It Takes A Village
Susan Brous Silverman is a Wexner Heritage NY alumna. She is the Northeast Regional Director for Friends of Yemin Orde, a residential village for at-risk youth in Northern Israel. In her lay capacity, she oversees the Education Committee at Park Avenue Synagogue and is currently working on the Complementary Jewish Education Wexner Affinity Group. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past summer I was in Israel in my new position as Northeast Regional Director for Friends of Yemin Orde. The Yemin Orde Youth Village is the preeminent village serving at-risk children. It is located on a hilltop outside of Haifa and houses, educates and supports 500 children from over 20 countries. It’s sound educational philosophy includes teaching through the lenses of tikkun olam and tikkun halev – healing the world and healing the heart. The overlaying mission is to create a sense of safety and security to those most vulnerable members of the population. It is an amazing place, which truly exemplifies what Israel does best– supporting those who need support and helping them become thriving members of Israeli society.
As a result of the devastating Carmel fires last winter, the Village suffered but it did not let the destruction get in the way of the work it needed to do with the children. In fact, the sense of fragility, due to the destruction, only reinforced their mission that people make a home, not structures. The focus at Yemin Orde is on emotional stability and security and is as real and tangible as the physical reality of rebuilding.
Since Yemin Orde deals with the reality of children’s lives they also understand that the value of preparation for military service is a key component of an Israeli’s identify. I had a chance to travel up to Hatzor to see their Mechina. They run this program for recent immigrants and other teens in need of further preparation for the Army. The Mechina serves as direct training to allow everyone to begin military service on equal footing socially and culturally. It is another way they help those most vulnerable further acclimate to Israeli society.
As I traveled around Northern Israel I had encounters with Israelis of all types and twice being a “Wexner” became a way of introduction. I met two wonderfully successful Israelis – a banker and a former Lt. Colonel in the IDF who had ties to the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program. I realized that by speaking in Wexner shorthand we all understood a common language with an affinity for making connections and fostering change. We all agreed that communication and understanding of goals and understanding challenges were key for those of us who want to help. We each realized that we could identify with others who felt a similar sense of commitment.
Given the mission and philosophy of what Yemin Orde does, helping to support a vulnerable population, I see that in a sense they are a microcosm of what we all strive to be – part of a community, whether old guard or new, who yearn for connections and a sense of belonging. Being able to see these connections through the prism of tikkun olam and tikkun halev adds dimensions, which resonate deeply and profoundly. Meeting with my fellow Wexnerites showed me that connection and a sense of kinship are what we all want, and what we can offer.