As COVID-19 changes daily life here, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland realizes it is also important to remember we are part of the global community.
“While we are understandably focused on our own local community needs, it’s important to remember that we also have responsibilities overseas including helping those organizations that assist the most vulnerable populations in Israel,” says Bob Horenstein, JFGP director of community relations, who staffs the Overseas Special Projects committee.
Horenstein reached out to Israel projects that are current or past partners and fund recipients to see how they are coping with the crisis. Here are replies from three of those projects.
KREMBO WINGS, Israel’s only all-inclusive youth movement for children with special needs, normally hosts 7,000 young people of all abilities and backgrounds to gatherings at 74 branches around the country.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Krembo has moved its activities online for the 7,000-plus members in the movement. A new website, KremboCorona, features various activities such as live-streamed and interactive origami tutorials, inclusive exercise lessons, riddles and more.
“For children with disabilities, routine is really important,” says Lia Kimchi. Lia, who is 17 years old, is the youth coordinator for the Kochav Yair-Tzur Yigal Krembo Wings branch and big sister to 9-year-old Roni, who has cognitive disabilities. “The KremboCorona site makes this hard time a bit more stable and allows for me and Roni to be active together with other members, even while we are confined to our homes.”
NEVE MICHAEL CHILDREN’S VILLAGE provides refuge and a loving home for children and youth at risk. The village also includes two emergency crisis centers.
Many children’s homes in Israel have closed during the pandemic, but Neve Michael must stay open, since the parents of the children will not take care of them. Children are being referred to the village’s emergency centers.
“We have a new little girl in the crisis center who just turned 5,” writes Hava Levene from the village. “She was removed from the home with an older sister, and they are doing so well. During one of the group sessions last week, the little one told Ruti, the housemother, that she is happy that there is corona… Why? She loves it at NM and doesn’t want to go home and doesn’t want her mother to visit. You can imagine what she went through at home.”
“Because of you, we can give the boys and girls the life that they deserve ... and we are able to save more children, even during the corona era.”
BE-ATZMI is an NGO that works to create fundamental, positive change in the lives of underprivileged, poor populations by promoting their participation in the workforce to increase their economic independence and personal empowerment. Their workforce integration and career-focused programs in over 100 locations assist approximately 10,000 people. In addition to guiding the employment participants, Be-Atzmi also works with their families and communities. Participants are primarily single mothers, Ethiopian-Israeli children, new immigrants, Haredi men and women, Arab citizens of Israel and unemployed individuals over the age of 45.
“We are making (efforts) to continue activity as best as possible under the COVID-19 restrictions,” writes Ruth Meisels, Be-Atzmi resource development and foreign relations coordinator.
“According to the regulations and in order to protect their health, the Sherut Leumi mentors have been instructed to stay at home and accompany the families remotely,” Meisels says. “The girls talk to the families once or twice a day, by phone or video calls. They received special training and tools for mentoring the children remotely and have weekly or biweekly Zoom meetings with the program coordinators and director to give them more tools for the remote mentoring, as well as personal support for them during this challenging period.”
“We wish to take this opportunity to thank you again for your partnership in this important, life-changing, program. We couldn’t continue to carry it out without you.”