The aim, from the beginning, was to create an educational setting that would not only include studies of the highest academic standard but would inculcate the values of Judaism, Zionism and democracy. In line with this concept the Ulpana girls would play an active role as volunteers in the Arad community - helping the elderly, children with learning problems, and new immigrants. In taking on this social obligation they do inestimable good work in the town, learn for themselves the importance of involvement in the community, and earn the respect and admiration of the town's population as a whole. Every day of the year we are achieving the aim.
The Bnai Akiva Ulpana in Arad is a religious boarding school for girls of all backgrounds, from grade 7 to grade 12. The girls come primarily from outlying, developing areas in the Northern Negev, and most from homes that are economically challenged. Of the 210 students presently studying at the Ulpana, 26 girls are originally from Ethiopia.
The Ulpana Volunteering Project: How the Ulpana contributes to the Community
Training young people to want to help others and to contribute to the society they live in must come high on the list of the educational aims of any school. Unfortunately, not many educational institutions pay more than lip service to this noble objective and all too many students finish their education believing that society owes them a living, with no feeling of commitment to society or an obligation to give of themselves to others.
The Neot Avraham Ulpana in Arad is a shining example of how an educational institution can play a vital role in the community, the beneficiaries of which are not only the old, the needy, the handicapped, whom the Ulpana girls work with, but the girls themselves, whose characters are built through the very volunteering they are involved in. Our Rabbis have taught us that "the reward for doing a good deed is the good deed itself." We see this in practice each year as we see each graduating class go out into the world, strong in their enthusiasm to continue the good work of helping others, to continue to serve society and to continue to show care and concern for the less fortunate among us. Their volunteering spirit, which will continue throughout their lives, is a credit to the Ulpana and we are justly proud of having nurtured and nourished it.
While the majority of our students were born in Israel and come to us from far-flung rural areas, we also have a population of new immigrants. There are those from the former USSR, and those for whom the Ulpana was their first stop on their arrival in Israel from Ethiopia. These girls, whether from Israel or the Jewish Diaspora, unite to form an organized body involved in a large number of volunteering programs and caring activities within the community.
This project of social involvement is not perceived on an individual basis and is not the lonely initiative of a few keen students, but is part and parcel of the Ulpana's study program - where hours of volunteering work are written into the school timetable.
The girls are wonderful at organizing hospitality for the handicapped on Shabbatot, discussion groups, community singing, games, lectures, talks on Judaism, developing ties with disabled children and generally radiating love and warmth.