A Spotlight on MITF Fellow Katia Rozhdestvenska

Spotlight MITF Katia Rozhdestvenska

Meet Katia Rozhdestvenska

Although Katia Rozhdestvenska had visited Israel five times since graduating high school, she wanted to return this year as an MITF fellow because it would give her a chance to get to know Israeli life in a deeper and more intimate way. 

“I wanted to see and understand the Israeli school system, and if I could possibly fit into it somehow. I also wanted to know Israel from more than just a tourist perspective. I wanted to know it from the inside and deeply connect to the land, people, culture,” Katia said.

Katia, 23, was interested in being in Jerusalem in particular. “This city is on fire spiritually and culturally. There is so much to see and learn and do,” she said.

Katia hails from Plano Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a major in child development and education. She also earned her early childcare through sixth grade teaching certification. Katia has experience coaching gymnastics and substitute teaching at a Jewish day school in Dallas.

At the Harel School in Jerusalem’s Ramot Bet neighborhood, Katia teaches students in third through sixth grade and has been paired with a wonderful teacher. 

“My host teacher is so loving to the students, other teachers, and me. She cares for me like a big sister, which is such a blessing since I don’t have any family in Israel. My school has also been so incredibly welcoming and appreciative of my coming. It’s a really warm environment to work in,” Katia said.

She is grateful for the opportunity to bring her own ideas into the classroom. “It takes initiative, but it’s really what you make of it,” she said.

The long commute to and from her apartment in the German Colony (which she shares with eight other women from the program) to the school is Ramot can be challenging, but Katia uses the time constructively by listening to podcasts.

Katia grew up with little Jewish observance, but since high school she has grown closer to Jewish practices and taken an interest in spirituality. For her, being in Jerusalem is a gift. It’s a unique city where she can continue on her journey and “surround myself with people who are so turned on to spiritually-infused living,” as she put it.

Shabbat is a special time and the highlight of Katia’s week. Each Shabbat, she and her  roommates have at least one meal at home together. It’s a potluck, where everyone brings a dish.. For other meals, she and her friends can get connected to hosts families. 

Weekday evenings are also busy for Katia, as she likes to take advantage of the variety of classes and events that are offered around the city. She also hangs out with her roommates and other MITF fellows for movie nights and coffee dates.

A serious musician, Katia brought her violin with her to Israel and tries to find time to play — including for the students at her school. For her,  playing violin is “meditative and grounding.”

Katia has made a concerted effort in the last few years to learn Hebrew, using apps and self-study programs. Being in Jerusalem with MITF has given her a big push to improve her language skills, both through the MITF ulpan program and by using Hebrew in her daily life as she moves about the city. 

While Katia puts in the work to improve her Hebrew, she will soon be helping not only the children at the Harel School with their English. She will soon begin volunteering at the Lone Soldier Center, helping interested soldiers improve their English skills, as well.

A Spotlight on MITF Fellow Sara Rudolph

Spotlight on MITF Fellow Sara Rudolph

Meet Sara Rudolph

“Getting to share a classroom and co-teach with an Israeli English teacher has been an amazing experience. I’ve learned so much and grown as an educator in so many ways,” said Sara Rudolph.

MITF with Ramah Israel was the perfect match for Sara’s interest in spending a year in Israel while utilizing her bachelors degree in early childhood and childhood education from SUNY Cortland. 

From East Meadow, NY, Sara was assigned to a small school in the East Pisgat Ze’ev area of Jerusalem. She brings to the position her experience working last year full-time as a permanent substitute teacher in an elementary school, as well as teaching kindergarten and first grade Hebrew school.

Sara, 24, is pleased to be able to interact with every student in her school here in Jerusalem. “I teach every student in the building — first through sixth grades,  including first and fourth grade special education,” she shared proudly.

According to Sara, every aspect of her job excites her, but most of all she enjoys seeing how much her students are not only improving their English skills but also growing in confidence. 

“The first few weeks the kids were shy and afraid to speak to me. Now every morning I look forward to the kids running up to me give me hugs, saying ‘good morning,’ asking ‘how are you?’ and eager to engage in conversation with me,” Sara said.

The only drawback so far has been the language barrier she has encountered in interactions with school faculty and administration. “When I have an idea of a project I want to do with the kids, I can’t express it in my own way to my principal. I have to explain it to my co-teacher who then has to ask for me,” she said.

This, however, has not stopped Sara from implementing her creative ideas, some of which she recently shared with other fellows at an MITF workshop. 

Despite having completed her Hebrew school education all the way through 12th grade at her local Reform temple, Sara did not come away able to speak Hebrew. Being in Israel this year has helped her strengthen her Jewish identity, and learning to speak Hebrew has a big part of that.

“With the ulpan MITF provides, I’ve had so much fun learning the Hebrew language. My Hebrew speaking skills have grown so much and I can now order my coffee in Hebrew with confidence!” Sara said.

This skill has come in handy, as Sara enjoys spending time with other MITF fellows, often hanging out at cafes in the Baka neighborhood, where she shares an apartment with seven roommates. Other favorite spots are the Mahane Yehuda market, downtown, and the Old City. Making pizza from scratch for Shabbat dinners spent together is also a highlight for Sara.

Sara has brought her love of movies and music with her to Israel. Having grown up going to the cinema every weekend, she was excited to go to her first movie in Israel. A flutist for the last 14 years, and now learning to play the ukulele, Sara was thrilled to experience a live music performance here.

“I’ve been to one concert so far in Israel and even though I didn’t understand any of the words, it was so much fun and one of my favorite nights in Israel so far!” she said.