Dozens of Yad L'Achim "big sisters" attended a full-day seminar recently to acquire professional tools to help them mentor Jewish children rescued from Arab villages.
The seminar, held in Lod and attended by young women from all across Israel, was opened by Mrs. Zahava Drori, the head Yad L'Achim's counter-assimilation department. She spoke of the importance of their role and the opportunity it gave them to influence the lives of the children in their care, both spiritually and materially.
She expressed Yad L'Achim's gratitude to the dedicated mentors, who go beyond the call of duty, inviting the mentees to their homes for Shabbos and other special events. The mothers who were rescued from Arab villages attest that the big sisters are "pillars of support" in their homes, offering them guidance in how to spend more quality time with their children and in coping with the educational challenges their children face.
The big sisters were excited to hear from Mrs. Drori that Yad L'Achim is expanding its mentoring program and that dozens more children will be receiving big sisters and big brothers.
Mrs. Ora Pollack, from the Creativity Center, delivered a workshop on emotional-creative projects and gave the mentors suggestions for how to run activities that will enable the children to express their emotions.
After a short recess and a light refreshments, the mentors heard a fascinating talk from Rabbi Eitan Shinrav, a Talmud Torah principal who runs after-school activities for children from disadvantaged homes. He spoke on how to present Judaism and love of G-d to children in a joyous, experiential way.
This was followed by a panel discussion that included a number of veteran mentors who shared their experiences and insights with the newer big sisters. They shared how the mentoring work had contributed to their own personal growth.
The mentoring program at Yad L'Achim was launched four years ago when it became clear that many of the children of survivors of Arab villages were desperate for a father figure, a loving big brother or sister, a good word. The children were delighted with the one-on-one time they had with their mentors, and their mothers even more so. You could see how it impacted on them socially, spiritually and emotionally.
From year to year the project has grown and become more professional. Enrichment programs teach the mentors how to build the children Jewishly and emotionally.
A sign of the program's success is that one of the young girls who was rescued from an Arab village with her mother, and received a big sister, is now joining the mentoring staff so that she can help rehabilitate girls who share her life experiences.