How working for a social change NGO inspired me to act

I work for a social change organization called Eretz-Ir. In fact, I work in resource development, and spend much of my day writing about our incredible social entrepreneurs, who notice a need in their neighborhood and create a change, and about urban communities who unite to imbue young adults with a sense of purpose, and which serve as a platform for improving their cities. I work with people who dream of changing their corner of Israel for the better, and who firmly believe that each dedicated citizen can create real change.

Generally speaking, I am not one of those people. I did my part — I made aliyah to Be’er Sheva. Simply living here is enough pioneering for me.

But our local elections are coming up. A few weeks ago, I realized I had no idea what a city council actually does. Or who was running. I asked around, and none of my friends did either. Many had never even heard the phrase.

That’s when I realized that at some point over the past 2.5 years, Eretz-Ir’s recurrent theme of ‘motivated citizens create solutions for needs in their community’ had sunk in. There was an urgent need for English speakers (and many Hebrew-speakers, but that’s another story) to learn about local elections, and nobody was filling it.

So despite my exhaustion of working full-time with 3 adorable, tiny children, despite my fear of making phone calls in Hebrew, and despite my knowing absolutely nothing about how municipalities work, I decided to create an event for Be’er Sheva’s English speakers that not only explained the purpose and importance of a local council, but invited candidates from all major parties running to introduce themselves and their platforms.

In true Eretz-Ir fashion, I looked for partners in this endeavor, and was blessed to find an immediate partner in Miriam Green of AACI, and in the local Esra chapter. A colleague contacted me with a councilwoman in Givatiyim, who volunteered to be our non-partisan, expert speaker who would give a 15 minute opening lecture on what a city council is, how it operates, and why it is so important to vote for a party that represents your local interests.

I then pulled up a list of current council members, and called a member from every single party with a representative, and invited them to join us and introduce their party to Be’er Sheva’s ever growing English speaking population.

Most were thrilled to hear from me, and scrambled to find a candidate with fluent English who could represent them. I made a functional flyer for the event on Canva, and AACI took care of registration.

And so, last week, 70 English speakers heard from 7 candidates in 5 parties, and learned a great deal about local government, enabling them to make an informed choice when they vote at the end of the month.

And me? Well, I gained the confidence that as a caring local resident, I could fill a need in my own community. Just like the social entrepreneurs and community builders I write about every day.

Are you looking for more information about the city council in your community? There’s a lot of information online. Most city councils even keep an updated list of contact information for current council members. Be in touch if you need help accessing this information.

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About the Author
Menucha Saitowitz earned her degree in psychology and religion from Dartmouth University in 2010. Since making Aliyah in 2011, She has worked to develop Israel's periphery, with an emphasis on the South. She loves that she and her husband are raising their 3 sabras in Be'er Sheva, where they have integrated into the local Moroccan culture.
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