A boost for youth

Jerusalem’s Kidum Noar provides guidance, counseling and crisis intervention through its various programs aimed at youths ranging in age from 14 to 26.

By BATSHEVA POMERANTZ
November 11, 2011 13:09
3 minute read.
Berlin Jerusalem exchange 521

Berlin Jerusalem exchange 521. (photo credit: Inbar Ben-Yitzchak)

Jerusalem’s Kidum Noar provides guidance, counseling and crisis intervention through its various programs aimed at youths ranging in age from 14 to 26. The youths come from all backgrounds, reflecting the city’s diverse population: native Israelis and immigrants, Arabs, national religious, haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and secular. According to Shabi Amedi, Kidum Noar’s director, the organization is currently looking after the needs of some 9,000 young people. Of these, he says, roughly 800-1,000 are from east Jerusalem; 500 are immigrants from the former Soviet Union; 500 are from Englishspeaking countries; 400 are Ethiopian; 1,000 are national religious and 1,000 are haredi.

But the largest group (over 4,000), are descendents of immigrants from Middle Eastern countries from the 1950s, families who still haven’t been able to break out of the cycle of poverty.

“In the 1950s, the father’s status and authority was weakened when he came to modern Israel,” explains Amedi. “Today, many problems continue to be caused by the loss of parental authority and control over their children. There is verbal violence. Parents often give up in despair. The youth are eventually indifferent and alienated from their parents.”

Many drop out of school, either overtly or covertly (they’re registered in school but don’t show up), he explains.

“The combination of the family situation and the lack of education forces many into the streets where they look for replacements for a father figure. They’re attracted to negative elements... drugs, alcoholism and criminals.”

For some youths the road to delinquency isn’t long. They are soon arrested and sent to prison, where the situation only becomes worse. Following medium offenses, they will be released after a couple of years, heading back to their neighborhoods.

Kidum Noar’s staff, made up of 200 social workers representing all sectors, locates at-risk youth at home, schools, and on the street.

“Today,” says Amedi, “many of the youth aren’t on the streets. They’re alone at home with their computers, and isolated from the world. We’re developing ways to reach them through the social media.”

These teens often mistrust authority, making it challenging for Kidum Noar’s social workers to connect with them. They accept the youth as they are, don’t patronize them, and build up trust so the teens can confide in them, says Amedi.

“Building trust is the basis for intervention. The youth will often test the social workers, to see if they’re with them.”

Kidum Noar offers a broad spectrum of programs, ranging from confidence-building to preventing drop-outs to rehabilitation from prison.

Kidum Noar also works with vocational centers to train the young people for the job market.

“We work simultaneously with their problems, and with society’s problems in accepting them. There is a stigma about some of these youth. Kidum Noar is like a bridge between them and society,” says Amedi.

“The method is reaching out to locate the youth where they hang out, and developing programs that give them a sense of success, together with psychological therapy,” says Hezi Shilo, head of projects at the organization.

“The Selan [Sport L’Kidum Noar] project is very popular. In the past, soccer was negative, and there was often violence at the games. Kidum Noar established teams that teach correct behavior. Youth learn that not everyone has to win, they smoke less, wear a uniform, come on time, and lose honorably. They also learn to get along with diverse populations. The teams include Arabs and Ethiopians. They learn to know the person as a person,” he says.

The projects department also has a program preparing youth for army service, focusing on the skills they’ll need to cope. Other projects include the Yam B’Yam boating program, horseback riding and dance.

Kidum Noar also founded Crossroads, a safe haven drop-in center for English-speaking youths, which offers various social services.

The Kidum Noar staff are boosted by soldiers, psychology and social work students, and national service volunteers. Reflecting on her work, social worker Inbar Ben-Yitzchak says: “The youth know there is someone in the world who cares about them. We feel success when they straighten out, finish school and eventually find their way.”


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