Lee Gordon, the chair of the Jewish Federation’s Overseas Special Projects Committee, and Bob Horenstein, Director of Allocations and Community Relations, visited several social service programs in Israel that have received funding from our Federation. The following synopsis, written by Bob, details highlights from their trip:
It’s one thing to read about the important work of these Israeli non-profits in our annual report; but to see up close and in person the meaningful impact that our investments are having in assisting families and children at risk makes me extremely proud of the Federation.
Krembo Wings (Karmiel). Krembo Wings (KW) is Israel’s sole youth movement for children with severe psychological, motor and cognitive disabilities, enabling them to enjoy a structured social environment with their able-bodied peers. These children, many of whom are autistic or have cerebral palsy, have no opportunity for social interaction outside of the formal education system and can’t participate in other youth groups because of their severe disabilities.
In Karmiel, where many families struggle financially and the municipality lacks services and facilities for children with special needs, our Federation dollars have enabled KW to launch a new regional branch, serving Jewish and Arab youth from the area.
Lee and I had the privilege of meeting several devoted high-school-aged counselors (photo below) who have undergone comprehensive training that prepares them for the challenging task of working with and creating activities for children with special needs. These volunteers learn at a young age how to interact with disabled children (“they’re kids just like us,” one volunteer told us), developing a deep sense of empathy and respect for “differences.” They are truly an inspiration. Additionally, we met with a mother of two autistic boys who couldn’t have been more thankful for our support. After all, the program not only benefits the children but also the parents, who get a bit of a respite once a week.
Upper Galilee Rape Crisis Center (Kiryat Shmona). The center’s mission is to provide assistance to victims of sexual violence and educate to combat the phenomenon of sexual violence by increasing public awareness and changing public opinion. It holds workshops in high schools and the army and educates other professionals who come into contact with victims, including the police, emergency room staff, and therapists.
The center, which covers a large geographical area in Israel’s northern periphery, functions 24/7, 52 weeks a year, with over 80 volunteers. Our Federation dollars have helped to expand the center’s volunteer team by covering the cost of the extensive training courses.
A volunteer-operated hotline fields, on average, 100 calls for help each month from a diverse population, including secular and religious Jews and Christian, Muslim and Druze Arabs. Still, the center estimates that only a small percentage of victims of sexual abuse actually report the violence to the police due, in part, to the reality that in small communities such as Kiryat Shmona “everyone knows everyone.” It is one of several challenges facing the dedicated professionals, who are deeply appreciative of our Federation’s support.
Neve Michael (Pardes Hanna). A visit to Neve Michael is always powerful. Our Federation has had a longstanding relationship with this safe haven for 270 children at risk, ages 6 to 18, whose parents can no longer care for them. The program provides sustenance, education, therapy and a warm and caring environment for children from broken homes who have suffered physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse.
Our Federation dollars help fund the “Portland Petting Zoo” within the Emergency Crisis Center, which provides animal therapy for dozens of children with serious emotional problems. By connecting with a rabbit, hamster, parrot or turtle, these children develop a unique and constructive way of communicating their feelings.
Livnot U’Lehibanot Home Repair Project (Hadera). Over the last two decades Livnot has been responding to the dire need for basic home repairs for thousands of Israeli families living in run-down, unhealthy and unsafe homes. We visited an Ethiopian single mother who literally had no functional kitchen—something we all take for granted—until Livnot stepped in. She is thrilled with her new oven, sink and counter.
Our Federation dollars are funding the repairs of seven such homes in Hadera.
YEDID (Kiryat Malachi). During the worst storm to hit Israel in 76 years, Lee and I traveled to the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, a low-income, largely immigrant community that isn’t exactly a tourist destination. There we met with the director of YEDID, Sari Revkin, and her amazing team of expertly trained volunteers, including business people, lawyers and social workers. YEDID’s mission is to empower low-income Israelis to become self-sufficient members of society, especially in places where social services have been cut to the bone. It works to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness by teaching individuals financial literacy and job skills and helping them to navigate the unwieldy Israeli bureaucracy.
Our Federation dollars helped to maximize the capacity of YEDID’s Citizen Rights Center by tripling the number of long-term volunteers who are assisting low-income residents of Kiryat Malachi.
Visiting these inspirational partner organizations and meeting their professionals, volunteers and service recipients, reminds us of the phrase that is at the core of the Jewish Federation’s mission: "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh"—"All Jews are responsible one for another." May we continue to deepen our relationship with the State of Israel and provide the needed support services to its people.