Busloads of Hadassah centennial delegates traveled to Netanya on Wednesday to visit Hadassah projects, including three Youth Aliya villages, the Young Judaea movement, the Hadassah Academic College and Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) installations.
Hadassah Neurim Youth Village was alive with the influx of so many visitors.The residents managed to juggle the many buses and welcomed everyone in shifts with the result that Hadassah was impressed not only by their educational achievements but also by their organizational skills.
Youth Aliya was a project very dear to the heart of Hadassah’s founder Henrietta Szold. Though she never had any children of her own, the children of Youth Aliya are truly all her children. Neurim, one of Hadassah’s three youth villages, has 385 high-risk students and is often their last resort. They receive academic and vocational training, athletic and performing arts instruction, and are taught skills in animal husbandry and agriculture.
The goal is to provide them with encouragement and emotional support to function in mainstream environments. Students live at Neurim and regain their confidence and hope for a decent future.
A special feature of the village is the Marlene Edith Post Athletic Track, an Olympic track where students are trained by Olympic-level professionals from the former Soviet Union.
The visit was an emotional one for both delegates and students. The children of Neurim passed out candy, danced and sang, and posed for endless photos. Many soldiers, former graduates of Neurim, came to express their gratitude for the education they received.
A highlight of the visit was the performance of the Youth Aliya Mandolin Orchestra which demonstrated the appreciation of past and present students with a rendition of Naomi Shemer’s beloved song, “Al Kol Eleh” – “We are grateful for all these things.”
The group then proceeded to the Meir Shfeyah Youth Village and winery in Zichron Yaakov, which provides educational programs for both gifted and under-achieving native Israelis, as well as new immigrants from Ethiopia, North America, Russia and Europe.
Shfeyah’s veteran English coordinator and the Hadassah contact at the village, Lauren Kedem, related how moving it had been to have participated in the Hadassah march the previous day with 30 new Shfeyah students from Russia who came to Israel alone just a month ago. These students attend school here, study at institutions of higher education and then serve in the army. Their families usually make aliya after them.
“It was their first time in Jerusalem,” she said. “All of a sudden they find themselves in the same red T-shirts and waving Hadassah flags with thousands of people who don’t know them, but who already care about them just because they are Jewish and just because they are making their lives here. This is our opportunity to say thank you for caring about us.”
The delegation also celebrated Hadassah’s Zionist youth movement, Young Judaea, which became independent in July and is still very much at the heart of what Hadassah believes in. Young Judaea sponsors teen leadership and summer camps in the United States, as well as Birthright and other programs in Israel, and gives American Jewish youth an appreciation of Israel and pride in Jewish values and culture.
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Hadassah’s partnership with the Jewish National Fund, KKL-JNF was visible in the many forests along the coastal plain from Jerusalem to Netanya. Over the years, Hadassah has been an active participant with the JNF in transforming Israel’s desert and rocky terrain into green and fertile land. They have helped JNF in its efforts of draining swamps, developing water reserves, reforesting arid land and protecting Israel’s ecological equilibrium and natural resources.
Professor Arye Naor, chair of the Department of Politics and Communication at Hadassah Academic College, which provides higher education to every ethnic group in Israel, welcomed Hadassah guests and stressed the importance of training in communications in the 21st century.
He told them that these days the media provided such an excess of information that the public was able to take part in policy debates and to a certain degree could influence the decision making of its elected government.
“These are some of the issues that are being taught in our department. Facing crucial decisions in the near future, Israel needs to train professionals who, upon graduation, will be able to participate in the political process, contribute to policy making and play their part in the development of the Israeli democracy and the shaking and waking of the Middle East,” he said.
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Read the coverage in the Jerusalem Post here>>