Shana Tova from DROR
Commemorating the lives of those we love but have lost is often a challenging feat. When those lives are lost at a young age, it is even more difficult. With the coming of the New Year, I am taking a moment to share how incredibly grateful I feel toward family, friends, and the greater community for making this task easy, by supporting our memorial to my daughters Rikki and Racheli, may they rest in peace. And I would be remiss if I did not mention my gratitude to our staff, generous with their time as well as their dedication to our girls.
DROR, Derech Rikki V’Racheli, or in English, “Rikki and Racheli’s Way”, is a non-profit organization with an established goal of empowering girls in the 7th-9th grades, with additional programming provided throughout high school. We encourage the girls at DROR to continue to view DROR as their home even after they have graduated from high school, as a place where they are always welcome to continue to learn and to share what they themselves have learned in their post-adolescent experience. The organization was founded in loving memory of Rikki and Racheli, so that their names and personalities will continue to be an ongoing part of the contribution we hope to make to the lives of teenage girls in Israel. Rikki and Racheli were loved deeply by those who knew them well. They enjoyed a love of learning as well as a love of athletics. DROR’s vision and mission extend from these factors, with the aim of empowering young women.
The name DROR, the brainchild of friends of Rikki and Racheli, means sparrow. In the Torah, the DROR bird is known as the freedom bird. Freedom signifies a desire to grow and achieve our goals, and to be released from the objective or subjective restraints that keep us tethered to the ground. The DROR logo of a bird in flight is a visual reminder that we can accomplish any goal we set out to achieve, given the proper resources.
The transition from girlhood to adolescence to emerging adulthood is a tricky one. As the world gets more complex, and information of this complex world comes at our young ones at an alarming pace, our girls push toward independence, while remaining dependent in so many ways. Any one issue, be it social, cultural economic disparity, academic difficulties or social feelings of inadequacy, can bring a young girl’s self-esteem spiraling rapidly down.
A powerful antidote to this downward spiral is an increase in self-efficacy, which is a concept that Albert Bandura created over a half-century ago. He described it as “how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with a prospective situation,” or in simpler English, how much do you really believe in your ability to accomplish a specific task.
While many of us grew up in an era where even relatively minor achievements were rewarded (You’re on the t-ball team? Hooray! Have a trophy!), the idea of blanket positive encouragement is currently being questioned. This is largely because it has left a great many people with an unclear assessment of their own ability.
At DROR, we believe empowerment comes from a true understanding of our abilities. Our excellent staff, comprised of empowered women who serve as beautiful role models and mentors to our DROR girls, provides interventions that directly affect our participants’ abilities, and therefore their sense of efficacy. Scholastic help improves their academic ability, sports activities help both their brains and bodies, and volunteer activities help our girls to feel not only grateful for what they have, but also confident in their ability to help others.
In addition, ongoing social groups provide our girls with an opportunity both to talk about typical teenage quandaries, as well as to build an awareness of their environment and to achieve a deeper understanding of social justice. The feedback we receive from our girls has been incredibly heartwarming. The most gratifying feedback is the sentiment that keeps repeating itself in different variations of: “I never thought I could do it, but DROR gave me the skills and helped me to see that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.”
With the advent of the new school year, the DROR administration, under the extraordinarily capable guidance of our director, Esti Zecharia, is meeting with teachers, guidance counselors and students to form this year’s group of girls. It is a hectic but exciting time. Each year we learn from the previous years and our efforts are rewarded with an increasingly smooth process.
So, on the heels of last year’s success, I’d like to thank our wonderful community, both local and global, for their constant support and faith in our program. I look forward to continuing with each and all of you on this remarkable journey, like the sparrow in flight, as we reach out to support and empower young women and to remember our wonderful Rikki and Racheli z”l.