Journey to Florida: JFNA conference gives Kadima Mada teacher new insight

A popular ORT teacher has joined prominent Jewish women from around the world at a leading conference in the United States.

Noga Benyakov teaches students with learning difficulties at the Kfar Silver Youth Village at Ashkelon, close to Israel’s border with Gaza.

Her dedication and efforts were recognized when she travelled to Florida to take part in the Jewish Federations of North America’s Lion of Judah conference earlier this month.

The event, which attracts dynamic, high-achieving women from across the Jewish world, is a biennial gathering at which the ‘Lions’ learn together, share exceptional stories, and grow through each other’s experiences.

The three-day conference attracted speakers including Aly Raisman, the US Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast; Bari Weiss, Op-Ed Editor at the New York Times; and Rabbi Elka Abrahamson, president of the Wexner Foundation in North America.

Kfar Silver teacher Noga Benyakov

Kfar Silver teacher Noga Benyakov

Noga, 41, said: “It was an amazing experience. I tried to do my best in making the most out of the time I had there. I think I managed to inspire the people.

“I felt I was the underdog at this conference. There were powerful and inspiring women who have achieved so much.

“I’m honoured to represent ORT and to speak as an entrepreneur in the field of education. My main goal was to flag up the fact that we are a youth village that is close to the Gaza border and how it affects the students’ lives.”

ORT is greatly appreciative for the support of the JFNA and for the assistance the organization receives as one of the federations’ three major recipients.

Avi Ganon, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “Our partnership with the JFNA has long been beneficial to both parties. It is a relationship which we are extremely proud of and eager to extend.

“We are now strengthening our co-operation with the JFNA in communications and other areas – moves which we are sure will further deepen our work together.

“Noga’s participation in the Lions of Judah conference continues ORT’s track-record of participating in the event, and we thank the JFNA for inviting her to take part.”

Noga said experiencing the conference had helped her to understand the “power and legacy of ORT as an educational organization”.

“I learned to see the other side of fundraising: people who open their hearts, good people that wish to give money for good causes such as education.

“I met someone who hasn’t had the chance to visit Israel, and one of his siblings is buried in the Rehovot Cemetery, which is not too far from Kfar Silver. I promised to take my students there. We’ll clean up and send photos of the grave.”

Noga first joined Kfar Silver ten years ago as the boarding school’s manager and now in her second spell concentrates on the matriculation program she founded: Journey to Maturity – teachers and students on a path throughout Israel.

Noga with her students on a hike

Noga with her students on a hike

The married mother-of-two explained: “The idea of the program is to study for two months in class the Ministry of Education’s material in literature, history, Bible and citizenship studies, and then conclude by going out on a trek where we visit the relevant places and revise the studies.

“We walk and we stop at relevant places to study outdoors. The trips last at least seven days. The longest one lasted 11 days.”

Two of the main challenges for Noga’s students are motivation and persistence. Previously they may not have attended school.

“These are students with studying difficulties – they come from broken homes where their siblings were no role models for them,” she said.

“The ‘Journey to Maturity‘ program helps strengthen their manners as well as their studies. No one is demanding anything from them; it is the students that wish to succeed for themselves.”