Children at school.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The young man M. was called to the microphone at Yedidim’s annual board dinner, which I attended. The audience was composed of representatives from several government ministries as well as the Israel Police, volunteer coordinators who had participated in various Yedidim organized workshops throughout the day, the president of The American Friends of Yedidim, Mike Burstein, and many others.
M. stood up. A young man with a sweet face, not too tall, he strode confidently to the stage and took his place at the podium.
“Over two years ago, I was caught smoking drugs in my hometown of Petah Tikva. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to work. All I wanted to do was hang out with my friends and do stupid things.
Having a police record didn’t really bother me. By chance, someone from Yedidim took an interest in me. He invited me to join a program called Sikuim.
This program is meant to give juvenile delinquents, kids like me, a second chance at life.
“I went, rather reluctantly. ‘One time can’t hurt,’ I told myself. The truth is, I loved it from the first second.
I met people like me who actually cared about me. People who were almost sucked into the endless vortex of crime and came out on the other side better and stronger. They learned to give to other people.
‘Fine, I’ll come just one more time,’ I thought. And so it went.
“I have now been involved with Yedidim for two years. I distanced myself from the bad influences that would pull me back toward crime. I went back to school. I no longer touch drugs. And I learned that I can be a productive member of society and a productive person. When a juvenile becomes involved in a life of crime, they have a certain amount of time during which their record can be expunged. Without a clean record, you cannot enlist in a combat unit in the army. Up until two years ago, the army would never have even looked my way. Now, not only am I enlisting with pride, I am going to service in a combat unit. Yedidim has given me a second chance at a new life; a life not of taking from society, but of contributing to society.”
The applause was thunderous. Everyone in the room stood and beamed with joy at the success of this young man. Vicky, the representative from the police, nodded in agreement throughout the whole speech. The vice director-general of the Education Ministry listened attentively, a look of inspiration in his eye. I think Mike Burstein may have even shed a tear, and the members of Yedidim’s staff were over the moon.
M. was but an example of the thousands of lives touched by Yedidim – an organization founded over 20 years ago which operates programs throughout the country. The organization focuses on children, youth and young adults at risk and conducts numerous programs including curbing juvenile delinquency, preparing youth at risk for a meaningful army service, empowering young girls, assisting in the integration of young immigrants, promoting excellence in young people from socio-economically disadvantaged populations, and running after school drop-in centers for children and youth in the South.
Yedidim’s vision is a simple one, built on four pillars: • Construction of a society in which every child has the opportunity to exercise their abilities and talents.
• Development of a culture-sensitive social leadership that works together responsibly to help the weak populations in the community.
• Implementation of the values of Yedidim, which include respect for every person and their culture, reliability, and integrity.
• Construction of a large-scale organizational model which imparts professionalism in volunteerism and social action.
The technique is ostensibly very simple: the financial support brought in by Yedidim is matched with government funding, nearly dollar for dollar. Today the global economic situation makes it difficult to raise funds. Liquidity problems exist all the time.
The money from the government was delayed, or the contribution didn’t come in on time. The organization is constantly tugging at the corners of an ever-shrinking blanket, hoping that it might just be able to have something with which to cover the children.
The achievements are certainly impressive – a claim backed not only by independent scientific studies but by the satisfaction expressed by government representatives when asked about the collaborative efforts with Yedidim.
At the end of the moving evening, I thought to myself that it was my duty to make the holy work of this organization known to anyone and everyone who might be able to help them on their quest for a stronger Israel.
This is the real aim of the days before Rosh Hashana (the New Year) – to open one’s hearts and the pockets for every human being.The writer served for 25 years as the senior and close advisor to Shimon Peres.