Group smiles of success after a great night

Story and photos by Tsfara Saar-Leshem

END OF THE YEAR . . . IN NETANYA

Towards seven in the evening, the tables beautifully and festively laid with refreshments at the Ir Yamim Community Center City, the guests of the ceremony began to arrive. The lobby was crowded with 40 students, 150 pupils, their parents, ESRA volunteers, officials from the Netanya Municipality and the four community centers involved in the projects.

As a new ESRA employee, that afternoon was when I saw all the wonderful people who had made the effort to ensure the success of the evening - technicians, community center employees, singers, dancers, ESRA employees and volunteers and backstage workers. Everyone was excited and did everything possible to ensure that the evening would be perfect.

The Hefzibah Girls waiting their turn

I was the backstage manager for the evening, and when the ceremony began the participants joked that they felt as though they were at the Eurovision contest. I can truly testify that it was just as exciting. The speeches by Ofer Orenstein, our partner in the Netanya Municipality, and Nina Zuck, ESRA’s Projects Chair, were interspersed with music and dance performances by Netanya’s children from the community centers and the ESRA projects involved.

However, the stars of the evening were the students and their pupils. Two graduate students in the program emceed the evening with grace and skill. Aside from their personal stories, we also heard some stories from the program participants –both students and pupils - exciting anecdotes that showed the deep bond between the young adults and “their kids”, and the confidence and joy these pupils absorbed from their mentors.

On stage ... and wowing the audience!

The father of one of the pupils asked to say a few words and had the whole auditorium moved and inspired by his description of what “his” student had achieved with his son. And if anyone until that moment did not feel chills, seven of our pupils from the Hefzibah neighborhod took to the stage to sing two songs which they had been practicing.  When they sang the second song - 'Depths' / The Idan Raichel Project - there was not a dry eye in the hall.

At the distribution of the certificates to the students, I saw the deep bond that exists among the students as a group, and between them and their dedicated coordinators, Eynat, Galia and Israel. A spontaneous Happy Birthday song to one of the students melted everyone on the stage and bubbled over into the whole audience. ...after which there remained only the singing of Hatikvah to end an amazing evening.

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