Neve Hanna At-Risk Youth Shines Light and Hope for Families In Need on Passover
by Lisa Pollack
At Neve Hanna Children’s Home in Kiryat Gat, Israel, a loving home for at-risk children, there is a bright light and its name is Streetlight. Young people lighting up and doing good in their community.
The Young Leadership program, Streetlight operates by the motto: “The best thing in the world is to do good deeds for others.”
This year for Passover, Neve Hanna planned, fundraised, packed and distributed over 120 parcels of food supplies to families in need within the Kiryat Gat community.
Throughout the year, especially during the Jewish holidays, Streetlight gives Neve Hanna the opportunity to take care of many families who can barely afford food year-round, let alone the exorbitant prices of matzah. Pesach, the holiday of freedom, becomes an extended time of stress and despair for many families but Neve Hanna shines light and hope throughout the community.
“This is true freedom: Our ability to shape reality. We have the power to initiate, create and change reality rather than only react and survive it. How can we all educate our children to true freedom? Teach them not to look at reality as defining their acts but to look at their acts as defining reality.” – Yaacov Cohen
“We at Neve Hanna believe in Giving as a way of life. We reshape our children from being the beneficiaries to being donors and contributors to their community. The children who are in-need are now making a difference in the community. At the same time, we stress the importance of strengthening the self-image and self-value of the child in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of the community they are part of,” said Itzik Bohadana, Director at Neve Hanna and initiator of Panas Rehov
In 2009, with the initiative of a staff member, a group gathered, to begin a Teenage “Good Deeds” Youth Welfare Club where the children could be actively involved and engaged in Tikkun Olam, a Jewish way of giving and doing for others.
Until now, at Neve Hanna, these teens only experienced “receiving,” so it was clear that this would be a perfect opportunity to have them reverse roles and experience “giving.” This resulted in founding the first SACHI (Sayeret Chesed Yechudit) group ever in Neve Hanna. Over the years, it developed into an Israeli nationwide youth movement.
In 2019, under the strong leadership of Neve Hanna’s Director, Itzik Bohadana, the Neve Hanna branch of this youth welfare club movement became independent aiming to develop a program reflecting the uniqueness of the Neve Hanna Children´s Home. Thus, Streetlight was born.
The children can join Streetlight, at the age of 12 or 13, after their B’nai Mitzvah. They take care of all the logistics, the fundraising, planning, purchasing and packing of the parcels with basic food supplies for families in need in their area as well as the distribution. They commit their free time volunteering two evenings a week. One evening is educational learning and discussing social activism, tolerance, mutual respect, giving and sharing, friendship and how they can grow into young leadership roles. Committing to values is a learned experience.
“I wanted to be part of this as a teenager at Neve Hanna.” said a Streetlight member.
During their second weekly meeting, the teens create food packages to be handed out to those in need, in the Kiryat Gat community. This becomes a very personal experience for each teenager – very often a life-changing experience.
”I have the chance to really grow while helping families and having fun and laughs hanging out in our club room” said another Streetlight member.
The teens also request donations of money and food, from private individuals and companies. During their meeting, it is decided who to approach for money and which stores to ask for grocery item donations.
Throughout the year, teens donate money as well. They collect bottles, to obtain their deposits. This money, along with some of their own pocket money is donated to Streetlight. Neve Hanna as an institution as well as its staff, support this youth welfare club.
Also, American Friends of Neve Hanna makes a donation to the children to assist them, but not taking over their responsibility to collect necessary funds.
Packages are delivered every weekend to disadvantaged families. They drop off each package, knock on the family’s door and leave quickly, so as not to embarrass the family and to remain anonymous. Some of the recipients are Shoa-survivors. Educational activities include the children personally adopting Shoa-survivors by spending time listening, talking and helping them. The donations are anonymous, but not the caring for the community.
“The best thing is, to go to the house in the evening, with the package, knock on the door and immediately leave.” said another Streetlight member.
Streetlight shows the teens that through good deeds, no matter the size, they can help make a difference to others.
The Streetlight youth influence the younger children. They see how the teens are part of a larger group. Sticking together makes them stronger attaining so much satisfaction from their efforts. The younger children look forward to being part of that action and experiencing the rewards of giving. These teens grow into young leaders and goodwill ambassadors.
“We do good deeds for others who do not know about it, that is something really great!” a Streetlight member said.
Neve Hanna Children’s Home is teaching the teens and younger children the values of Tikkun Olam through acts of Chesed. They learn the foundations of Jewish service by giving back to the community, bringing joy to those in need.
Go to Streetlight, to learn more about this unique Young Leadership program at Neve Hanna.
For almost 50 years, Neve Hanna Children’s Home provides a loving home for at-risk children from dysfunctional families. They are the children of Russian, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern immigrants and native-born Israelis. Sadly, these children have been scarred by poverty, abuse, neglect, parental mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction in the home. These at-risk youth come to Neve Hanna where their physical, emotional and educational needs are addressed. Neve Hanna is not an institution. In fact, it is recognized under the Masorti Movement as a Kehilla, the only one of its kind in Israel. The children’s home provides individual therapy, remedial instruction and extensive enrichment leisure time programs. This loving, nurturing and therapeutic environment gives the children the opportunity to heal, thrive and become responsible adults. Neve Hanna offers these at-risk youth the chance to grow beyond the circumstances from which they emerged. Hundreds of children have attended Neve Hanna. Many go on to build successful careers and raise healthy families. Neve Hanna aims to instill in its children, a sense of self-worth, purpose and an attachment to Jewish Tradition and values.
Go to www.afnevehanna.org if you would like to learn more about all our remarkable programs and projects at Neve Hanna or if you would like to make a donation!
Wishing you a Zissen Pesach!