Hadassah’s two world-class hospitals in Jerusalem are known for their medical breakthroughs. But Hadassah’s efforts in Israel go beyond the important work of its doctors and nurses.
What not everyone knows is that Hadassah also supports youth at risk through its Israeli youth villages, Meir Shfeyah, near Haifa, and Hadassah Neurim, near Netanya. These communities give adolescents and teens a safe place to grow up, a good education and options for a bright future. For these kids, Meir Shfeyah and Hadassah Neurim are their chance at a quality life. These villages are emblems of hope.
I had the pleasure to visit Meir Shfeyah almost a year ago as part of a Hadassah program in which I’m involved, the Hadassah Evolve Leadership Fellows. I didn’t know what would greet me when I walked off the charter bus. I hopped off the last step and looked around, adjusting the nametag around my neck in the hope that the some of the students might be able to read English. The faces I greeted that day were all smiles. I soon saw why.
During my group’s tour of the village, I got to see all sorts of cool amenities that Meir Shfeyah offers. There is a model of a traditional Ethiopian village built to honor the culture from which many of the students come. (It also serves as a wonderful educational opportunity for students of other backgrounds.) There is also a vineyard, and high school sophomores have the option to learn the art of winemaking for class credit.
Personally, my favorite thing at Meir Shfeyah is the horse therapy! On the edge of the campus is a stable with horses who have one mission: to provide the students, many of whom come from challenging situations in their homes or countries, with support and healing. (Perhaps the world would be less broken if we all had access to horse therapy.)
My burning questions before visiting Meir Shfeyah were, “Who are the students?” and “What are their stories?” Regretfully, I didn’t get the time to learn all their stories. But some of my questions were answered. I learned that the students come from many different areas of the world—Ethiopia, as I mentioned above, and from Ukraine, Russia and other Eastern European countries. A good number are native Israelis who live at home but attend school in the village.
When my group of Evolve Leadership Fellows arrived, we were ushered into an assembly hall, where the students awaited us. Each group of students had prepared a musical performance. I settled into my seat near my dear friend and “surrogate sister,” Sandye Ferdman. The two of us sat in the row directly behind the students.
One girl turned around and studied the ribbons on Sandye’s nametag. What struck her were the colors of these ribbons –blue on top of yellow. The girl asked, “Is that for Ukraine?” “No,” Sandye responded honestly. The girl hung her head a little and said, “Oh, I am from Ukraine.” Sandye quickly and comedically recovered with, “Well they can be for Ukraine now!”
Many of the teens at Meir Shfeyah have fled war in their home countries. I remember my biggest worry when I was 15 years old was that my grades were not good enough to join the honors’ society, whereas some of these kids have seen more war in their homelands as teenagers than I will probably ever see in my lifetime.
Hadassah has been caring for children at Meir Shfeyah since 1923. Today, Meir Shfeyah has 340 students who live in the village and 340 students who commute daily. The schooling is so excellent that Israeli families in the area prefer to send their kids to the Meir Shfeyah school.
In 1948, Hadassah opened another youth village, Hadassah Neurim. Some of its students come from complicated backgrounds and were referred by social workers. Other kids come from abroad, from places where it isn’t safe to be a Jew, sent by parents who realize their children don’t have good options in their native countries for a successful future.
Hadassah’s youth villages are the reason I decided to become an annual donor to Hadassah. My yearly donation goes directly to helping these students (and providing horse therapy!). My donation supports these kids’ dreams. Together, Hadassah’s supporters keep hope alive for these teens who otherwise wouldn’t have any other option.
Learn how you can support Hadassah’s youth villages – Email firstname.lastname@example.org.