Federation and Donors Are Turning Lives Around for Youth-at-Risk in Israel

PART 1 IN A 2-PART SERIES -- Twenty troubled teens are among those who turned their lives around in 2018, with the help of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey and its supporters. From poverty-stricken homes, non-supportive family environments, and in danger of long-term drug addiction and criminal behavior, these young people wound up in the K-9 Professional Training Program at Zaka, Israel’s renowned search and rescue organization. The program trains troubled youth to train search and rescue dogs in its canine unit. 
To train the dogs, ZAKA teens must accept the discipline of routine. Caring for an animal, they learn to take better care of themselves. They learn about trust, how to work with a group, and what achievement feels like. They also learn skills that can lead to military and job opportunities.


“Zaka’s K-9 Professional Training Program empowered these youth-at-risk to build resilience and responsibility, care for themselves and others, and strengthen their foundation to lead successful lives,” said Dan Rozett, the Federation’s Manager of Community and Israel Engagement. “The Federation and its donors, in turn, empowered Zaka through a targeted overseas grant.”    
Zaka is one of 19 organizations in Israel that received a Federation targeted overseas grant in 2018. The grants are intended to fill gaps in caring for some of Israel’s most vulnerable citizens. 
Amit Shikum, Gesher El Hanoar (Bridge for Youth), and Crossroads also received Federation grants in 2018 to care for youth-at-risk. Their programs provide safe environments for teens and 20-somethings to get off the streets and get their lives back on track. Focusing on academics, life skills, and mental health, Amit Shikum, Gesher El Hanoar, and Crossroads – like Zaka – help young people in need build self-confidence, prepare for success in the IDF and careers, and become better citizens. 
Zaka, Amit Shikum, Gesher El Hanoar, and Crossroads helped nearly 1300 young people, combined, in 2018. 97 percent of Gesher’s clients completed the school year with significant improvements in their grades, self-confidence, and capabilities. 100 percent of their 12th graders are on track to graduate with a full matriculation diploma.
In contrast to the thousands of lives changed through these programs, in 2018 big success also came in smaller packages. 40 teens and young adults with and without disabilities participated in Shutaf’s inclusive Young Leadership Program. Pairing a group comprised 90 percent of people with special needs and 10 percent without special needs, the program provides intensive therapeutic, educational, and vocational support preparing all group members for successful adulthood in the mainstream of the community. The program for ages 13-23 builds social and personal development skills for living safely and independently, including personal care, job readiness and training, behavior management, and more. 
The 19 programs receiving targeted overseas grants from the Jewish Federation in 2018 also included: 
  • ATID - The Israel Down Syndrome Organizations 
  • Dror Israel 
  • ELI: Israel Association for Child Protection
  • Eretz-Ir (formerly Tor HaMidbar)
  • Ethiopian National Project 
  • JAFI – Tech in the City 
  • Kedma - for Social and Educational Equality
  • Keren Gimmel
  • Machshava Tova
  • Noar - Connecting Youth & Families
  • Reut Sderot Association
  • Tahel - Crisis Center for Religious Women
  • Warm Home for Every Soldier
Building on the impact the Federation and its supporters fostered in 2018, the overseas grant-making committee has recently completed assessments of funding proposals for 2019. 
“By focusing grants on the programs that effect the most people, we look forward to increasing our impact on the lives of Israel’s most vulnerable citizens in 2019,” Rozett said.   
He sited Zaka as an example: 
  • While 20 teens were helped by the Federation grant to Zaka in 2018, the 2019 grant will enable another 20 to come off Zaka’s waiting list and participate in its course.    
  • As many as ten graduates of the [name of] course will enter an advanced program where they, themselves, train incoming kids to train the dogs. 
  • Zaka will open a second location, supporting disadvantaged youth from another under-served community  
Several Monmouth and Greater Middlesex county residents will visit Zaka during the upcoming Four Corners of Israel community journey, Oct. 14-22. They are among the more than 250 participants on the trip who will see, first-hand, many of the Israel-based programs and partners through which our local community connects with and cares for members of the extended Jewish family. 
Watch for part 2 in this series, announcing recipients of Federation targeted overseas grants for 2019 and the impact goals behind the grants. For details about the Federation’s work caring for, connecting with, and committing to our extended family in Israel, READ MORE.    



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