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March 07, 2003 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-03-07

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A Beacon Of Hope


revere "martyrdom in Allah's name," what we call suicide
"We will have to pay a heavy toll in order to achieve
peace," Feingold says. "Compromises are always painful
and expensive. But until that day, we are all paying a high
toll and the children pay the most."
Feingold and his wife, Ronit, have three children. "There
is a terrible denial in Israeli society of the price of war and
hate," he says. "I can see it with my own children, in their
friends' lives, in my private practice and in the daily life of
Orr Shalom.
So talk is encouraged at Orr Shalom, founded by New
York psychologists Shelley and Hal Cohen. "We realize
that the kids, like us, are worried, scared and need to
express it and share it," Feingold says.
With a finger on Israel's pulse and insight into the Israeli
psyche, this champion of goodwill encourages the rhythm
of daily living — "the problems, the struggles, the achieve-
ments, the joys and happiness."
Amid the drumbeat of war in response to terrorism,
Israel finds itself isolated, with few friends outside America
and Britain. Palestinians condemn the security walls Israel
has built to keep out terrorists, but overlook the barriers
they've installed — snubbed peace talks, ignored ceasefires,
relentless violence.
Feingold laments the economic crisis, social polarization,
mounting layoffs, rising poverty — and the confusion over
what to do. Social service budgets are continually
cut. "It is difficult," Feingold says.

ictimized by neglect, fear and torment, Merav
was just 10 when she mercifully arrived at an
Orr Shalom family group home in Israel. She
was broken in spirit, bereft of hope, trembling
in an oversized coat.
"I don't want to see anybody and I don't want anyone to
see me," she said, trapped in a purposeless life and unwit-
tingly on a path to hell.
Tedious years of therapy and skill building, buoyed by
patience and love, helped Merav develop her confidence
and trust. Opening up to her Orr Shalom family, she blos-
somed. She was inspired to nourish her
curiosity and express her creativity.
Merav is now 20
an artist, a poet and
just finishing army service. The Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit is help-
ing her find a job in one of the programs it
supports in Netanya.
Her creative expressions call to her vul-
nerability, her years of loneliness, the father
ROBERT A. she never knew — and her dreams for
erasing the cruelty of her past with the
sweetness of tikkun clam, making the
world a better place.
"Merav no longer needs her coat," Orr Shalom Executive
Director Haim Feingold, a psychologist, says proudly.
Feingold, who lives in the Judean Hills village of
Nataf, near Jerusalem, once was on staff at Fresh
Air Society's Michigan-based Tamarack Camps. His
campers included kids from Orchards Children's
Services in Southfield.
Breaking The Bubble
Orr Shalom serves children at risk across Israel
Given the tumultuous times, Feingold is thankful
— .Jewish and Arab. The kids have special learning
for any level of support. His professional and vol-
needs, a byproduct of a troubled upbringing. Some
unteer staffs keep a collective ear pointed at the
homes serve specific groups, .like Orthodox chil-
community and assist similar Jewish and
dren, Bedouin children or adolescent girls. Israeli
Haim Fei ngold non-Jewish programs any way they can.
Arab kids live in a home in Abu Ghosh.
"We cannot shut ourselves away in our bubble,
Today, Orr Shalom --Hebrew for Light of Peace
only looking after our children and not hearing the distress
— embraces more than 300 kids ages 5 to 18. The resi-
of the surroundings," Feingold says.
dents of 23 family group homes and 30 foster homes
I was struck by his inclusive attitude: "We believe that
become part of their local community. Friendship House
we know — all the experience we have gained
in Jerusalem serves extremely disturbed boys.
through much work and effort — belongs to everyone, and
-Merav's success is not unique for this 24-year-old charita-
that everyone is welcome to learn from it."
ble agency, a proven elixir for many kids caught in the vice
Placing kids above politics, he's willing to open a home
of despair.
in the disputed territories if asked. Imagine the change he
That's why Detroit Jewry has picked Orr Shalom to ben-
could bring to a forsaken place that raises young children
efit from the Grand Challenge Israel .Emergency Fund, a
to be hate-mongers, human shields and suicide bombers!
precious gift to our ancestral homeland. Orr Shalom will
Feingold is daring and a dreamer, but also a realist.
use our $100,000 grant to dedicate more staff to kids
"Only fortitude and honesty will bring us to safe shores,"
haunted by Palestinian terrorism and afraid to go to activi-
he says.
ties or beyond their neighborhood alone. It also will help
Orr Shalom is well-deserving of Detroit Jewry's invest-
improve security at homes in danger-prone areas and allow
in it. Demand for such programs is strong. Some
for more psychotherapy.
350,000 children in Israel are considered at risk; 10,000
Orr Shalom spends an average of $19,000 treating each
have become wards of the state because of abuse or neglect.
child. Ninety percent of its $6 million annual budget is
Where possible, kids are treated at home or in day pro-
government funded. Grants from foundations, federations
grams under parental watch.
and individuals provide the difference. The agency is debt
Two years ago, five Orr Shalom staff members visited
free; operating costs don't exceed 10 percent.
Detroit. A reciprocal visit to Orr Shalom by Detroiters is
planned. "The nicest fact about our connection to the
Paying The Price
Detroit Jewish community," Feingold says, "is the partner-
Stress, anger and peril continue to grip Israel. Over the
ship that comes from the heart and affects many lives in
past 29 months, Muslim militants have murdered at least
750 Israelis and foreign civilians in their bid to claim the
Merav's paintings now hang in the Knesset. She's proof
Jewish state as theirs. Palestinian children are taught to
that Orr Shalom is a beacon of hope for wayward children
hate Jews and brand them as evil. They also are taught to
caught in the darkest recesses of uncertainty. 111

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