Thursday, January 24, 2019

Migdal Ohr boys having fun in woodworking. (Credit: Migdal Ohr)

A woodworking workshop at Migdal Ohr. (Credit: Migdal Ohr)

A musical performance taking place at Zoharim. (Credit: Migdal Ohr)

Rabbi Grossman spending time with Migdal Ohr boys. (Credit: Midgal Ohr.)

They are one of Israel’s best-kept secrets, but now they are offering one of its most exciting summer chesed opportunities. Migdal Ohr’s new summer volunteer program, “Yaldei Ohr,” is open to boys in high school and it is a first for Israel’s preeminent children’s services organization. As Israel’s largest provider of education and social support services for children at risk, Migdal Ohr cares for thousands of children from broken or impoverished homes throughout the country, and now they are welcoming applications from students who wish to get involved in their groundbreaking Zoharim program. Zoharim is a youth village for young men who have been rejected from their ultra-Orthodox families and communities. The Yaldei Ohr summer program presents a unique opportunity for motivated and committed American students to spend time in Israel and serve as big-brother mentors throughout the month of July. The program, which consists of learning, field trips, athletics and a myriad of additional on-campus activities, is a first for Migdal Ohr and is backed by the enthusiastic staffers at Zoharim, many of whom are alumni of Migdal Ohr’s programs.

The four-week long program will take place on the Zoharim campus and will consist of activities meant to build trust and solidarity between the Zoharim residents and their mentors. When asked about the program’s goals, Andrew Haberman, the American youth coordinator, said, “So many of the young men living at Zoharim have yet to build meaningful relationships with anyone off campus. They’ve been ejected from the only communities they have ever known, and what we want to show them is that they’re accepted. Not just at Zoharim but even by people who live on a different continent.” Haberman further explained that through various activities, such as sports, carpentry, horseback riding and agriculture, the two groups of boys will have a unique opportunity to get to know each other and to get to know Migdal Ohr’s legendary founder and Israel Prize winner, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman.

Rabbi Grossman has said he always wanted to do something in his life that could help the underprivileged youth of Israel. He explained how it would break his heart to see children going down paths that would lead to crime, and that he wanted to get involved in a way that would give them a second chance at life. Rabbi Grossman said, “When you look [at the children] you understand they come from broken homes, they never received love, they never received education.” He went on to explain that “if you will take these boys and girls, give them love, give them education, give them a home, give them clothing and medical care, they can be the best kids. They can be lawyers and doctors, anything they want to be.”

Beth Nussbaum, the national director of development and communications for the American Friends of Migdal Ohr, said that the Yaldei Ohr program is “a mix of learning and chesed.” According to Nussbaum, this “experience of a lifetime” is a great opportunity for young American teens to have a positive and meaningful impact on kids who have suffered a difficult childhood. Additionally, with the support, learning and guidance of Rabbi Grossman, the volunteers will return to the U.S. with life-long friendships as well a new understanding and perspective on the life and struggles of underprivileged children.

Andrew Haberman, Yaldei Ohr’s American youth coordinator, has spent a lot of time volunteering with underprivileged children and he is considered to be a role model and older-brother-type figure to these kids. Haberman describes himself as “a part of the Migdal Ohr family” and has assisted in putting the Yaldei Ohr program together. While promoting the Yaldei Ohr program in an interview with The Jewish Link, Haberman explained: “They clear out a dorm room for us, we bring our volunteers and move in, and we spend the entire day just doing activities, having fun, building relationships with these kids and getting to know them.” Haberman went on to share that he is still in contact with the children from other Israeli orphanages that he has worked with in the past, and that he highly values those relationships. He said, “I still text [the kids I worked with] to this day…We’re still very close. I’m actually going this Shabbat to visit with them and see how they’re doing.” Haberman hopes for the Yaldei Ohr volunteers to partake in a similar, positive, shared experience and create lasting bonds each other as well as with the children they meet. “We really want our volunteers to cement real relationships with the kids, so we do everything together. If they want to play soccer, we’ll play soccer. It’s all about spending time together and being role models and having a positive impact on their lives.”

If you are interested in applying and learning more about Yaldei Ohr, you can check out their website at https://www.yaldeiohr.org/.

Feel free to contact Beth Nussbaum at [email protected] regarding any questions or concerns.

By Adam Samuel

 Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. When he isn’t busy reading the daily news, he divides his time between managing his blog, adamssoapbox.blog, and gradually learning how to play piano.