By Vanessa Friedman

Here is a fact: Jerusalem is always colder than you think it is going to be. I was in Jerusalem last week and I brought my winter coat but I was still freezing cold and I’m very worried about how I will deal with “real winter” when I finally return to America.

Why is this relevant? Glad you asked! I didn’t blog last week because I was in chilly Jerusalem at MASA’s “Building Future Leadership Conference” with a lot of fellow OTZMAnikim, partaking in inspirational workshops and exciting group activities, but truthfully missing Haifa and its beautiful weather very much. Did you miss me? Well don’t worry, I’m back now with my OTZMA Update, which I’m posting this week on Friday, and I have some very exciting volunteering to report on this week: let’s talk about skydiving!
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How is skydiving possibly related to volunteering in Haifa, you might ask. Well if you’re Max Amer, it fits right in. Max (pictured middle, above) has been doing most of his volunteer work at Beit Rutenberg, an institute that allows high school students interested in film and communication to come in once a week and hone their skills. He works with a total of 8 classes and likes to brag that his kids always show up and always have fun.

One of Max’s responsibilities is helping kids film documentaries. While working with a student on a documentary about fear, Max discovered that he and the boy both have a fear of heights. Coincidentally, some OTZMA volunteers were going skydiving that week…you know where this is going, right?

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“Something popped into my head,” Max explained, “and suddenly I said, ‘Max, you need to jump out of a plane!'” So instead of simply being part of the camera crew, Max became his students’ main subject as they filmed him conquering his biggest fear. As he expected, the experience was scary:

“We started to go up and at like, 4,000 feet I said, ‘okay, let’s do this!’ And the guy looks at me and says, ‘uh, we still have another 8,000 feet to climb,’ and I just thought, WOAH!” A few minutes later and Max was jumping, falling 12,000 feet out of a plane.

Would he ever have done such a crazy thing at home in Boston? Nope!

“If I was home in Boston there’s no way anyone could ever get me to skydive; but I’m in Israel, and I don’t want any regrets when I leave here, so I said let’s do it!”

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Being abroad often forces us to “jump out of our shells,” as Max put it, and encourages everyone to try new things. Now Max’s students know that it’s possible to face your fears, and thanks to the project they’re working on, Max was given the opportunity to face one of his own. Looks like skydiving fits right in with volunteering, after all.

I encourage everyone to use Max’s story as inspiration to face some of your own fears this week, and until next time, lehitraot!

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