Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Schwartz


Sarah Schwartz is a 30-year-old yoga teacher and artist. She volunteered in Israel from Dec.5, 2011 to January 1st, 2012.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Livnot U'lehibanot in Israel?

My first trip to Israel was six years ago. I participated in Livnot's ten-day Birthright Israel program. I fell in love with Livnot's purpose and mission, compassion and generosity. Upon getting on the airplane to return to America from that program, I knew I must return to Israel when the time was right. Even though I imagined it to be sooner than six years, the timing was perfect. I knew returning to Israel was interwoven with participating in another Livnot program, thus I signed on for the one-month Galilee Fellowship program, keeping open the possibility of staying longer, perhaps indefinitely. This time around, as challenging as it was, I returned to America. I again promised myself I would return to Israel when the timing aligns.

One of my established commitments in America is teaching yoga. Teaching yoga deepens my own personal practice with this ancient and timeless art. I strive to live a balanced and yogic lifestyle. In the yogic tradition, volunteering, service, "karma yoga" is part of the system for living a spiritual life. Thus, volunteering, serving the community with Livnot feels aligned with my yogic ideals and with my Jewish ideals, Tikkun Olam.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

After an early breakfast and discussion of current Israeli events, as a group we ventured to the decided location to volunteer. Several projects we participated in over the course of one month were: painting the corridors of an apartment building in Canaan, and landscaping at this same venue; transporting dirt and rocks from an excavation happening underneath Livnot's campus; sang and danced with elderly in Tzvat's hospital.

What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

Livnot U'Lehibanot is an extraordinary and special program in and of itself. So being with Livnot, in Israel, and together as a whole, was immensely fulfilling and uplifting. Being in a hebrew speaking community afforded us the opportunity to learn hebrew, as well as "Israeli" customs. The community often expressed their gratitude and appreciation for Livnot's work, hich deepened my gratitude and appreciation for Livnot's work.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Wow... This is a simple - and - complex question. I have pondered this quite deeply, and realize that my experience in Israel and with Livnot has shifted my entire being... I felt *home*... and for me, as I enter into my 30's, I seek to find *the* place to let my symbolic roots take hold... surrendering to the pull of *place*... nurtured by the land and its people... I felt I could let my roots go, in Israel.

I felt home.