By Sarah Moosazadeh / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sukkot represents a joyous holiday in which friends and family gather in the sukkah to celebrate. Members of Congregation Or Hadash connected with the Jewish holiday in a different way Sunday, Oct. 23, by raising awareness about the Israeli nonprofit organization Yeladim — Fair Chance for Children.
“The sukkah brings a notion of joy,” Rabbi Analia Bortz said. “As we leave our comfort zone, we enter a weak structure, but the community comes together to become one people. Much like the lulav and etrog, we are tied together, and it is up to us to help members of the community.”
Elite Ben-Yosef explained Yeladim’s work with at-risk children in Israel.
“I wanted to leave a positive impact in this world before I left,” said Ben-Yosef, a college instructor who splits time between New York and Israel. “Everybody has a worth in society, and it is up to us to make sure they know they are needed. Yeladim — Fair Chance for Children provides exactly that.”
The nonprofit organization has taken care of children’s needs in group homes for some 30 years.
“For most children, growing up involves sitting around the dining table and having meaningful conversations with their parents. Children in foster homes in Israel rarely have that opportunity,” Ben-Yosef said. “That’s where Yeladim — Fair Chance for Children comes into play. The organization takes children between the ages of 18 and 24 and helps integrate them back into Israeli society.”
In addition to assisting Israeli youths through therapeutic sessions, the nonprofit provides programs that help participants stand on their own feet.
The Bridge to Independence program is a prime example. It serves youths who age out of the foster care system and provides support from ages 18 to 24.
In addition to receiving apartments with subsidized rent, participants are eligible to apply for scholarships for academic and trade studies. Each resident must work to pay the rent, but a scholarship eases the burden to enable more focus on school.
Bridge to Independence also helps participants learn life skills that ease the transition from foster care to military life.
One of the program’s main goals is to help the young Israelis obtain college degrees within fields that interest them so that they can make meaningful contributions to Israeli society.
Since its creation 10 years ago, Bridge to Independence has had more than 600 participants, and over 85 percent have completed the program.
More than 200 youths apply for Bridge to Independence each year, but the program can accommodate only 100.
“Members of Atlanta’s Jewish community can help raise money by asking family members to donate bat mitzvah gifts toward a future scholarship or group home,” Ben-Yosef said. Donations can be made through the website (www.yeladim.org.il/en) or with a check made out to American Support for Israel (write 580109254 on the memo line), PO Box 3263, Washington, DC 20010.
Yeladim has launched a series of homes for boys and girls. In 2015 it started serving the Haredi community by establishing homes in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. An Arab sector was opened in 2014 for girls in the town of Majdal Krum.
“The sukkah speaks about the vulnerability of life,” Rabbi Bortz said. “The outside of the sukkah is open and fragile, but the inside represents strength. When we invite friends and family under the sukkah, we reinforce it. Israel’s society has people who cannot always take care of themselves. It is up to us to help those who need assistance and provide a greater stability within society.”