Violin kids 88 248.
(photo credit: Baruch Ben-Itzhak)
There must be millions of organizations in need of our money. This begs the question: how do we choose where to give our few extra shekels? Well, the only way to decide, if we've learned anything from our friend the Tin Man, is to follow our hearts.
Following this assignment, to write about the Jaffa Institute and its June 7 benefit concert, I fell in love with the organization. This is not due to their activities alone but also because of its adherence to the tenant I feel paramount in both life and charity - empowerment. Or, to turn a phrase, teach people how to fish and not just how to open a can of tuna.
The Jaffa Institute (or The Institute for the Advancement of Education in Jaffa, if you're not into the whole brevity thing) is a private, non-profit, multi-service social agency that assists thousands of severely disadvantaged children and their families. The Institute's mission is to provide educational, recreational and social enrichment programs that endow children with a sense of self-worth by supporting their self-esteem.
This helps to break a cruel cycle of poverty into which many were born and aids them in reaching their full potential. The institute works with children and families from the poverty-stricken areas of Jaffa, South Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Kiryat Hayovel in Jerusalem and, through the Bet Shemesh Residential Center, other impoverished regions in Israel.
The Institute's founding and growth is a textbook case, as Jennifer Szapiro recalls, "It started off in Jaffa as a center to take kids off the streets and one thing followed another." Szapiro, the Institute grants coordinator, explains, "When a parent is absent due to illness, an injury or incarceration, or if the family undergoes an unusual level of financial distress, the child is left unsupervised and at risk."
"We took the kids in, helped them with homework and offered supervised recreation. That's how our crisis intervention center came into being. Then we discovered that they have a hard time concentrating on homework because they're hungry. So we started giving them hot meals. Then we found that many of them stole food to take home. So with the help of the welfare office we started handing out food packages to needy families twice a month, and so on," says Szapiro, describing the genesis of the Institute's main goal, "to offer a holistic approach to poverty," by empowering everyone that comes through its doors.
"Women from our food packaging operation began to learn valuable work skills, telemarketing for example, through raising donations for the same food project of which they are a part. The kids that come to the center who get help with their homework then feel more confident in class. So they take enrichment classes such as music, art, animal therapy and more," Szapiro says.
Already having endeared me to its cause, Szapiro adds, "Everyone that was part of the center and is accepted to a university receives a full scholarship."
As for the benefit concert, it is a superb if not innocuous way to aid a most worthy organization. Numerous musicians - Hadag Nachash, Dudu Tasa, Meir Banai, Olearchik, Shamir and Klepter, Waterloo (who cover all your ABBA favorites), Ofer Bashan, Efrat Gosh, Ohad Hitman, Aya Korem, Leah Shabat and Mikah Sadeh - have all donated their time and service to the Jaffa Institute. And what's good enough for Shaanan Street, let alone any of the Banai's, wellâ€¦
"The results speak for themselves," adds Szapiro, offering one final piece of evidence. "Many of the Institute's guides and counselors were once kids in receipt of our help."
The Jaffa Institute benefit concert takes place on June 7 at 7 p.m. at Heichal Hatarbut (11 Dizengoff St, Tel Aviv). Tickets cost NIS 70. For more information call (03) 680-3000 or visit mercazmazon.org or jaffainstitute.org