Meet Natalie Rudolph
“This has been the best year of my life, “ said Natalie Rudolph about her experience living in Israel as an MITF fellow with Ramah.
Natalie, who studied special and elementary education with a minor in Spanish at Arizona State University, had taught English in Peru and the Dominican Republic and planned on teaching in a Spanish-speaking country after graduation. However, after participating in a Birthright Israel trip in 2018 and hearing about MITF from a trip staff member, she decided to change plans and head to Jerusalem this year.
“On Birthright, I saw a school in the Old City and I thought to myself, ‘Imagine being a school teacher in the Holy Land.’ Now, here I am as that teacher, all thanks to Ramah Israel,” Natalie said.
Natalie, 22, teaches 2nd through 6th grade students at the Gilo Aleph school, where she is paired with her host teacher Drora “Duni” Bracha. Natalie praised Duni for being very supportive and working with her as a team. She feels that the bond between them is strong and is confident they will stay in touch for many years to come.
“I call her my Israel imma (mom) because she reminds me of my own wonderful mother back home in Tucson. Drora treats me like the perfect mix of a daughter, friend, and colleague,” Natalie said.
Natalie is especially excited about the opportunities she has had to plan and execute monthly cultural lessons on subjects such as September 11th, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. She is currently in charge of lesson planning and teaching “The Secret Garden” and “Aladdin” to the 5th and 6th grades.
“An experience that I will never forget was having my classroom teaching observed twice — first by the Jewish Agency for my Halloween lesson, and then by members of the Israeli government when teaching my 6th grade students about Martin Luther King, Jr. I was honored to be observed, and I will always feel a strong sense of pride thinking back to those moments,” she said.
Natalie has made the most of her year in Israel by getting to know Jerusalem well, and also traveling around the country. In addition to participating in various MITF trips and activities, she has run a half marathon around the Sea of Galilee, visited Jordan, and spent weekends in Tel Aviv with new Israeli friends.
Natalie is most grateful for having found a friend for life in fellow MITF participant Alexis DeBrock. “I have made the most wonderful best friend from this program. Alexis and I go to the gym together, travel together, and do almost everything together. It is a great feeling knowing I have someone who I can truly count on to always be there for me and brighten my day,” she said.
This year has been an opportunity for Natalie to learn Hebrew and explore her Jewish identity. Having grown up without any Jewish practice at home, she has used this year to learn more about the rhythms and rituals of Jewish life.
“When this program ends, I plan on incorporating Shabbat rest and meals into my life. I never want to forget the importance and value of spending true quality time with people you love, away from technology and outside distractions. Growing in my Jewish identity has helped me continue to discover who I want to be and the kind of life I want to live,” she said.