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Tracey Shipley
Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist

Keeping Olim in Israel “That night they saved my life…”

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Keeping Olim in Israel

Despite the mental and emotional challenges

“That night they saved my life…”

Recently I was introduced to an important organization. One that has been around for too many years for me not to be familiar with.  The name is “KeepOlim”.

As is explained on their website https://www.keepolim.org/index.php/en/  KeepOlim was founded in order to “empower, inspire, and support all Olim (new immigrants and returning citizens of Israel) from all over the world”.  Since its registration as an official non-profit in Israel and recognition by the Ministry of Health, KeepOlim has offered post-Aliyah programs and services for hundreds if not thousands of Olim in need.  One of the only official organizations that focuses on assisting Olim in crisis and at a cost that is tailored to the financial capabilities of each Oleh including no cost to Lone Soldiers. KeepOlim has given countless Olim the support and sense of community in addition to advocacy that they need to successfully integrate into Israeli society following their Aliyah.

Parents from abroad concerned about their sons and daughters often reach out to KeepOlim asking them to contact their kids to offer them Mental Health support.  As I have written in my past articles, it’s no secret that institutions in Israel often keep the state of their overseas young participants quiet not wanting the parents to pull their kids out of the program and hence lose the income provided or to establish a negative reputation.  A sad fact but true. Knowing that KeepOlim will reach out to these kids is a great relief to parents abroad.

The founder of KeepOlim, an incredibly caring and driven man Li Ami Lawrence, made Aliyah from the US and experienced first-hand the challenges Olim face.  With this in mind he decided to create an organization to help Olim, together with Co-Founder Tvika Graiver, in every way possible. Often Olim find themselves giving up and going back to their countries of origin, some even being admitted to mental health facilities and some actually resorting to suicide. A devastating fact is that one third of the suicides in Israel are committed by Olim, including many who are Lone Soldiers.

Susan Cohen co-directs the Tikva for olim program along with Dr. Robert Lubin.  Tikva provides the mental health services of KeepOlim. Tikva has over 50 experienced, qualified therapists. As Susan explained “We have been operating for over six years and have almost 45,000 members”

“We assist Olim not only through therapy but with other essentials such as food through our KeepOlim Feeds Olim Program. In 2021alone we have raised and gave out over 100,000 shekels in food vouchers. Within the Corona guidelines we have been able to organize and run social events, having had a great deal of success with two Chanukah parties in conjunction with the Tel Aviv International Synagogue.”

Services are offered in an astonishing 15 languages by counselors who are themselves Olim and thoroughly understand the plight of Olim first hand.  A new suicide crisis hot line is in the planning, funding permitting.

“Sessions are designed to help Olim overcome their own personal issues as well as empower them in their new homeland.” Susan explains.  KeepOlim provides all Lone Soldiers before, during and after their service, with Mental Health counselling in their native language.  They also receive vouchers for food and other necessities.”

“During the height of the pandemic,” as Susan shared, “ KeepOlim welcomed over 110 freshly arrived Olim from the USA who were sent to a mandatory quarantine, by bringing them gourmet baskets of fresh fruit for Shabbat with the help of the IDF Pikud HaOref (Home Front Command). KeepOlim welcomed our Olim to their new home, Israel, and eased their discomfort upon arrival.”

With the knowledge that it is hard enough being a new immigrant to Israel particularly for many Olim with no family in Israel, the holidays can be a time of extra stress and loneliness with nowhere to celebrate. That is why KeepOlim had created “No Oleh Alone For The Holidays” for Rosh Hashanah and Pesach, where Olim are personally placed with warm embracing Israeli host families.

“From Ultra-Orthodox Chasidim to totally secular, vegetarian celebrations, we have placed over 1500 Olim in this program – many of whom have developed lasting friendships. About 40% of the participants are Russian/Ukrainian Olim, and for about 30% of them, this was their first time celebrating any Jewish holiday” shares Susan.

KeepOlim also provides a free legal contract review for all Olim in their first year, as well as resume reviews.

We also help and support with bureaucracy issues and red tape. KeepOlim has had much success in this area, solving many problems for Olim.”

“We make the impossible seem possible at KeepOlim. Our call rate is increasing daily, and the number of people using are services is rising rapidly. Our Olim deserve the very best opportunities,enabling them to stay in Israel and be a productive part of this beautiful country.”  Susan herself an oleh of only 2.5 years and says her life changed through KeepOLim.

From one of Susan’s clients: ““One very late night I realized that I would be on the streets the very next day. Panic and loneliness struck me badly and I’ve had the worse thoughts one can have. While shaking and crying I desperately went to Messenger and reach out to someone I didn’t know at all. Within minutes I had 4 people with me online. One of them was this US guy (Liami) who actually calmed me down, made me laugh. They all made me feel safe. Next thing, I had Susan (Co-Director of KeepOlim Mental Health Division) on the line, she gave me all the psychological support I needed. That night they saved my life. The next day they found me a home. And forever they will be in my heart. Today I am back on my feet, have an amazing job and live in an amazing flat. I am healthy, happy and the future is better every day. This was just 6 weeks ago. Yalla, keep donating… and above all, trust me, G’d is with KeepOlim and with you.”  Anonymous

Another service deals with challenges Olim have after arriving in Israel, where many Olim need help in finding their career path and a new direction in life as well as overcoming their obstacles. To that end they created KeepOlim University. Their courses are designed to inspire, motivate and empower Olim and to give them the tools they need to succeed in all facets of their lives.

To contact info@keepolim.org

It’s hard to believe but there are even more greatly needed services provided in KeepOlim.  To see more please view their wonderful website:  https://www.keepolim.org/index.php/en/

They are constantly in need of volunteers and donations. Should you want to get involved or to ask for assistance follow the following link:  https://www.keepolim.org/index.php/en/contact.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Center, for Ethiopian Teens and a Sober Music Bar for teens and young adults: Sobar Jerusalem.
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