Bethany Spielberg – Grade 4

Bethany Has a World of Lessons to Share

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things
– Henry Miller

Only so many teachers start their careers at a Jewish day school. What got you so interested in a Jewish life?  Upon graduation, after falling in love with Israel on birthright two years prior, I decided to take a year off to see the world. I spent a month studying Judaism at a seminary in Jerusalem, five months volunteering in Tel Aviv, and two months backpacking around Europe. After this experience I recognized how important it was to surround myself with young, ambitious Jews, and sought out different Jewish groups in my area.

So, you’re involved with the Jewish community outside of Wise? Well, since my Tel Aviv and Europe experience, I have made a habit of spending weeknights and weekends at the Moishe House in Laguna Beach/Costa Mesa, attending BINA and Guardian events in LA, and participating in Jewish Festivals such as Jewlicous, various Shabbatons, and Tribefest.  I became a regular at Jew Glue YLD in Orange County, attracted by the friendly people and close proximity to my house, and was thrilled to join their board when asked. It has been this experience of organizing events, ensuring their success, helping newcomers find a community, and making great Jewish friends that inspires me to take on a more active role in bringing together and giving back to the Jewish community.

You also spoke of travel. What was one of your most memorable trips?
In college, I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala to spend spring break volunteering in a daycare and actively participating in social justice. Los Patojos, which in Spanish means “the little ones,” is an after school program established by Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes and his family and friends. Without any aid from the Guatemalan government, and against the will of drug dealers in the neighborhood, it is a refuge for children after school—it is a safe place with open doors, bursting hearts, food, love, and the passion to educate. I discovered that Juan Pablo is starting a revolution and disguising it as a daycare; he is raising children with education and love, and improving Guatemalans’ circumstances one child at a time.

Amazing. Does that have anything to do with your current occupation? Well… as I spent time with hundreds of children I’d met for the first time, inspired by the smiles on their faces, teaching them about countries they’ve never heard of and kicking a soccer ball with them in a dirt road, I realized that teaching was my calling. Like Juan Pablo, I aspire to change the world by loving, believing in, and educating young children.

Were there any other voyages that connected to your passion for teaching? Last year, I discovered ChangeFire, a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the lives of the estimated 76,000 orphans in Mexico through the development of sustainable and locally-led volunteer projects. Their vision is to see more volunteers apply their high level skills to the projects and causes they care about most. This was a trip I will never forget, one that has made me more appreciative of the life I live and left me feeling grateful that I was able to help those in need in our Mexican borders. They travel to Baja- Mexico 3-4 times a year. I intend to join them for their subsequent trips, and I would love for anyone interested to join me.

That sounds pretty busy! Do you have time for any hobbies? Though my free time is rare, when I can, I enjoy activities that allow me to exercise and enjoy the California sun, such as walking, biking, hiking, and boot camp.

Any likes or dislikes we should know about? Likes? Traveling is the first thing that comes to mind. My love of traveling and broadening my horizons stems from a desire to communicate with people of other nationalities. In college, I studied in Madrid, learning Spanish and the Spanish culture. That wonderful experience uncorked a strong thirst to travel, and as a young adult, I devoted all my time and money to exploring the world, enabling me to see numerous countries in 5 of the 7 continents.  I feel alive when traveling and constantly see the world anew.  Seeing new places and learning about foreign cultures challenge my preconceived notions about the world and encourage me to adopt new perspectives.

That’s truly inspiring. On a lighter note, what’s in your fridge right now? Funny you should ask because I LOVE to talk about food. I am definitely what you call a “foodie” and enjoy spending my free time planning my next meal, researching a great restaurant in the area, or learning how to make an exciting recipe. During the week, I remain a creature of habit: I eat the same yogurt and fruit everyday for breakfast. I look forward to my chicken salad for lunch. And, I can’t wait for “breakfast for dinner” (egg, chicken, spinach, and mushroom omelette with fruit or ice cream for dessert). On the weekends, however, I embrace the opportunity to create something healthy and scrumptious. The only thing I look forward to more than cooking a delicious meal is finding a good deal at a nearby restaurant. I am addicted to Groupon, Livingsocial, Yelp, Travelzoo, and any other search engine that grants me good food at a fraction of the ordinary cost. There is nothing more exciting then the feeling of finding a gem of restaurant at half the price.