Thursday, December 24, 2015

Life-Changing Lizards

Baruch Hashem, this blog has several thousand regular readers. In the previous post, I published the first annual report of The Biblical Museum of Natural History, and made a rare appeal for support for the museum. But, rather disappointingly, it received only one donation in response!

I am sure that there are many reasons for this. But in case it was that the PDF was too much bother to download and open (it was a very large file, and not easy to read on a computer screen), I'm going to try something else: publishing an extract from the report here on the blog. Here is the section on our volunteer program:

The Biblical Museum of Natural History runs an extensive volunteer programs. This is not only to save costs – it is also a way to benefit the community. Many young people, especially in Beit Shemesh, find it hard to “fit into the system.” The museum provides a constructive, positive and safe environment in which they can find fulfillment. Over twenty teens and young adults have volunteered at the museum during its first year. Here is a letter that we received from one of our most dedicated volunteers:
“I was very fortunate to be able to become involved with The Biblical Museum of Natural History. I had been sick for a few years. It was bad enough that I was not able to function very well properly in society - I had lost motivation and faith in myself.

“As a child I was so fascinated by animals. I had met Rabbi Natan Slifkin at the age of ten shortly after I had moved to Israel. He gave classes about animals in the Torah, and I made sure to always be there. It was my dream as a child to be a zoologist. And though that dream had faded, my passion for animal life was still there.

“Ten years later, Rabbi Slifkin got in touch with me and told me about his idea for the museum. And that day I worked up a real sweat. Scraping away old layers of paint and stucco. Putting in new layers of stucco, sanding them down and painting over. It was hard work, but I felt like I had accomplished something. I did this for a few days. And then I was done. It was nice to work hard, but I felt it was time to go back to my old life of directionlessness.

“A few days later though Rabbi Slifkin asked me if I wanted to help out with caring for the animals. And that’s what I did. Eventually I was the one caring for all the animals there, and I spent eight months at the museum. I felt like I had a purpose there, that people (and animals of course) depended on me. When people feel they are appreciated, they will work harder. And I sure felt that peopled cared for what I did.

“When people feel strongly about things in a positive way, they want others to experience that same pleasure. And I really saw it during my time at the museum. It was wonderful to see people’s faces light up when they interacted with the animals and learned about them. And it felt great knowing that I was helping to introduce people to something I thought was amazing.

“I became more responsible and less detached. And once I started taking steps towards progression, I did the same in other facets of my life. I came out a totally different person after those eight months, and kept on growing. The museum is an amazing place run by some great people. I have Rabbi Slifkin and the rest of the staff to thank for nudging me in the right direction. I now have a steady job, and I’m starting my psychometric study course in December. I plan to go to university as soon as I finish. And in the meantime I am looking into jobs for the future.

“I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. I am very thankful to Rabbi Natan Slifkin for letting me be a part of this miraculous place.”

The full annual report for The Biblical Museum of Natural History reviews the various goals, activities and accomplishments of the museum in our pilot year, the feedback that we've received, and it also includes some really great photos. You can download it at this link (it's a 6mb PDF). Enjoy!

As mentioned in an earlier post, setting up, developing and operating this museum is enormously expensive. On behalf of all our visitors, I would like to ask for people who value our goals to support our cause and participate in our mission. In the report, you can find details about making donations, or you can use your credit card or Paypal account at this link. We also have patron and naming opportunities. Thank you very much for your support!

I will also be visiting New York in January, and there were be parlor meetings for the museum taking place in Bergenfield, Woodmere, and Flatbush. At the parlor meetings, I will be explaining more about the programs and goals of the museum. Please be in touch if you would like to attend.

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