The Faces Behind Yad Eliezer
Big Brothers & Sisters staff are always there for their kids at risk
0 Comments | Monday, June 21, 2021
, Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program
Remember when, once upon a time, nobody knew what “Covid 19” was?
Well, now that we do (though we wish we didn’t) it's so nice that we are hopefully nearing its end here in Israel. What a crazy year + it was!
In addition to all the frightening health challenges caused by the pandemic, and of course the financial problems brought on in households thanks to parental job losses, school-age kids of 2020 are facing unique challenges no one could have predicted. Big gaps in education and social challenges have created issues that will need special attention for some time to come.
Struggles for kids at risk
For kids at risk, this last year was especially difficult. The lack of stability due to school closures worsened problems for children who already live in dire need of structure and positive influences. But luckily, children enrolled in Yad Eliezer's Big Brothers and Sisters programs till received critical emotional & educational support from dedicated mentors. Even when face to face meetings were not possible, our mentors stayed in touch with their kids over the phone, checking in and providing support for boys and girls who really need a helping hand, an encouraging friend and a shoulder to lean on.
Sara Zachbach has been working at Yad Eliezer for more than twenty years, and over the last five, as a coordinator in our Big Brothers/Sisters Program. Here she gives some first hand insight into this invaluable project.
When you began working at Yad Eliezer what was your position?
As a mother of young children I started working with Yad Eliezer as a volunteer. I was involved in distributing food baskets and baby formula in my neighborhood. After a few years, when Mrs. Hadassah Weizel decided to set up the wedding program for the needy, I helped her organize those weddings. I worked in that capacity for 15 years. There were times when we made 4-5 weddings a day!
What is your current position?
A few years ago I moved to the Big Brothers/Sisters program and I help coordinate scheduling between mentors and kids. I also follow up with parents to find out how everything is going, and if there are any needs or questions they have.
What is something you love about your job?
It is incredibly moving when I see mentors who really dedicate themselves to their kids. They worry about them, look out for them and take care of their needs on many levels. It’s as though these kids are their own. There are kids in this program who come from difficult backgrounds and due to their time with us and the work of our mentors, they get accepted into good yeshivos. That is a real accomplishment.
You've worked with numerous parents and mentors throughout the years, likely you’ve heard many stories about families and challenges they face.
There are so many touching stories we hear every day and it is hard to pick just one. I always love to see situations where kids have been enrolled in the program and receive life changing help. Just a few years later, I learn that they’ve gotten married, started raising families and are now mentors themselves! This happens often. They were so impacted by their experience, that they understand the importance of the program and want to give the same help they received, to kids in need.They really understand what it’s like to grow up with difficulty and they empathize.
Speaking of challenges, this year was full of them. What has stood out to you about the Big Brothers/Program in relation to the pandemic?
The devotion of the mentors! When they couldn't meet in person, not only did they stay in touch with their kids by phone. They went out of their way to help however and whenever possible. There are so many incredible examples but one that stands out especially is the time one of our mentors arranged, from a distance, a small home bar mitzvah for his little brother, whose mother, as a transplant recipient, is at high risk. This boy wouldn't leave the house due to worry about exposing his mother. The boy's mentor arranged all the details for a "careful" bar mitzvah, while respecting the health guidelines. It was creative and smart thinking, and really shows the care these mentors have for their kids.
What have you learned from your time at Yad Eliezer?
I’ve learned “l’hodot u’l’hallel”, and to appreciate the ability to help, and to be on the giving end.
What should people know about this organization?
Simply that Yad Eliezer really helps people in so many ways, through so many programs-not only food help and mentoring (which are both incredible), but also with weddings, bar mitzvahs, emergencies, job training...it goes on and on. There is great Siyata D’Shmaya here because the work that is done, is done l’shem shamayim.
As of now the school year is nearing its end but it’s not uncommon for Yad Eliezer’s mentors to continue providing their care and support over the summer for children who need these so badly. The “chonchim” truly care, and truly make a difference for their children who look up to them as parental figures, bringing stability and invaluable emotional support to their lives. You can make a difference too, taking part in this vital experience, by donating here.