A program launched last week will seek to affect the lives of Israeli children
by reaching out to the ones they’re closest to: their parents.
program, Horim Bamerkaz (Parents at the Center), will provide guidance to
parents starting at pregnancy, to give them tools to help their children avoid
becoming at-risk youths down the road, according to the program’s
The program will be run by the “Boston-Haifa Connection,” an
organization founded by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and the Haifa
Municipality in 1989, to strengthen collaboration between the two “sister
Horim Bamerkaz will receive an investment of almost $4.5 million
over the next five years, and has its sights set first on the city of
According to the program’s organizers, their approach stands out
among other youth programs in Israel, which have focused on the children and
youths themselves, and not on providing guidance to the parents.
partners running the program in Israel will work in collaboration with a
committee in Boston, which counts among its members Prof. Carolyn Cohen, who
attended a launch event for the program last week in Haifa with her husband,
attorney and Jerusalem Post columnist Prof. Alan Dershowitz. The team will also
work in collaboration with the Health Ministry and the Joint Distribution
Committee’s Ashalim association for at-risk children.
The pilot program
began in Haifa’s Kiryat Eliezer and Bat Galim neighborhoods last week, and steps
are under way to implement it in the district’s health clinics, kindergartens,
daycare centers and playgrounds.
According to the Social Services
Department, 15 percent of minors in Haifa are classified as at-risk. In the
country as a whole, over 300,000 children are at-risk, according to Welfare
The pilot program is the first of four planned for the
initiative, which will also include a parenthood support program, offering pre
and postnatal guidance to parents, group workshops with parents and children,
home visitations by professionals and a training program to guide those who will
work with parents in the future, the organization said this week.
Ben-David, who heads the pre-school education department in Ashalim, said the
program considers counseling parents a crucial component in the development of
“We place great importance on combining programs for
parents and consultation with experts, with the goal of influencing the life and
development of children,” Ben-David said.
The CJP representative in
Israel and director of the Haifa-Boston connection in Haifa, Vered Israely, said
the program is devoted to “making Haifa the best city in Israel to raise
She said the initiative will spread to cities across Israel,
beginning with 10 more cities next year.
When asked what makes the
program different than others that have been formed to work with at-risk
children, she said it focuses on prevention, rather than treatment.
have studied the issue of at-risk children and have discovered that in most of
the country they deal with youths who are already at risk, and the resources go
toward welfare and treatment services to deal with the issue. There are very few
that deal with the parents or on preventing students from becoming at-risk in
the first place.”