*All names have been changed due to privacy.
Most people, at this stage in the Jewish calendar, are making lists. Lists for shopping, Seder activities for the kids, Chol Hamoad trips, menus, cleaning tasks for the home, guests to invite…lists and lists of what seem like normal “Erev Pesach” duties.
Then there are some families whose lists are so dramatically different. Their list, if they even have one, might say: fix a broken kitchen, replace oven, get money for basic food necessities, get windows repaired, borrow heater/fan, remove mold or have light installed. But these families don’t have the means to make these needed tasks happen. They are empty lists.
That is where Tenufa Bakehilla – Building Hope, steps in.
Tenufa Bakehilla is the only NGO that provides a large-scale, comprehensive response to housing poverty in Israel. Tens of thousands of Israeli families live in dilapidated and unsafe homes. Elderly without hot water, single parents with rotted kitchens, children with mold-ridden bedrooms and worse.
In 2022, Tenufa Bakehila catered to 600 families whose dreams for many years was to simply have a functioning kitchen, safe shower or sealed roof. The organization intends this year to reach 700 families. But just like Whitwell Middle School in Tennessee knew that to understand losing 6 million Jews in the Holocaust would take more than a textbook lesson, but would only be grasped with 6 million paper clips (150 miles!), one can’t truly understand what it means that 600 families do not cope or function on even the most basic level. It’s just a number until we delve into the stories.
So here is just one story.
Leah is 47 and has 6 children, all with complicated stories. She used to work as a nanny at a daycare center and did local housekeeping jobs in her community but since Corona, she has not worked at all and is so depressed that she can’t even take the necessary steps to enter the working world. Her husband, Shlomo, is 52 years old and has been receiving disability pension for 20 years due to back problems, herniated discs, knee pain and extreme anxiety. He has also spent years in and out of mental health programs and hospitals and currently receives out-patient treatment at a local center with the help of his psychiatrist.
Stage 1: Let’s fix the house
When Tenufa Bakehila’s work team leader, Shefi Orshravitz, entered the home to take notes on what would need to be done, his list was very long. The team fixed a lot of things in the house of this family, did many repairs and replaced many damaged parts of the home. They even cleared out a lot of garbage and cleaned out the home from excessive hoarding of unneeded objects. They catered to the neglect in the home, the decay and dilapidated conditions.This was all done by an incredible team of (in-house) repair men who go from house to house fixing, repairing, replacing, painting and organizing. But that is just the beginning of the work this organization does.
Stage 2: What else is needed?
The next level of work is where the organization’s in-house Social Worker, Irit Krakowski, enters the picture and looks at the family and what their psychological and essential needs are. In this case, she found out, with the help of the repair team and what they discovered after working in the house for a few days, that not only did the family not have an oven and a dryer but they also had no heaters or air conditioner. They were in need of a new dining room table, beds for the children, radiators and fans. These were all things that Irit was able to help the family with by collaborating with other organizations in Israel who help with these kinds of issues such as the Joseph Project, Ten Gav or even the local Welfare Department. Irit sees the despair, distress and what is lacking in the home to function properly and addresses the issues in whichever way she can.
Stage 3: Going above and beyond
But here is where the plot thickens.
Shefi and his team had already repaired, fixed and renovated the house. Irit had already attained beds and radiators and many other essential things needed in the home as well as spending hours talking to Leah and her husband. But this was not enough. For Irit, one of the most difficult parts of this story was David; their 20-year-old son.
She found out that as a small child, David’s teachers had discovered he had many academic difficulties and later, many behavior problems were revealed. He was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD and started taking medications. His behaviors worsened, and he was integrated into a special education framework until the age of 9. Over the years, things got worse and he became violent towards other children; a classmate’s parent even filed a complaint against him with the police and requested a restraining order for the safety of her son.
The Welfare Department and social workers tried to help him and find the best possible environment for his needs. He began studying at a special education school in a different city and soon after moved into a children’s home. Due to his extreme behavior, David was referred by the children’s home to a psychiatrist who started giving him sedatives. His parents objected to this and he returned home; sadly was home for a full year with no daily program. Later, he was integrated into a different special-ed school for boys who were “drop-outs” and had behavioral difficulties. Miraculously, he finished high school there. He shared with Irit that this framework was good for him and to this day he is in contact with the school staff.
After finishing high school, he got his driver’s license and someone managed to get a car from a loan he received from the Welfare Department. He is a good driver and this experience increased his self worth and self confidence. He was exempted from military service and at first expressed a partial desire to do national service but after debating it for a long time, he decided not to go that route.
Since finishing High School, he has worked in various odd jobs, such as renovations and cleaning. When Irit took interest in his story and wondered what would be next for David, he shared that he wanted to get a truck driver’s license and work for a truck company. He said that his brother in law ran a moving company and he really wanted to work for him. He expressed excitement in this wish and how he had hopes of making this his permanent job. Irit continued to speak with David and with his combined desire and motivation together with Irit’s guidance and help, he started getting the paperwork together that he needed to apply for a truck driver’s license.
Finally his dreams are coming true and David is now finding purpose in obtaining his C1 license and he is integrating into truck transport employment. This experience has tremendously helped his self-insurance and makes him feel more “normal” and part of regular society. The hope is that with a good stable job, he can now further his self confidence and work on accomplishing other goals and wishes he has for his future.
This is just one person. One story. One family. One home.
As we are running around worried about whether to purchase Herzog or Golan wines, whole wheat or spelt matza, or how many pairs of shoes each child should have for the holidays, take a minute and think about Leah, Shlomo, their 6 children and especially David.
“When I put my head down at night, I feel so grateful to my 24 repairmen who work tirelessly each day to transform the lives of hundreds of Israelis all over the country; but I also know there are 100’s more waiting for our arrival,” said Gabi Nachmani, Founder and CEO of Tenufa Bakehila, “and that makes me wake up the next morning with new energy!”
To donate to Tenufa Bakehila, please go to https://my.israelgives.org/en/fundme/Pesach_2023
Pictures from the last 3 months.