Danish-Jewish Friendship is a proud supporter of The Jewish Agency for Israel. We are inspired and joyful due to the great effort that continues to be carried out in connection with Ethiopian Aliyah. DJF is actively supporting this effort and we are excited about this testimony to the legacy of Ethiopian Olim (immigrants) in Israel, as seen through children and grandchildren of the Olim.
Danish-Jewish Friendship is proud to partner with Orr Shalom, Israel’s foremost foster-care organization. Idit Codish of Orr Shalom brings us an update concerning the consequences of the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Israel and Hamas recently agreed to a ceasefire, after nearly two weeks of rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and PIJ, and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes targeting the Gaza Strip. The immediate physical threat is over but the experience is still very much alive. Orr Shalom is not a political organization. Our only mission is to provide safe and loving homes to children in need, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or religion, and to provide these children, when they age out, with services through our Beating the Odds Graduate Program as they begin to navigate independent life. Our staff is often the only reliable adult interface our graduates have with the world.
Over the past year, as a result of the pandemic, most of our graduates lost their jobs, and dealt with intense feelings of loneliness and isolation. Many graduates had childhood traumas triggered by these circumstances and faced a danger of reverting to self-destructive behaviors. After countrywide vaccinations, our graduates had begun to believe that the nightmare was behind them. They found work again, began going out and socializing, and were just beginning to return to a semblance of routine – and then were stopped in their tracks. Many of our graduates live in areas that experienced barrages. Our graduates in the areas hardest hit, most of whom work for hourly wages, were unable to go to work , which opened wounds and financial stress still fresh from Covid19. Many of our graduates suffer from PTSD, and the constant sounds of war – planes overhead, the Iron Dome intercepting ceaseless barrages of rockets, bombs falling in Gaza – reduced their capacity to function on even a basic level. Even following the ceasefire, every loud noise creates fear and anxiety.
The effect of the recent military operation cannot be separated from the past year. For those already dealing with a history of trauma, the effect is compounded. The program’s Director visited a group of graduates living together in Ashkelon and reported that all six girls had moved into the apartment’s bomb shelter, and were too scared to leave the house to even get groceries. In addition to “normal” immediate effects (such as graduates too scared to shower for fear of missing the bomb siren), we anticipate seeing long terms effects of the crisis in the coming weeks, and will be ready to provide the appropriate resources.
While other young adults were able to call their parents or other family to receive support – both emotional and practical –our young adults have no reliable family. Without Beating the Odds, they would have no one at all. Beating the Odds coordinators made sure to be in contact with everyone in the areas directly affected, and made sure they were available to anyone who needed extra emotional support.
No virus and no conflict will stop us from our commitment to help our graduates! They have faced so much in their lives, and we must continue to empower them to meet the future that they deserve. Thank you for supporting Orr Shalom’s Beating the Odds Graduate Program. It is not for nothing that we call ourselves the Orr Shalom Family- for these vulnerable adults, Orr Shalom will always be their family.
To our dear friends in Denmark,
Happy New Year! All of us here at Orr Shalom hope that 2021 brings about more revealed blessing and goodness – for Israel, for Denmark, for the whole world. As I reflect on 2020 and its challenges, I am brought back again and again to the feeling that while this pandemic has caused so much distress and anguish – which cannot be downplayed – it has also, in a way, brought us closer together. We are facing the same disease: separately, but together.
In Israel, there are many different types of people living together: Jews from all different backgrounds; Arabs from all different backgrounds; Christians; Muslims; immigrants from the world over; and also approximately 36,000 refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers.
Leviticus 19: 33-34 states: When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
This is a commandment that is repeated over 30 times throughout the Hebrew Bible. The fact that it is repeated so often shows its grave importance.
Yanai and Yagel (please note names have been changed to protect privacy), whose mother is a refugee from Sudan. For many complicated reasons, their mother was unable to care for them, and so 10 years ago, at the age of 5 and 6, they were referred to Orr Shalom. Their loving foster family, who have watched them develop, overcome, and grow, have made sure that the boys and their biological mother have maintained contact and a good relationship. The mother and her children were here illegally, without any standing, and while the State of Israel agrees to care for children in these circumstances, their obligation ends when the children turn 18, at which point they are sent back to their country of origin. While adoption in Israel is incredibly rare, Yanai and Yagel’s foster parents were able to adopt the boys with their mother’s approval. Yanai and Yagel are now Israeli citizens, fully integrated into Israeli life. They have had the opportunity for a happy childhood filled with loving memories. They will serve in the IDF, they will go to University, and they will be ful and equal partners in building a strong and just Israel.
Orr Shalom is driven by this principle: we ensure that we care for all children in need of our protection and interventions, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. Approximately 40 children in our Foster Program are the children of refugees, migrants, or asylum seekers who have no legal standing in Israel. The State of Israel takes responsibility for these children, even though they are not citizens, until the children reach the age of 18; and Orr Shalom provides each and every child in need of our loving care with everything they need to have a chance at a happy childhood and a productive adult life in the future. Each and every child is a precious soul, a whole world unto his or her self, and each one is deserving of opportunities previously denied to them.
Thank you to our dear friends in Denmark for helping us to fulfill the commandment of caring for the strangers who sojourn among us.
This year’s conference theme for Danish-Jewish Friendship was: The Blessing from Zion. Members gathered in Copenhagen and online to hear in-depth and inspiring message abouth and Israel, about Israel’s contribution to the world and Tikkun Olam.
Along the way, we also received special greetings from our key partners in Israel, which we are happy to share here:
The Jewish Agency for Israel (In English with Danish subtitles)
The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin (In English with Danish subtitles)
Orr Shalom – Youth at Risk and Foster Care (In English with Danish subtitles)
Ahavat Kol Israel – Support for the Jerusalem’s Poor Orthodox Families (Hebrew only)
Danish-Jewish Friendship is proud to partner with Orr Shalom in Israel and happy to extend this New Year’s greeting and video to members and supporters of our organization.
The Jewish Agency For Israel shared its gratitude for Danish-Jewish Friendship’s recent contribution to alleviate the situation brought on by the Wuhan Virus for new immigrant families in Israel.
“Dear Danish-Jewish Friendship,
Am so happy to share with you some smiling faces of the Olim (immigrant) children taken in our Yeelim center in Beer Sheva that have received thanks to DJF the precious gift of time happily spent.
With toys and educational supplies given to them earlier this week thanks to you!
Overall, we have been able to supply nearly 1,000 new Olim children – some while in quarantine as they made Aliyah very recently, including the Olim from Ethiopia – and some that have been with us for several months like the doctors and programmers at Yeelim.
I hope you will enjoy these pictures of happiness and thanks.
May G-d bless you,
Director, Christian Friends
Vice President, Israel and Global Philanthropy
The Jewish Agency for Israel
When hearing about the plight of new immigrant families with children in Israel’s south, Danish-Jewish Friendship decided to send 100,000 DKK (approx. 14,500 USD) in relief aid with the following greeting in English, Hebrew and other languages:
We know that this situation is challenging and testing for you, but we want you to know that you are not alone and that others care deeply about you and your family’s situation. We are pleased and proud that you decided to make Israel your home and want to encourage and support you in this choice. You are a blessing to us where you are. Please accept this small gift from us, and may you find comfort and strength for the days ahead. We wish you all the best and are praying for you. G_d bless you!
Your friends in Denmark
Photo credit: The Jewish Agency for Israel
Close to Beer Sheva, new immigrants from JAFI’s Yeelim absorption center were out and about planting new shoots in connections with Tu b’Shvat. DJF is happy for all the new immigrants putting down roots in Israel and caring for the land.
By Idit Cohen
Report to the Danish Jewish Friendship Association, January 2020
Osher is the House Mother of an Orr Shalom Home in the Center of Israel, which is home to nine adolescent boys between the ages of 13 and 17. Osher began as a National Service volunteer with Orr Shalom eight years ago. At the end of her National Service, the house mother left and there was a vacancy. Now, Osher is completing her seventh year as the Home’s House Mother! Osher is fully dedicated to “her” children, investing all of her energies and love in their successes. When you visit the Home you see how the boys flock to her, each one wanting to tell her about their day, show her a treasure they found on the home from school, share their latest report card, tell her about the book they are reading or show her their new soccer moves…
“A Day in the Life”: In Osher’s own words
I wake up every day at 6.30 am and then start to wake the boys up. As you can imagine, it can be hard to wake up nine teenage boys! By 7 am everyone is downstairs and eating breakfast, and I start making their lunches. I try to have at least three different lunch options for them – they pick the “main” and pack their own “sides” – like chips, or pretzels, cut up fruits and vegetables. I obviously want them to enjoy their lunches!
They are all teenagers, so they walk themselves to school. By 8.15 am the house is empty (usually – though obviously sometimes someone is not feeling well and they need to stay home). I use this time between 8.15 and 1 pm to do shopping, to clean the house, to have meetings with the staff in the home including tutors and the psychologist. Sometimes I have to go to meetings in the kids’ schools. Sometimes I just rest for an hour! My phone is always ringing throughout the day – you have to understand that each boy has a whole “support group” of people around him. I am in constant touch with biological parents, social workers, teachers, and psychologist. So I am the main contact person for all of the components of the “support group” and I interface between them and the boys all the time. The boys themselves will often call me throughout the day too! To ask me for rides to or from somewhere, tell me they’re going to a friend’s, or to ask me what’s for dinner!
The boys come home from school between 1 – 2.30 pm, and unwind a little before lunch. At 2.30 pm we sit down to eat a nice hot lunch together. Between 3 – 4 pm is “room time,” which is time without phones, TV, or any other screens. By this time, the tutors arrive and help the children with their homework. The National Service mentors help the older kids study for their matriculation tests. If there are kids without homework I play informal educational games with them to practice skills like English and math.
From 4 – 7 pm it’s free time, and each boy does something different. It’s also a time for therapeutic support. The boys go to friends or have friends come over – some even have girlfriends and they come over and hang out in the living room. Some boys like to play video games, others have afterschool activities or clubs (soccer is very popular!). Each boy has his own interests and I try to make sure that each one can explore their passions. For example, one of the kids is interested in becoming a DJ and we made him a sound proof mini studio in the basement – where he spends almost every afternoon. Another of our newest boys loves to garden, so we let him take over the side yard, where he started growing vegetables!
It can get pretty hectic but this is the time of the day I love the best. The house is really alive and full, and I’m always busy, driving the kids to friends or home, or to their clubs, or grocery shopping. After free time we all make dinner together and then we sit down to eat between 8 – 8.30 pm. After that the boys shower and get into bed between 9.30 and 10.30 pm depending on their age.
That’s the basic order of the day, though some days are more hectic and some days are calmer. Did I mention we also have a dog?! That definitely adds to the craziness, but also the love – the boys have all developed individual connections to her, love her and there’s always *someone* to walk her.
In terms of my personal life….well, my home life and my work life are obviously intertwined – I live where I work. I’m a really social person and my friends are really important to me, and they come and visit during the week and especially on Shabbat. My brothers also like to come visit when they can. They know my kids and they know my life – and my boys also know my friends and family too! We’re like one giant family.
Culture is really important to me – plays, and concerts. I try to include the boys whenever I can, because I want to expose them to the finer things in life, to show them art and beauty, and what is possible in the world.
Volunteering is also incredibly important to me and I try to do at least six projects per year with the boys, like selling chocolates to benefit kids with terminal illnesses; organizing hospital visits and stuff like that. It’s really important to me to show my boys that they are capable of giving – that just because they need a lot of support doesn’t mean that they can’t also give support to others who are worse off than they are.
Osher is just one- albeit incredible- example of the dedicated and loving professional staff we employ at Orr Shalom. With enormous thanks to the Danish Jewish Friendship Association’s ongoing investment, Osher, and other house mothers like her, have the support, equipment and training required to give Orr Shalom’s children a real chance to succeed.