At the age of 15, Lada H. is living through her second war.

In 2022, she left her home in Melitopol—a city in Ukraine now occupied by Russia—forYemin Orde Youth Village, which sits atop Mount Carmel in northern Israel. There, she joined 410 other at-risk and immigrant youth from around the world to study—and enjoy her teenage years—in safety.

On Oct. 7, 2023, Lada, who is referred to by her first name only for privacy reasons, found herself back in a country under attack. This time, though, she had Yemin Orde, which is supported by Needham-based ImpactIsrael, to help her through the crisis.

“I am so thankful to Yemin Orde for adopting me as a student without parents in the country,” Lada says. “It’s the place where I feel safe and where I belong. The staff members are very kind and attentive. They hear us—they care about how we feel and what’s inside. They provide us with psychologists, therapists, and everything we need.”

A home, a family, and a future

For teenagers like Lada—who have suffered from war trauma, neglect, abandonment, and extreme poverty—Yemin Orde Youth Village gives them the chance to find a home, a family, and a future.

The Village is open year-round and offers education, therapeutic care, mentorship, activities, and friendship to youth in Israel who have no other place to go. The traditions and values of Judaism are woven into every aspect of life at the Village.

Graduates remain connected to Yemin Orde long after they leave, and often return for financial assistance, lifecycle events, and celebrations. This sense of safety and lifelong support has helped make Yemin Orde an educational model of excellence in Israel.

To that end, the Yemin Orde method has been replicated in 78 different communities across Israel. Today, it reaches more than 35,000 at-risk youth and 3,600 educators through what’s known as Village Way Educational Initiatives (VWEI).

Increased needs

Within days of Oct. 7, ImpactIsrael—the North American philanthropic partner of Yemin Orde and VWEI—realized the Hamas attacks were going to have a significant impact on the Village and its satellite programs throughout the country.

Because of the war, Yemin Orde needed enhanced security, including portable and renovated shelters, monitoring systems, and additional equipment; emergency financial assistance for graduates and their families; increased mental health resources for youth, graduates, and staff; and resources for VWEI communities in southern Israel that were devastated.

The organization also had to get creative with staffing as many of its educators, including Yemin Orde director Boaz Schwartz, were called to reserve duty with the Israel Defense Forces.

ImpactIsrael quickly estimated it would face $2.5 million worth of new, war-related needs, says CEO Ben Marchette. In the first weeks of the war, CJP swiftly granted $100,000 from its Israel Emergency Fund to help ImpactIsrael cover these unexpected expenses.

“The grant was a true testament to our longstanding relationship with CJP and with Boston’s Jewish community,” says Marchette. “We had very specific needs, and I was overwhelmed and so grateful that CJP was able to provide funding to us. It made a significant, tangible difference. We were able to send that money on to our partners in Israel so they could put it to immediate use.”

Across the VWEI network, staff mobilized immediately to provide counseling, resilience training, and financial support for students in the 78 educational communities throughout Israel connected to Yemin Orde, says Tomer Samarkandi, CEO of VWEI.

“As the war shook us all and demanded that we find our hidden strength, the teachers found themselves, alongside the security and rescue forces, on the front lines,” Samarkandi says. “Our educators were the ones who helped the children mediate the difficult reality and were leaders in their communities, when at the same time they also faced their own emotional difficulty, suffering, and bereavement.”

An outpouring of generosity

CJP and ImpactIsrael have been deeply connected for years, says Marchette. CJP mission groups regularly visit Yemin Orde during trips to Israel, and several members of the CJP community, including former president and CEO Barry Shrage, former board director Michael Frieze, and former Committee on Development chair Judy Kaye, also serve in leadership roles with ImpactIsrael.

Longtime CJP donor and volunteer Dale Okonow recently became chair of ImpactIsrael’s national Board of Directors. He says he’s filled with gratitude for the “outpouring of generosity” from Greater Boston’s Jewish community, which he calls “the most generous Jewish community in the country.”

“What CJP has done to support ImpactIsrael is amazing,” says Okonow. “The needs in Israel are enormous everywhere but the educational needs—especially for at-risk youth in the Village and throughout the country—are more important now than ever before. The comfort and services that our organization offers these kids is paramount to keeping them on track to be productive and important citizens, and the next generation of leaders in Israel.”

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