference participants attended a panel discussion by three mechina alumni who talked about the experience they are having as counselors. They gave more detail about the challenges of the job, what they’d learned, and especially the tremendous feeling of fulfillment and how meaningful it is. “I can see the process happening, and it’s hugely fulfilling—for example, having a conversation with a student who comes over and thanks me for giving him the courage to do something or other,” says Yahav Harush, a Mechinat Erez counselor who graduated from Mechinat Paran.
“Seeing the process that the students undergo, where they develop a sense of confidence and self-worth—it’s amazing,” added Gilad Goldblat, a counselor at Mechinat Beeri and alumnus of the Jerusalem Mechina. “As a counselor, I do anything and everything: give a lecture, then sit down with the staff who are going to run a week in the field, then have a one-on-one conversation with a student. I develop sensitivity, learn how to work on a team and how to work with people in just the right, targeted way, and most of all get a huge feeling of competence.”
“In terms of social impact on the world, being a mechina counselor is one of the most meaningful things I can do now,” explained Inbal Kalman, a counselor at Mechinat Haviva Reik and graduate of Mechinat Rabin. “I can feel that this is a formative year, and even a life-changing one, and that a counselor’s job is very meaningful—helping the students, guiding them, and challenging them when necessary.”