A few months ago I began working as the English Volunteer Coordinator for Emunah Jerusalem. I’ll admit that at the time I knew very little about Emunah. As time went on I began to learn about all of the important work Emunah has done and continues to do since its establishment over 80 years ago. I discovered the history of Emunah and all of the rights and services we have as women in Israel today due to the trailblazing women of Emunah who fought for such privileges we take for granted today. Among these privileges are the first Day Care centers opened in the 1940’s so that women can go out to work, the right to vote, the right to speak at public religious forums and more! Their efforts are aimed at strengthening the Jewish family, advancing the status of women and encouraging volunteerism and Chesed (kindness). These amazing women, many who survived the Holocaust and took part in the resistance arrived on their own, formed the labor and Torah movements, established the first Kosher Kitchens in Israel and even became members of the Knesset.
Emunah was originally founded by religious pioneer women to open homes for refugee children arriving to Israel from Europe after the Holocaust. Later the homes began accepting children from all backgrounds depending on the latest wave of immigration such as Russian, Ethiopian and now Ukrainian children who were referred by the Ministry of Welfare.
As each wave of Aliyah came, Emunah Jerusalem and its wonderful volunteers opened different projects. Myrna Cohen has been a volunteer for decades and formerly served as director of Emunah Jerusalem. She shared about the historical efforts Emunah Jerusalem has made in Israel. “For the first wave of immigrants from North Africa we opened Ulpanim for illiterate women as to be in contact with their sons in the Army. Parenting courses in and around Jerusalem were opened to support mothers who had formerly had a family support system back home and now found themselves on their own.”
“With the arrival of the Russian immigrants, most of whom were not able to be circumcised in Russia, we organized circumcisions for men and boys and our women volunteers ran the surrounding celebratory event. We also provided tfillin and talitot to the Bar Mitzvah boys, prayer books in Russian and new kitchenware to families before Passover. With the influx of Persian Immigrants who were religious we also provided new kitchenware for Passover in addition to Hot Plates and kiddish cups for Shabbat and holidays. The Ethiopian immigrants were first settled in hotels in Jerusalem and our Emunah volunteers celebrated Kabbalat Shabbat with them and sent them clothing as well as packages for Purim and Passover. When these immigrants were moved to the Absorption Center in Mivasseret the Day Care center there catered exclusively to Ethiopian children. I looked everywhere to find black dolls for the children who felt uncomfortable with white dolls.”
Children at one of Emunah’s Day Care Center painted a Ukranian Flag in support of the immigrants from the Ukraine (Photo from World Emunah website)
With my background with the Ethiopian Israeli community I was moved to learn the role Emunah has taken and continues to take in support of these Olim who have struggled so much during their arduous journey to reach the Holy Land and since their arrival in Israel. Sadly, in spite of our experiences with prejudice as Jews we ourselves became in many cases the perpetrators of racial discrimination toward our fellow Jews old and young. Emunah has worked with many Ethiopian Israeli children and teens helping to strengthen their self-esteem through its many day care centers, schools and other programs.
Emunah’s Applebaum College for Arts and Technology originally was opened in order to train day care workers to work in the Day Care centers that were opened by Emunah throughout the country. They now operate 125 daycare centers in Jerusalem and throughout Israel. The present focus of the college is on studies in Fine Arts, Drama and Music providing a BA in teaching. The college also supports teens who have not completed their HS diploma through its preparatory program and trains its students to become teachers in the fields of Arts and Technology while strengthening these young woman in their religious life.
In addition, Emunah Jerusalem provides tutoring services to help new immigrants and has successfully procured subsidies from the government for many of these children. What’s more, Emunah Jerusalem raises funds for families in financial distress. Emunah also operates 10 counseling and crisis centers throughout Israel including one in Sderot dealing with the trauma of frequent rocket attacks. For families in domestic distress, Emunah has four children’s centers around the country that provide a safe haven for children at risk. They also have a fifth center in the South for boys with emotional problems.
Emunah has implemented a program to provide schoolchildren with a healthier diet encouraging parents to follow this program at home as well. Emunah operates four High Schools providing opportunities for teens to reach their highest potential in addition to receiving a strong Jewish foundation. In addition Midreshet Emunah gives courses to train women to counsel brides and Emunah instructors teach Tzohar rabbis how to counsel young men and prepare them for marriage. Starting them off on the right foot, Emunah Jerusalem raises funds to provide young couples with the wherewithal to have a festive wedding and buy the household furnishings they need. In addition Emunah has begun a program to train female Mikveh workers in how to identify signs of domestic abuse and what to do once they see these signs. Emunah also recently opened a shelter for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence.
(Photo from World Emunah website) In order to fund these programs volunteers organize creative fundraising programming both cultural and academic. A recent popular program still available on zoom shares tools to help women achieve financial independence. The women who took the course were thrilled and shared that it enlightened them as to how to deal with their finances in Israel.
We are always in need of new volunteers to assist in many areas such as helping Emunah schoolgirls with their homework; tutoring students in English; folding laundry in a group home; creating new exciting ideas for fund-raising events; providing home hospitality on Shabbat to girls in our American study program and more.
Our next exciting event is The Third Annual Jerusalem Community Woodstock Festival taking place on Thursday June 23rd at the Silo Café in Baka featuring music from the 60’s with fantastic live cover bands. Featured bands: The Elite Band with a Woodstock Era Medley, Yaffo 97 with a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Dorban Hills with a tribute to the Grateful Dead Band! The event will begin promptly at 7:30 and parking is not easy so come early. This year a portion of the proceeds will go to help fund Emunah Jerusalem and their important programs. These outdoor events attract music lovers young and old from all over Israel. With a festive atmosphere, great vegetarian food and drinks the festivals are exciting, dynamic and so very memorable. So much so that I produce four or five each summer at the Silo. For advanced tickets and more information contact me at 0548108918 firstname.lastname@example.org. The event is child friendly so come with the whole family!!
Jerusalem Community Woodstock 2021 at the Silo (Photo by Tracey Shipley)
The amazing women I have met since working at Emunah have been involved as volunteers for years and even decades. It is our hope that we can open up new volunteer groups for young activists with passion for the women and children that Emunah supports and help us to create exciting programming that will draw in more volunteers to help support the work we do.
For more information about the Woodstock Festival and/or to get involved with Emunah Jerusalem please contact me at 02-563-9963 ext 4 or by email at email@example.com To read more about Emunah: https://www.worldemunah.org/