Israel Center-UJC program aims to help northern children with trauma

The physical wounds left by the recent war are healing, but the psychological damage remains. The OU Israel Center, the Orthodox Union's branch in Israel, and the UJC have established a program to provide psychological treatment and teacher training. The initiative is part of the larger OU Tzafoni program, which helps northerners on a variety of issues. "This program is part of the OU's continued sense of worldwide responsibility to help Jews in need. The OU has done this in the past, is doing it now, and will continue such programs in the future," said Avi Berman, the Israel Center's director-general. The psychological trauma is especially evident among youngsters. "The children are still under the pressure of the war. One cannot say this happened and is now over, there are major psychological effects," said David Strauss, principal of the Even Shoham state religious school in Nahariya. Strauss stressed the need for an informal venue to help the children. "Teachers are always teachers, we cannot always help with personal issues," he said. Hodyea Onea, 12, from Nahariya said she was afraid to leave her home. "A Katyusha fell in my backyard. I don't want to be somewhere so dangerous where this happens. When I go outside I am still scared. Everything looks back to normal but the fear remains. It's hard for me to leave my house," she said. "I think if we talk about what happened more it will be easier for everyone to cope," said Tslil Sisma, 16, also a Nahariya resident. Sisma suggested that the best way to deal with the problem was to provide certified councilors, "someone who knows how to help us, someone who can talk to us." "We lack the resources to deal with the problem. We don't have social workers or teachers who can address these issues. There is a great need for external programs. Children are in trauma and they need help," said Strauss. The OU program will operate in seven northern communities and hopes to add more. It is headed by Dr. Debbie Grossman, director of the Crisis Center for Religious Women in Jerusalem, which originally dealt with sexual and physical abuse in the religious community but now works with all segments of society. "An entire section of the country has lived through a trauma and we need to prevent it from developing into post traumatic stress disorder," said Grossman. The program will hold workshops in schools, including some specifically for Russian and Ethiopian children, in an effort to identify children suffering from trauma, and then follow up with personalized counseling. "Often it is hard to identify whether or not a child is suffering from trauma. Children don't understand what they have gone through and the symptoms can seem unrelated to the trauma," said Grossman.