Youth Aliyah: Saving Our Youth
Many, if not most of our students' families live on the edge in the best of times. These children are going home to empty cupboards, crowded apartments, and dysfunctional families. This is the population we serve. With the closing of schools because of the coronavirus, most of our Youth Aliyah students have gone home. However, 130 students from Meir Shfeyah and Hadassah Neurim could not leave the country to be with their families in the former Soviet Union. They are boarding at the village where they are still receiving many services, as well as helping with the village work.
The Youth Aliyah students at home - and our external students - are in constant contact with their teachers and village staff receiving instruction, assignments and support. Their families were among the first to be fired as businesses shut down and many are in dire financial need. Village staff has sent food packages to their homes, delivered without physical contact.
The 130 students remaining at the villages have been eating in small groups dispersed in the dining room, and they continue to study in small groups with teachers or through distance learning. They have had cooking classes, yoga for relaxation, movies in small groups in their dorms, arts and crafts and other activities. They are not permitted to leave the village and visitors are not permitted to enter. This will continue until the Ministry of Health determines the threat of contagion has passed.
This is the population we serve, and this is the population we can help NOW as we prepare them for a future as proud, fully engaged citizens of the State of Israel.
Approximate daily expenses include:
- Room and board for 130 Na’ale students: $1,820 per day
- Salaries for 6 village staff members per day: $600 per day
- Preparation of kitchen and dining room for Passover Kashrut: $4,100
- Small group activities for 130 students: $165 per day
Hadassah sponsors three Youth Aliyah villages in which we provide education, psychological support, and love -- all in a safe and secure environment that fosters independence, self-esteem, and success. Each operates a vocational training program, from high-tech auto repair to computerized precision tool-making to wine-making. Our cultural enrichment programs, including music performance and art, make for a well-rounded student. At Youth Aliyah, our sports programs provide the structure, discipline, and teamwork that help students to develop excellent lifelong habits and much-needed self-esteem.
Students come to our villages from myriad backgrounds, but with virtually no knowledge or understanding of their Jewish heritage. We are proud to offer a variety of programs that enrich their lives with the history and variety of Jewish life. Programs such as Joy of Judaism and our missions to Poland and Ethiopia help to achieve this goal.
Youth Aliyah has had many positive impacts on the lives of our students. Our video, A Path To Success - Ramat Hadassah Szold tells our story.
The success of Youth Aliyah has been document and reported on from a wide range of media outlets. Our own Barbara Sofer wrote a moving piece for The Jerusalem Post called, "The Human Spirit: The Long Journey from Tukul to Bar".
My grandma lives in Haifa, and I'd heard so much about Israel that I wanted to come. I attended a religious school, so I knew Torah and Hebrew and thought it was important for me to try to live in Eretz Yisrael. My home situation wasn't ideal. My parents divorced, and my father remarried. Suddenly I had a new little brother. It felt right to leave for Israel. I took the test and came to live and study at Hadassah-Neurim.
—Kyril Arech, 17, from the Ukraine, arrived August 2013
Meir Shfeyah is located in the beautiful Carmel Mountains near Zichron Yaakov. The village includes a junior and senior high school, library, computer labs, science labs, dormitories, dining room, gymnasium, a synagogue, staff housing, dairy, chicken farm, computerized greenhouse, an organic, experimental farm, vineyards and orchards. The Deborah B. Kaplan Sports Center includes a full-size soccer field, sports stadium and swimming pool. The Bonnie Lipton Center for the Performing Arts includes a modern auditorium seating 500, an amphitheater and the Parker-Edelstein Music Center. These facilities have become the center of the village’s activities and are the home of the Shfeyah Mandolin orchestra and music program.
The Shfeyah Winery, began in 2005, now produces 5,000 bottles of premium wine annually. Under the supervision of village staff and renowned vintner Ruti Ben Israel, the winery is run by 11th and 12th grade students who participate in every step of the process, from growing the grapes (several varieties, including Merlot, Moscat and Carignan) to designing the labels for the bottles.
About 300 students in grades 7 to 12 live in Shfeyah, including Jews, Druze, Muslims, Ethiopians, Russians, Bedouins, and Eritrean refugees. Another 300 students from surrounding communities attend the school.
About 80% of our residential students are referred by the Ministry of Education and 20% are recruited.
Our students successfully complete their Bagrut (matriculation) requirements at twice the national average, and 97% of our graduates, both boys and girls, do their army service in the IDF. Approximately 20% of our 12th-grade graduates volunteer to do an additional year of community service before their army service (שנת שרות), and a growing number pursue higher education after their army service.
Hadassah Neurim, near Netanya, was founded in 1948 as a refuge for children fleeing the gunfire of the War of Independence. Today it continues to be a sanctuary for youth from around the world and from the streets of Israel. Hundreds of adolescents, the majority of whom are from the former Soviet Union, call Neurim home.
The village's programs include sound and audio workshops, animal therapy, pre-army preparation, and carpentry. Hadassah Neurim also offers programs for special needs students and for athletically gifted youth. It's not just about the game. The sports program at Neurim provides at-risk youth a nurturing social and educational framework through which they learn teamwork and discipline. These lessons prepare them for life outside the village, as full and productive members of Israeli society.
Ramat Hadassah Szold
Ramat Hadassah Szold Youth Village, located southeast of Haifa in Kiryat Tivon, was founded in 1949 as a center to receive refugee children from Yemen and to serve as a residential educational facility for young Holocaust survivors. Today it serves both Israeli-born and immigrant youth who require intensive remedial education programs, taking in the neediest of at-risk youth. About 70% of today's residents come from Ethiopia and countries of the Former Soviet Union.
Special programs at Ramat Hadassah Szold include high-tech precision tool making, animal therapy, horsemanship, and Jewish study.
These programs combine to provide a strong foundation of psychological strength, vocational preparedness, and Jewish literacy.