An IDF soldier takes part in drills on the Golan Heights.
(photo credit: IDF)
Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Arye Stern has embarked on a set of initiatives to help lone soldiers living in Jerusalem after becoming aware of several difficulties they face during their service.
So-called lone soldiers are new immigrants to Israel who came to the country without their immediate family and enlist in the army. They are granted extra benefits by the IDF but can regardless face a variety of problems and obstacles within Israeli life.
Stern’s goal is to ease these difficulties and help such soldiers face the challenges of serving in the IDF while acclimatizing to life in a new country.
Stern’s initiative includes assistance with religious bureaucracy in the capital, help in finding and paying for accommodation in Jerusalem, setting the soldier up with a family in the city who can host them for Shabbat meals and even help in setting them up romantically through various social events.
Toward some of these goals, Stern has established a nonprofit organization called Children of the Rabbi. It will help lone soldiers find appropriate housing in Jerusalem and will also raise money to pay for rent.
To help soldiers find places for Shabbat and holiday meals, Stern has teamed up with the Forum of Communal Jerusalem Rabbis, composed of more than 10 national-religious community rabbis, who will help find families who are willing to host them.
The Children of the Rabbi organization will search for appropriate housing close to these adoptive families.
One of the problems faced by lone soldiers which Stern said he had noticed was dealing with the bureaucracy for religious services such as proving Jewish status and marriage registration.
Immigrants, especially those from the former Soviet Union, frequently encounter difficulties proving they are Jewish due to the lack of religious documentation from the Communist era.
Stern has identified experts on determining Jewish status for immigrants who will help soldiers deal with the local religious council and the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court.
Stern has also coordinated with director of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court who agreed to help soldiers with their Jewish status clarification requirements.
In addition, he has established an expedited path within the Jerusalem Rabbinate for soldiers wishing to register for marriage; they will receive a personalized service to complete what is often a complicated bureaucratic process, especially for immigrants.
The rabbi has already helped more than 10 soldiers through the Jewish- status clarification and marriage registration processes since he was elected in October 2014, and himself performed the marriage ceremony this week at the wedding of another Jerusalem-based lone soldier.
“During the past year, I was exposed to numerous instances in which lone soldiers were faced with a variety of problems and were unable to gain help solving them, so I established this new initiative to help them with such difficulties as well as helping them acclimatize to life in the Jewish state,” Stern said.