I open this article with the declaration that if we, the Jewish nation, do not get our act together and unite to arm our young generation with Jewish values and culture the Jewish nation will cease to exist.
Only the other day in a CAMERA meeting with Dr. Qanta Ahmed, who is a devout Moslem and pro Israel, the following is what she told the audience, mainly Jewish: “In my work as a physician and a journalist I meet educated and proud Jews all the time and some have become my friends. For some reason they do not work to connect their children to the heart of the Jewish nation, Israel. I began my journey of my support for Israel with an 18 day tour all over the state.”
“My trip was not purchased by any organization; I went there as an individual with open mind and eyes. My impression is beyond all that I heard about this fantastic country. The same journey of connecting the Jewish people to their history in their ancient land, Jewish values and culture must be taken by every Jew, young and old. If not, the continuity and the future of the Jewish nation will end.” And that is coming from a non-Jew!
I begin this article from the fear that the Jewish nation is on the path of self extinction. The subject of Jewish continuity and the assimilation among Jews has been in the headlines in recent weeks. What is required is to change the subject, unite as a nation and turn this threatening tide around.
One entity that is already doing all this is AMIT, the Zionist-religious education network of 108 schools all over Israel, mainly in the periphery. http://wwww.amitchildren.org/
This week I met the AMIT delegation visiting Los Angeles, accompanied by Michal Taviv-Margolese, the devoted Western Region Director (http://wwww.amitchildren.org/LA), that is Dr. Amnon Eldar, AMIT Israel General Director and Israel’s Educator of the Year, Lior Omsy, Financial Deputy and Information Assistant, Alon Naftali, Deputy Director of Operations and Development, and Yaffa Rotman, a 16 year old 12th grader attending AMIT Kfar Blatt in Petach Tikvah and her mentor Maytall Hetzroni, Education Counselor in Kfar Blatt, a youth village for rehabilitation and treatment.
Why are you here? I asked.
“Once a year a delegation of AMIT comes to the United States to present and bring AMIT’s 108 schools network message,” Dr. Eldar explained.
“Our philosophy is to be inclusive. To offer education to population diversity from secular to orthodox, traditional and hareidi; to give children from every community Jewish identity and values and academics and receive support from the Jewish people in the USA and beyond.”
The actual key person of this delegation is the 16 years old Yaffa who is the outcome of AMIT’s education. Growing up in a Hareidi-most conservative stream of Orthodox Judaism, Yaffa lost her brother, killed in an accident when she was 8 years old. Few months later her maternal grandfather passed away, what affected her mother a great deal. At the same time Yaffa discovered the secular world. Lacking the attention she needed at home, while also losing the faith in God Who was not there to help her in her time of need, Yaffa started to spend more time in the streets. At the age of 13 social services got hold of Yaffa and she was put in an institution.
For her good behavior Yaffa got the chance to move on to a more productive environment where she could grow and develop. From the three options she was given she elected to attend Kfar Blatt of AMIT. Yaffa excelled and skipped grades. She is 16 years old and in final high school year. Her ability to excel is partially due to who she is and partially because of AMIT’s education method.
I asked Yaffa, who is bright and outspoken, what she would like to tell every American Jew. Her wish is that every Jew will receive Jewish education. She sees the nation of Israel a united nation where everyone is responsible for each other and that behavior we see along our Jewish history. “We are a caring nation so every Jew needs to be in touch with the state of Israel and support it with any and all means possible. Because without the state of Israel we are a lost nation,” she said.
From L top row- Michal Taviv-Margolese, Dr. Amnon Eldar, Debbie Isaac Friend of AMIT President, Yaffa Rothman, Maytall Hetzroni. 2nd row from L- Alon Naftali, Michael & Joy Volk hosts of one of AMIT events, Lior Omsy
Photo: Orly Halevy
AMIT’s goal is to enable Israel’s youth to realize their potential and strengthen Israeli society by educating and nurturing children from diverse backgrounds within a framework of academic excellence, Jewish values and Zionist ideals. Founded in 1925, AMIT operates schools, youth villages, surrogate family residences and other programs, constituting Israel’s only government-recognized network of Zionist-religious Jewish education incorporating academic and technological studies.
AMIT puts emphasis on matriculation, the key to a successful career and future and for that AMIT established Project 80, Improving Bagrut Scores. The average of youth passing matriculation exams in Israel in only 60%; in spite of the fact that most of the children attending the AMIT school system are from low socioeconomic families in the periphery, AMIT is proud of its 81% of students passing the matriculation exams.
The annual budget of AMIT runs at USD $100 million and they now need additional $10 million to expand.
AMIT Network’s main goal is to teach the future generations Jewish values and helping each child reach his/her fullest potential. Enabling graduates to become productive members of Israeli society with the skills necessary to build a successful future. So we are not talking only about schools and scholastics. We are talking about Jewish tradition of Am Yisrael, knowledge and pride. Learn to give back to the state and be responsible for the state’s healthy future.
Today the Hareidi and Arab-Israeli sectors do not serve in the military and they are the faster growing population sectors. The question is who will be there to defend the state of Israel to ensure its continuity if we do not make the needed changes? AMIT will, its graduates will.