I spent my last day in Israel visiting two programs in one of the most incredible places, Frisch Beit Hayeled and Midreshet AMIT. Beit Hayeled is a boarding school for kids that can’t live at home for many different reasons. It serves 100 children ages 5-14, 75% who live at the youth village, and 25% who are day boarders after school until the evening. This is a very special place where children feel safe and loved and can get the kind of attention a child deserves.
Children live two surrogate parents and 12 children, known as Mishpacha (families). Often kids don’t arrive until the age of nine as the government prefers to keep children in their homes rather than remove them to foster care. Although the children face many challenges, at Beit Hayeled they can begin the healing process. Staff includes social workers, psychiatrists, and other therapists. Unfortunately, the need for professional staff and programming is growing.
The children attend schools throughout the area, but often must travel by bus one hour or more just to get to their school. During the summer, AMIT provides a summer camp to keep the children engaged, a program which is not funded by any other agency. The children face many uncertainties and the staff must be ready at a moment’s notice to step in and help. For example, a 12-year-old boy, an external resident, which means he stays at Beit Hayeled to receive therapy and care, but does not sleep there, had a fight with his mother. The mother refused to let him come home for the weekend and the boy’s father who lives elsewhere would not take him either. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story and the staff at Beit Hayeled is always ready to deal with the unexpected.
Beit Hayeled created a program called TAP for children who excel in their studies. They go on cultural trips and get extra tutoring to help them excel in school. I also learned that the staff gives every child their own special Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration. They’re allowed to invite family and friends and a videographer/photographer is hired to capture their milestone event. This is just one more thing that makes every child feel special.
On the same premises of Beit Hayeled live 60 young women enrolled in Midreshet AMIT. These young women spend a gap year to study, learn, and volunteer. They hail mostly from the USA, but also come from S. Africa, France, England, and elsewhere. The girls help the kids at Beit Hayeled in innumerable ways. Their days start with prayer and study with an essential part of their time spent interacting with the children. Many of these women will become the future leaders of our world-wide Jewish community. I can’t adequately express the impact that the women have on the children and how the children affect them, but Izzy from New York City can.