“WOW and I thought I was the only English speaker in Bat Yam!”
“We have been waiting for this for so long!”
“In 48 years I never met an English speaker locally before!”
These were some of the comments that were made as 14 women and 1 man (the husband of one of them) came through the door of Susan O'Neil's apartment in Bat Yam. The smiles on the faces of these people who had never met before were highly infectious and everyone was bursting with delight. It quickly emerged that some of them had been living within 2-3 blocks of each other but had never met. What was also obvious was that they were starved for somebody to socialize with in their own mother tongue.
Nina Zuck and Adele Hunter, co-chairpersons of ESRA came to this meeting and gave an overview of ESRA, and then everyone introduced themselves. Everyone had an interesting story to tell of their lives since they came to Israel 20 or 30 years ago, and one lady, Sarah, who came here from England in 1948, had been living in Bat Yam since 1964 and thought that she was the only English speaker in the town!
It was quickly discovered that there were six or seven volunteers for starting a tutoring program, others showed interest in adopting an after school center for children at high risk, and all were interested in socializing.
Another meeting will be held soon to discuss who will be doing what.
And that is how another branch of ESRA has been started.
This is particularly exciting for me as it is the first branch started since I have been in the capacity of Southern Region Coordinator.
Janet Kiesari is ESRA Coordinator Southern Region.