One of Jewish Federation’s most successful projects, Orr Shalom runs 21 group homes throughout Israel. It provides a safe, secure and loving home for children ages 2 to 18 that must be taken from their biological parents due to abuse, neglect, emotional issues and other problems.
In 2009, many of us cheered watching The Blind Side, the biographical tale of football star Michael Oher and his transformation from a neglected, at-risk teen to a thriving, successful student and athlete, thanks to the loving Tuohy family.
In the film, Leigh Anne Tuohy, played by Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock says, “Stop and turn around — let’s change someone’s life.”
That famous line of dialogue and the plot of the whole story is exactly what the Jewish Federation does at the Orr Shalom group homes in Israel every day.
One of Jewish Federation’s most successful projects, Orr Shalom runs 21 group homes throughout Israel. Falling under “safety net” funding, the organization provides a safe, secure and loving home for children ages 2 to 18 that must be taken from their biological parents due to abuse, neglect, emotional issues and other problems.
The children live as a big family with a couple who serve as “parents,” in addition to the couple’s own children and their new “brothers and sisters.”
Many of the Federations fund one particular Orr Shalom house.
In 2007, the Haifa house became Philadelphia’s house; a year later, the Cis B. Golder Healing Garden was dedicated. The garden was used for therapy, lessons and play. They also planted and maintained flowers and fruit trees.
Many in the community visited the house through the years, meeting the housemother and getting to know the kids who lived there.
Last year, however, due to internal funding changes in the Israeli government and the general shift south to the Negev, it became clear that it was time to move.
By coincidence, the housemother was retiring, several of the children were graduating and joining the Israeli army and the others were at a time in their treatment where they could be placed elsewhere.
As a result, on the Jewish Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy mission to Poland and Israel in early May, the Cis B. Golder Garden and the “Philadelphia House” were rededicated in Beersheva.
Big, bright and open, there are 11 children living in the house ranging from ages 9 to 18, with house parents Alice and Moshe.
An Orr Shalom couple for 29 years, they have successfully “raised” more than 200 graduates. Several of those graduates are now working for Orr Shalom as therapists, and one has become an Orr Shalom mom herself.
Simplistic as it sounds, the goal of each Orr Shalom house is to create “a normal life” for these broken and abused children with each offered unconditional love, patience, warmth and care.
Here they have not only a “family,” but go to the local school, have play dates and sleepovers, guitar lessons, ballet, basketball, soccer — all the things other kids do.
Just planted, a fish pond installed in the new garden will hopefully thrive and grow alongside the newly formed “family.”
Ellyn Golder Saft recently visited Israel and the Philadelphia House, which features a healing garden named after her mother, Cis B. Golder.