Hi, my name is Ilana Naim and I am a rising Junior in the Double Degree program at Barnard College of Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary. At Barnard, I am majoring in Psychology and elementary school education with a minor in political science.

I come from a diverse home. My father’s family is from Libya, and in 1954 they had to leave (they were kicked out) to Italy and then Israel (my dad was born 10 days later). They are Mizrachi Jews (Jews from the middle east/Africa) and are Sephardic. My mother’s family is from Poland and Russia, and they fled their homeland in the 1930’s prior to the Holocaust. My grandfather’s mother left Russia and my grandfather was born in America. I grew up with a mix of an Israeli and American identity.

Judaism is an integral part of my life and grounds me as a person. I am very passionate and involved with Israeli and Israeli activities, as well as coexistence programing. I am involved in Israel groups on campus, and through that, heard about the China-Israel connect. Through the China-Israel connect I learned about the amazing opportunity to come to Beijing on an internship!

I am very involved in interfaith work and coexistence programing; I hope to foster dialogue among cultures and countries and foster a language of understanding. I love learning about people’s cultures and exploring new countries. Being open-minded and having a solid understanding of other cultures and people is critical, especially when wanting to effect positive change within the realm of education. I am passionate about many things, specifically making the world a better and more equitable place. One of my many passions is Education. I see it as the path in which the world can become a better place. Students are open-minded and see the world through clear and often times excited eyes. It is a great place to start a foundation of understanding. Other things I am passionate about include politics, specifically international relations.

I am pursuing education certification because I plan to become a teacher and then pursue educational policy or law. I came here because I want to have a chance to be a creative educator and think of new ways to engage students with the day’s subjects. I want to start as a teacher, better understand educational issues within society, teach in other areas of the world, and then go into policy work to make the educational systems more equitable. I hope to make changes internationally through understanding different cultures. I hope to travel the world to gain a true understanding of education within other countries and how to give students better opportunities. I then plan on moving to Israel and work on coexistence programing, and bridging gaps amongst students to create a better and safer place in the future.

I was the Coordinator and Director of children’s services at Chabad Israel Center in New York City. Last year, as student-teacher, I taught 11th grade physics at Ellis High School, an urban school in The Bronx, New York. This past semester I taught first graders in Brooklyn, where I learned from teachers and listened to students.

I am here because I am passionate about education and want to learn and explore something new, and understand education and cultural experiences within a different context. I am excited at the prospect of immersing myself into Chinese culture!