Bridging the gap for Anglo olim

A lifeline for Anglo immigrants helps teens and parents overcome local obstacles.

Kav le noar lecture (photo credit: Courtesy)
Kav le noar lecture
(photo credit: Courtesy)

With patience, understanding and holistic guidance, it’s possible even for Anglo immigrants to bridge the gaps between home and school, says Dr. David Pelcovitz, professor of education and psychology at Yeshiva University in New York City.

If you’re feeling out of control and don’t know what to do with your adolescent, and everything you have tried doesn’t work – and you don’t know what will – Kav L’Noar is hosting an evening dedicated to discussing the challenges parents face when engaging with principles, guidance counselors, teachers, on January 26.
“Research shows that children do better in school when parents are actively building collaborative relationships with teachers. If there’s a problem with the child, the teacher will let them know, and vice versa. They are working as a team. But the hardest part is figuring out how to create a positive parent-teacher communication line.”
Improving parents’ and pupils’ relationships with teachers and principals has important, positive and longlasting implications not only for children’s academic achievements but social development as well, he says.
In 2004, realizing there was little available for adolescent support, Dr. Ronald Wachtel created an address for families that have made aliya from English-speaking countries and are confronting a broad range of issues with their teenagers, with a holistic style therapy center that integrates all family members.
Alongside Wachtel as mediator and storyteller, issues – from how to navigate the educational system and advocate for your child, to strategies for parent and teacher communication, as well as how to protect your child from bullying – will be addressed by Dr. David Pelcovitz, Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, dean of Me’ohr Bais Yaakov Teachers’ Seminary and Rabbi Daniel Epstein, educator and former principal of Shavei Rachel High School in Neveh Daniel.
“Implementing school mentoring programs is the way of the future,” says Wachtel. “What we need to highlight is that so many parents reach out to private therapists in hopes that their kids will be engaged to get past their issues independently.
Kav L’Noar offers a holistic perspective that looks at more than just the presenting issues the family brings to us. We look at it as our responsibility to view the total global picture and to see what we need to do to enable the kids and families to overcome.
We’ve saved marriages.”
After the initial intake process to assess the problems parents feel that the kids are bringing into their home; marital issues, parenting and psychosocial problems; or if they aren’t they on the same frequency, Kav L’Noar provides parents with counseling workshops and clinical sessions.
The Immigration and Absorption Ministry agrees that connecting teens and parents with schools and confronting obstacles of immigration is a challenge hard to combat alone.
The ministry's Ziva Shachar says “olim face difficulties academically and socially as a result of the language barrier and a new educational system they are not used to.
“In addition to these issues, many of these oleh students are teenagers dealing with the stress of teenage life. As a result, olim students often suffer from low self-esteem and self-confidence, and can be victims of bullying. For this reason, many Englishspeaking olim choose to move to communities with other English-speaking olim. These ‘cultural bubbles’ provide students with community, but also make it harder for them to adjust to Israeli society and learn Hebrew.”
Nefesh B’Nefesh will help defray their olim’s Kav L’Noar costs. Tani Kramer, NBN’s associate manager says, “Kav L’Noar is a wonderful organization which provides significant support to the local English speaking community. NBN refers olim to benefit from its services, and in addition we have a number of olim that are employed within the organization and volunteer there as well.”
NOT ONLY are the children faced with a new ethos, but they come to see the old values of “back home” as obsolete, rejecting clear practical advice.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, explains, “In modern times the parents’ role has become more complex. Parents have more and more tasks and time devoted to family is cut short.
“Parents need to know now, more than ever, the place that the extended family once filled in raising children has been replaced by the smaller nuclear family. Authoritative, distant, strict relationships have been replaced by absent parenting and the lack of parental leadership.
“There is a need to invest a great deal more in preparing for parenthood, especially in parent-child relationships based not only on mutual respect and open communication, but also on leadership and personal example, by setting boundaries between the COVER Bridging the gap A lifeline for Anglo immigrants helps teens and parents overcome local obstacles Olim students often suffer from low self-esteem and self-confidence, and can be victims of bullying. (Pepe Fainberg cartoon) RELIGION | IN JERUSALEM 11 permissible and the forbidden, between the desirable and the unacceptable, between right and wrong.”
Kav L’Noar’s mentoring program address these very needs by matching kids aged nine to 18 with mentors aged 20 to 30 in a school group setting.
Kav L’Noar’s mentoring supervisor, Sima Gordon, says, “The mentor is an older friend that the child can lean on, enabling them to boost self-confidence, helping them to discover different talents and interests which were not developed. A lot of kids come in are social-skill deficient and use this program to learn how to build a healthy relationship where the base of the relationship is very safe, allowing the mentee to be themselves and to become themselves.”
Moving to Israel from New York 25 years ago, and rearing six children, with four teenagers still at home, Gordon continues, “The therapeutic mentoring program works on things like making decisions.
It’s a structured program that empowers the child to develop social skills in a safe cocoon. The idea is that there is a spillover effect into other relationships and into the home and school.”
At present, Kav L’Noar mentors 100 children, either individually or in school-based groups. After piloting three mentorship programs this past September, Kav L’Noar opened 10 classes each averaging eight students, in six schools in Jerusalem.
Thirty-five of these cases receive therapy, either individual, with their parents or as a whole family.
“But there is more to the story,” says clinical supervisor Rina Berkus. “We also want to know that our services have a positive effect on their lives, and what we are doing has an impact on the functioning of the child beyond the mentoring or therapy hour.”
Every three months Berkus calls the parents of children being mentored to ask about the child’s functioning in different areas of their life to help understand how effective their services are and to create and adjust treatment to maximize the benefit to the client.
IN 2013, 95% of parents whose children had been mentored for at least 12 months reported that their child’s behavior in the home had improved. This means they were getting along better with siblings and parents.
One hundred percent of those same parents reported that their child was doing better in school – better attendance, behavior and/or academic performance. Of this group, 95% reported that their child was functioning better socially, which means that the child has positive peer relationships.
Also in 2013, 70% of the clients who participated in a minimum of four therapy sessions demonstrated an improvement in their functioning, which includes social, academic and vocational functioning.
Berkus concludes, “In terms of our mission, beyond an address for families who are confronting difficult teenagers and providing them with intervention, part of our mission is committed to public education. That is what the program is about on Sunday.”
An expert in American school systems who deals with the clinical side of parenting and adolescent issues, Pelcovitz says, “There is a saying, a mother can only be as happy as the unhappiest child.
What is central to a parent is the happiness of their kids. But parents need help in understanding the strategies on how the kids will be happy.
“Another component is making the kids feel safe at home, where they spend most of their time, and just as importantly, at school. When this happens, a good positive connection develops promoting good learning and emotional adjustment for the children” “There are wonderful administrators and gifted educators but sometimes they are a disappointment,” Pelcovitz, a father of four, adds. “Put yourself in the position of a parent whose kids are being bullied, or see that their learning needs are not met, or have dyslexia, suffer sexual abuse, and on top of that, are new to this country and are having trouble dealing with a new alien system with a different set of unwritten rules, and feel they have no active system of support from the school and are alone, can build strategic bridges.”
Social worker Ruthie Tic agrees. “For a parent who is lost and confused, it’s wonderful to have a place they can go to where there’s a place under one roof to receive assessment and treatment in a language they speak. It’s just hard being a teen anyway, being in Israel is hard, being American is hard, uprooted, new friend, new language. Sure it causes problems.”
Computer expert Beau Shultz says, “An ounce of social psychological prevention is worth a ton of political and economic cure.”
Wrapped in a budget of a half a million dollars, the Kav L’Noar concept has touched a lot of lives in nine and a half years, says Wachtel. It has “kept families intact, kept kids off the streets, kids out of the criminal system, succeeding in school, attending school, hanging out with the kids who are not necessarily into the wrong thing, but into the right things. It works.”
Partially sponsored by the Captain Leo V. Berger Fund, the event will take place on January 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ramada Hotel, located at the corner of Ruppin Street and Herzl Boulevard. • conference/ Send in your questions for our panelists to info@ For more information, 622-3039, or