Bnei Akiva teenage volunteers visit Afula

Twenty-two members of Bnei Akiva youth movement spent two weeks in Afula, northern Israel, volunteering at Emunah’s Sarah Herzog Children’s Centre, a home for disadvantaged children. Their visit heralds the third year that Bnei Akiva, the UK’s largest Jewish youth movement, has run its Kaytana scheme at the Emunah children’s home, showing first-time Madrichim (leaders) another side to life in Israel.

The participants, who are aged 16 or 17, were chosen from over 100 applicants from around the country and those taking part come from Hendon, Finchley, Edgware, Stanmore and Borehamwood, as well as from Manchester and Leeds. Living on campus at Emunah’s Sarah Herzog Children’s Centre,  they befriended the young people and helped staff with activities and outings.

At a briefing before they left the UK the group of volunteers were addressed by British Emunah representative Mindy Wiesenberg.  She said: “Bnei Akiva is a wonderful organisation and I am proud of you for giving up two weeks of your time to help children who come from very different backgrounds to your own.  These children cannot live in their own homes because the situation is too difficult:  either they are dysfunctional or they have been emotionally or physically abused. Some have parents who are addicted to drugs or are in prison, while others have no parents at all.

“We also look after those with special needs, and have activities and therapies that enable all of the children to enjoy as normal a life as possible.  There is basketball and sport; an art room, music therapy and a petting zoo, and we take them swimming. Over 100 children live at the home and a further 100 attend daily programmes.

Mrs Wiesenberg  went onto explain that Emunah is one of the largest social welfare organisations in Israel and that the charity British Emunah helps to fund 36 of the 200 projects and services. She added: “You will be guided by the staff and the councillors as how to interact with the children; language is not a barrier – and they will all benefit from friendship and a smile.  We quite literally transform lives and you will be helping to make a difference.”

Co-leaders of Bnei Akiva Kaytana scheme were Rachel Gaon, 21, and Aaron Wunsh, 20, who  were helped by Hannah Myerson, 19.  The project represents many months of planning by the three, who are volunteers.  They have been liaising with Shlomo Kessel, director of the Emunah centre in Afula.

Rachel Gaon said: “My role is to make sure that Kaytana is a structured volunteer programme that will benefit participants and create confidence and boost self esteem.  It is very different to camp because the emphasis is on learning how to interact with a group of children who may not be initially receptive and being able to take cues from staff and Sherut Leumi (national service) volunteers. Our goal is to create the next generation of leaders who will take responsibility for the community while observing traditional orthodox Jewish values.

“Teaming up with Emunah is a win, win situation. Kaytana is an opportunity for Bnei Akiva Madrichim from all over the country to come together to gain valuable experience and training while helping to care for some of Israel’s most vulnerable children.”

A short film made by Hannah Myerson showing just what Kaytana was like is available to view by clicking here.

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Coby’s Star Turn raises over £2,600 for British Emunah

Bar Mitzvah celebrant Coby Brown raised over £2,600 for Emunah on an 8-mile sponsored walk of 38 London theatres and was accompanied by his father, Jamie. The Highgate School student twinned his simcha with a boy from Emunah’s Afula home and the boys met during a family trip prior to Coby’s Bar Mitzvah at Stanmore Synagogue, last week.  An Emunah support worker accompanied ‘Eliav’ to join them at the Kotel.

“I wanted to help a 13-year-old boy who has not grown up in the same loving and supportive environment as me,” explained Coby.

Reflecting on his son’s success, Jamie Brown said: “I am so proud of Coby for twinning his bar mitzvah with Emunah and for combining his fundraising with his love of theatre.”

British Emunah director Deborah Nathan praised their efforts: “In Israel Emunah cares for 12,000 vulnerable and ‘at risk’ children who rely on our help. We wish mazal tov to Coby and his family and thank them for this innovative way to fundraise to help less fortunate children to be able to enjoy their own Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrations.”

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Emunah teens enjoy the London experience – and their hosts loved it too!

It was all systems go when 16 Israeli teenagers from Emunah’s Afula residential children’s home arrived in London – ready to meet the British Emunah volunteers who would be their host families for their week’s stay.

Volunteer Sharon Dewinter explains: “Everything was well planned – and we were excited as we held out placards, waiting for the children. They were a bit reserved, if not overwhelmed at first. We went from being total strangers when they first came to close friends who hugged us as they left.”

Calling themselves The Ladies Who Care, Marlene Binder, Camille Compton, Sharon Dewinter,

Sara Greenfield, Darcie Richman, Laura Sint, Rochelle Spector and Lyetta Witzenfeld, helped to raise funds for the trip.  Along the way, they recruited more volunteers to host children and Israel Emunah staff and to help and host activities.

The fun included visits to London sights, a West End show, a Southend trip, and at Top Golf they were reunited with Bnei Akiva participants who visited Afula last summer. They enjoyed rock climbing, Mega Jump, sledging in a snow dome; shopping and relaxing!

On the last night, they received personalised gift boxes from Borehamwood Shul’s Mitzvah Day.

Mrs Dewinter adds: “It is important for the teenagers to know that people care about them and the confidence they have gained from coming to London will impact their future lives. And my children loved it too.”

The initiative was “an inspiration” said Tim Cowland, who together with wife Lucy hosted two boys.  “Our friends Matthew and Natalie Jackson are involved with Emunah and introduced us to the charity,” said Mrs Cowland. “It’s been amazing for the Afula kids and a good learning curve for our own children:  you have to be patient and more giving – and they all got on really nicely.”

Logistics were organised by volunteer Laura Sint, who said: “It was a pleasure to see the children smile and enjoy themselves. The families got a lot out of the week and became very attached to the children.”

Charity director Deborah Nathan said: “British Emunah supports 38 projects for disadvantaged children in Israel and not only do our volunteers raise funds, they have opened their hearts and homes to welcome orphans and children from difficult backgrounds.”

In a thank you video, one participant said: “It was really fun – I enjoyed myself very much. Thank you for bringing me into your home – I have never been made so welcome.”

Article by Sue Rifkin

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Emunah Retail Therapy Walk 2017

Do you need some cheering up from the cold winter days?

Come and join us on Wednesday 22nd February 2017 for an indoor retail therapy walk that combines exercise and shopping. Goody bags and discount vouchers for all participants.  Kosher lunch provided. Men and women (and babies in buggies) all welcome.  Coaches from various locations subject to demand.

What’s not to like?

The money raised will help Emunah in Israel to provide the vital therapies that enable ‘at risk’ children in our residential homes to heal and thrive.  Each child receives an individual programme of therapeutic support and the cost of this is not met by the basic funding provided by the Israeli government.  Your support will ensure these children receive the help they desperately need. Please join the walk or sponsor someone who is! You can make a donation by clicking here.

To register, email – there’s an early bird discount if you register before the day!

Call 020 8203 6066 if you want more information.

Look forward to seeing you on the 22nd February!

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Please help Levi and children like him this Rosh Hashanah – by supporting our Appeal

Donate to our 2016 Rosh Hashanah Appeal by clicking here.

Levi, a well-liked and hard-working 14-year-old, has lived at Emunah’s Children’s Centre in Afula for the last three years.

At the age of 11, Levi was rescued from his abusive, drug-addicted father by the local authorities. His mother had died around two years earlier and his father turned to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism. Levi and his two brothers were left to largely fend for themselves.

The brothers frequently had to find their own food – usually boxes of cereal or other people’s leftovers from bins. The boys rarely attended school and had a reading ability far below most children of their age.

Sometimes their father would lock the boys in a cupboard or force them to stay in bed for entire days without any reason. One night, Levi was made to sleep in the bathtub for making too much noise.

Levi and his siblings were eventually found malnourished and severely neglected following reports from concerned neighbours.

They were brought to our centre dressed in their dirty clothes, each carrying one small plastic bag with a few broken toys inside.

Levi was angry and aggressive when he arrived, a frightened child in crisis who had a complete distrust of adults. His brothers spoke very little but displayed anti-social behaviour towards their peers and care workers.

All the children were fully evaluated to assess their individual needs. One was diagnosed as suffering from ADD while another of the boys was provided with a pair of glasses, previously unaware that he needed them to see properly. The children immediately began an intensive therapeutic rehabilitation programme to help them heal emotionally and to start rebuilding their lives. For the first time in many years the boys were safe and well cared for.

The Emunah Sarah Herzog Centre in Afula is a residential home and afterschool day care facility providing therapeutic support services to up to 160 children aged between five to 18, who have been orphaned or come from dysfunctional families where they have experienced neglect, abuse or emotional and physical trauma. For the last three years, Levi and his brothers have been receiving intensive academic tutoring and psychological counselling. The boys are now looking forward to joining a local school from this September, having been supported to catch up with their peers.

Emunah in Israel cares for 12,000 children and British Emunah supports 37 projects.  We help disadvantaged and ‘at risk’ children through our network of high schools, family support, day care centres, and trauma and therapy counselling services.

As many families go ‘back to school’ and as we prepare for the coming Jewish New Year, please consider helping children like Levi and his brothers – these children are relying on your help to heal, thrive, succeed and reach their full potential.

Your donation will help to transform a child’s life:

Click here to donate online.

• Call us on 020 8203 6066 (office hours)

• Or post the enclosed donation to: Emunah, Shield House, Harmony Way, London NW4 2BZ

Thank you for supporting us this Rosh Hashanah and throughout the year.

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British Emunah’s Gala Dinner with Home Secretary Amber Rudd

Home Secretary Amber Rudd helped British Emunah to raise £400,000 when she spoke at the charity’s gala dinner on Monday night 12 September.  This was the first time that the Rt Hon. Ms Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, addressed the UK’s Jewish community and she made her speech to a 350-strong audience at London’s Guildhall.

Amber Rudd said: “I think it is entirely appropriate that the theme for this year’s gala dinner is ‘Believing in Israel’s Children.’ Emunah’s work helps so many children with an extraordinary record of supporting disadvantaged and ‘at risk’ children through your centres and services in Israel.  This work is currently improving the lives of more than 12,000 children across the Jewish state. The positive impact you are making on these children’s lives is something you should be very proud of.”

Earlier, Ms Rudd said her Hebrew was “a little rusty” but knew that Emunah means faith or belief.  There was praise for British Emunah chairman Hilary Pearlman and her team who “exemplify the values and the very essence of the Jewish community in terms of commitment, philanthropy, and making sure that no child is left behind.”

Ms Rudd went onto speak about Brexit and anti-Semitism, receiving a standing ovation at the end of her speech.

Co-chaired by Emunah trustee Michelle Hirschfield and Esther Lee, the dinner included a video tribute from Israel’s President Rivlin and a congratulatory message from British PM Theresa May. Speakers included actress Maureen Lipman and news presenter Samantha Simmonds. Two young women from north-west London, Lauren Keiles and Adina Sheldon spoke at the dinner – both spent their gap years as volunteers, helping with the children that Emunah cares for.

Short films showed the impact of Emunah’s work at Neve Landy Youth Village and the Sarah Herzog Children’s Centre, Afula.  These included ‘David’ who came to Emunah after his father killed his mother before later committing suicide while in prison.  “Why did he do it? I didn’t understand why,” he said of the tragedy. “On that night I got a last hug from my mother as she was dying, truthfully I wanted to get a thousand more.”

David wants to help others, “just as I have been helped” but in order to protect him the film cannot be shown outside of a closed event or on social media.

Hearts went out to Sara Kulp, 21, who made the appeal.  “I grew up in the Emunah Afula children’s home, where I lived with my six siblings. We came there after my mother became ill and couldn’t look after us. As the eldest child, I took on a lot of responsibility… but it was an impossible burden for me.”

Miss Kulp is now living and working independently.

The audience heard how their mother died when Sara was aged 15.  Her youngest sister couldn’t talk and was helped by a speech therapist, while another brother learned how to express himself through therapy sessions with animals at the home’s petting zoo.

“Thank you for believing in Israel’s children, I am here today because Emunah believed in me. Please give whatever you can tonight to help children like ‘David’ and my brothers and sisters who still rely on Emunah so much.”

Entertainment came from the Emunah Supergroup – comprising participants of Emunah Young Singer contests and the singing group The Four Sons, who raise funds for charity.

British Emunah chairman Hilary Pearlman said: “Amber Rudd was generous with her time and her support of British Emunah and our UK’s Jewish community is very much appreciated. It was a fantastic evening and we hope that it has shown the community the importance of our work as there are so many children who are reliant on our help.”

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Walk the Great Wall of China with Emunah in May 2017!

Join us from the 4th to the 12th May 2017 to ‘Walk the Great Wall of China’, raising funds to help disadvantaged children at Emunah’s centres in Israel.

All kosher food, accommodation and transport provided. The trip is for men and women.  We will be walking for up 7 hours a day so a good level of fitness and preparation is necessary to take part.

Contact Alison Cohen for full details on 020 8203 6066 or email

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Come and see the Emunah centres in Israel – Sunday 30th and Monday 31st October 2016

Join us for a two day ‘Mini Mission’ to see British Emunah’s incredible projects across Israel.  See for yourself how Emunah is transforming the lives of disadvantaged and ‘at risk’ children.  Meet the staff whose dedication and expertise makes the difference.  Enjoy activities and great food and see ‘a different side of Israel’.  Accomodation is available at a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv or join us from your own base in Israel. Join us for one day or two.  We’d love you to be with us!

Call British Emunah Head Office on 020 8203 6066 for full details and a registration form.

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Gan Yachad Pedal Push raises £400!

Gan Yachad in Finchley held their annual pedal push for British Emunah on the 22nd June and raised £400 to support our pre-school home literacy campaign which is running across all 135 Emunah Day Care Centres in Israel. Gan Yachad parents and children you are amazing! Thank you to the very wonderful  Reva Ross for organising it once again.

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Summer Fun at Emunah Afula!

For privacy reasons we often can’t show you the faces of the children we care for in our residential centres in Israel. This can make it hard to really show you the work that we do. This photo can be shown – and it gives you a great idea of the wonderful summer programme the children at the Sarah Herzog Children’s Centre in Afula are enjoying now. They are having a ball! Providing a whole summer of activities for the 150+ children now their school term has finished is a challenge and an expensive one at that. Click here to donate to help us raise the £20,000 we need to provide summer activities for ‘at risk children at the Sarah Herzog Children’s Centre and at Neve Landy Children’s Village in Even Shmuel.

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Team Emunah are all winners at the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run!

Two residents from Emunah’s  Sarah Herzog Children’s Centre in Afula; Sharon Solomianik and Haim Nagosa, both 17 years old, came to the UK for the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor.   Sharon, originally from the Ukraine placed 9th in the 10k race with a personal best time of 46 minutes. Haim (originally from Ethiopia) finished in just over an hour. Both boys have enjoyed a few days in sightseeing in London and have been looked after by a host family in Edgware. The boys trained hard  for the 10k and took part in the 10k at the Jerusalem marathon in March in preparation for their trip to England and the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run. British Emunah director Deborah Nathan introduced the boys and their counsellor Shira Cohen from Emunah Afula and World Emunah Director Shlomo Kessel to Israeli Ambassador HE Mark Regev.

Speaking after the event Deborah Nathan said, “The boys have shown resilience and dedication in their preparation for the race and we were proud to cheer them across the finish line. We are grateful to all of those who joined ‘Team Emunah’ taking part and fundraising to support the 12,000 disadvantaged children in Emunah’s  centres across Israel.

Participating for us this year were the Year 6 running club from the Independent Jewish Day School in Hendon. The children completed the 5k race together with Headteacher Rabbi Coby Ebrahimoff.  We are also delighted that the JFS pupils who went to Israel with the Lavi programme and who volunteered every week at the Emunah home in Afula, where Sharon and Haim live, have taken part today and are raising funds for us.  Every participant has helped us to transform the lives of the children in our care and we thank them all.”

Donate now by clicking here.

Here are some photos from the day!

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