FEATURING BAIS MENACHEM, MATARA, OHR YITZCHAK & LEV SHLOMO
Less than one week remains until the Pomegranate Day of Giving for Youth kicks off, a massive one day fundraising effort by 20 organizations to raise $2 million for at risk teens. The campaign, to be held on the Charidy platform, will be a 24 hour, all or nothing effort, with all donations to be quadrupled by private donors.
The number of at risk teens in the Orthodox Jewish community has spiraled out of control in recent years. Many have been turned off by their lack of success in school, and feeling like complete failures, they have sought solace in all the wrong ways. Getting these kids back on track is a group effort that requires many variables but one common denominator exists: the need to find appropriate learning environment that will accept these teens as they are, recognizing the hidden potential that lies deep inside each one. “The right placement in the proper school can make all the difference in the world and, thankfully, there are schools that specialize in bringing out the best in every student,” explained Rabbi Aryeh Young, executive director of Our Place, who is coordinating the campaign together with Abe Banda of Pomegranate.
The Bais Menachem Youth Development Program has been helping those in the Chabad community who have found it difficult to succeed in a traditional yeshiva setting for the past 18 years. Located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the program offers both formal and informal counseling, recovery, Judaic studies and recreational and community service activities as well as a GED program and vocational and career training in a warm, non-judgmental environment. With a small staff to participant ratio, students receive individualized attention, guidance and an educational plan that is custom tailored to them. Bais Menachem serves 35 students in their flagship facility and a group of twelve younger students, ages 14 through 16, at a satellite location. In its dual role as a community organization, Bais Menachem has played a role in the growth of the local community which now includes over 100 members, a new synagogue, a Jewish elementary school with an enrollment of 75 and a network of adult education and women’s classes.
“Bais Menachem is more than a school, it’s a place that teaches young men how to accept who they are, overcome past issues, make plans and take steps toward their future,” noted Bais Menachem’s founder and director, Rabbi Uri Perlman.
The Matara Therapeutic Boarding School, founded by Dr. Stuart Chesner, is the only Jewish answer for teenagers ages 12 through 19, who need individualized education as well as a therapeutic environment. Located in Jerusalem, Matara supplies a caring home away from home for its teenagers. At Matara, autism, PDD, bipolar or depression are not allowed to stand in the way of mental health wellness and academic success. With the collaboration between three thousand years of Jewish wisdom, licensed professionals providing medical, psychological and educational care, Matara provide its students with unique opportunities for intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth.
Ohr Yitzchok is a free nightly program that combines hot meals and camaraderie with vibrant shiurim. The Rabbeim, hand-picked mentors that are carefully matched with talmidim, strive daily to create meaningful and deep connections with their students in order to provide them with an empowering feeling of accomplishment through their learning, and to give them the ability to be able to shmooze with their students about virtually any topic. Over 100 young men from all walks of life attend Ohr Yitzchok: some are full time workers, while others are college students holding down part time jobs, struggling teens desperate for guidance or lost souls in need of love and motivation. The free nightly dinners are a big draw for many of the students and, over time, Ohr Yitzchok has seen its students flourish, returning to yeshiva full time, going to Israel to further their personal and educational growth and finding meaningful employment. For others, the commitment to being shomer Shabbos is a huge step forward and, hopefully, the first of many more positive life changes.
Dedicated to local high school boys in Baltimore, Yeshivas Lev Shlomo is an alternative high school program offering low student to teacher ratios, around the clock availability, communal participation and constant rabbinic involvement. Providing a warm and nurturing environment to teens aged 15 to 18, Lev Shlomo is a positive Torah atmosphere that focuses on the individual needs of each student. Among the many services provided by Lev Shlomo are GED preparation, time management training, personal responsibility, nightly extra-curricular activities, a summer camp, and various excursions including shabbatons and year round trips.
Other organizations that are taking part in the Charidy campaign are Aliya, Aliya Youth Space, Aliya – The Girl’s Loft, The Center, Amudim, Yedidim, Center Girls – Merkaz Rochel, Regesh, Tekuma, Retorno, The Living Room, Our Place Boys, Our Place Girls, Saving Lives Coalition, SAFE Foundation, Matara, Ohr Yitzchok, Yeshivas Lev Shlomo, BJX, Gav’s Boys, Project Extreme, Torah Youth Cener, Chananya Backer Memorial Institute and Aish Tamid.
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