She shared news about the success of several projects that effectively deal with young people who "fall through the cracks" in Israel's social-service system.
Lidar maintains that Federation dollars are making an enormous difference in communities served by Nirim, a program sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. That program helps young people at risk of gang involvement, substance abuse and other destructive behaviors turn their lives around.
Nirim counselors — all of whom have served in Israeli Defense Force naval commando units — work with schools in Israel's toughest neighborhoods to identify those who, because of their émigré status and other factors, are angry, isolated and confused. They also tutor students who have dropped out or are at risk of expulsion to give them confidence in their academic abilities. Nirim counselors check in with school personnel to monitor their attendance and academic progress.
They intervene directly with young people currently involved in gangs and help steer them in the direction of Nirim's network of clubhouses. There, young people can participate in physical conditioning programs and outdoor survival trips that build trust and self-confidence, and help them learn to overcome obstacles and prepare for the future. Nirim youth also participate in volunteer service projects to increase their awareness of community needs and to build a sense of social responsibility.
Lidar reports that Federation involvement in Orr Shalom, Israel's largest provider of residential and therapeutic services to youth at risk, is "changing the face of how Israel works with children who, because of severe abuse and/or neglect, cannot live with their biological families." She explains that prior to the establishment of Orr Shalom in 1980, Israeli social workers would place these children in large institutional settings.
Orr Shalom helps to identify and train foster parents who are able to provide them with the support necessary to help them overcome their pasts, break the cycle of violence and grow into productive adults. The agency also maintains a special program for foster siblings.
Lidar enthuses that Orr Shalom — for the first time in its history — has 62 foster families waiting to welcome children into their homes. "Federation support is making a real difference in their lives," she says.
She also expresses excitement about a new program that encourages the development of strong ties between Diaspora and Israeli Jewish adult professionals. Federation has allocated funds for the KOLOT Executive Leadership Program, which will connect the two communities through interactive study of Torah and other Jewish texts. KOLOT is a pluralistic learning community created in 1997 in Jerusalem. Its goal is to help Israelis integrate the values and ethics of important Jewish teachings in their personal, professional and communal lives.
KOLOT's intensive two-year lay leadership program targets Israeli men and women who hold influential public positions. The expectation is that, upon graduation, they will help to enhance the social discourse and consciousness of Israeli society.
KOLOT's Executive Leadership Program is the newest initiative for the organization that has more than 1,500 Israeli alumni and currently enrolls more than 420 adult learners.
Jeri Zimmerman, director of Federation's Center for Israel and Overseas, is currently recruiting men and women, ages 30-50, interested in interacting with their Israeli peers. Participants will explore such intriguing questions as "What does Judaism mean in your life?" and "Where are you in your Jewish journey?" during three virtual meetings with influential Israeli figures. Then, from June 30 to July 3, they will travel to Israel for an intensive seminar. Federation will pay for study sessions and subsidize the costs of travel to Israel.
If interested in participating, call Jeri Zimmerman at 215-832-0553 or e-mail: [email protected]