Over the last several years the number of young adults in crisis, both in the Chabad community and in the Orthodox Jewish community as a whole, has grown at an alarming rate.
Without any intervention, the results can be disastrous, but with proper assistance and guidance by carefully chosen professionals, even those who have strayed can find their way back to a healthy and productive lifestyle.
A group of five Chabad organizations have gotten together in recent months to form a strong global alliance, working together with a united vision to tackle this problem head on in a variety of ways.
Together they have united in a joint Charidy fundraiser. The giving day campaign runs through 2pm tomorrow and is a golden opportunity to help kids at risk in the biggest way possible. Take part in the campaign by donating any amount, large or small, at:
“We are focusing on in-reach instead of outreach,” explained Rabbi Moishe Feiglin, director the Aliya Institute in Crown Heights. “We are reaching “in” to young adults within the Jewish community who are feeling disenfranchised by sharing practices, ideas and skills to help young adults at risk in the frum community.”
While there are many agencies that deal with education, crisis intervention and rehabilitation, the importance of properly structured leisure activities, such as those offered by drop in centers, cannot be overstated.
Serving a variety of different demographics, some drop in centers offer recreational activities, healthy social interaction and guidance to those who need a little bit of extra TLC, while others are a last resort, the only place in the Jewish community where all are welcome, no matter what.
In those cases, drop in centers are more than just a casual hangout; they are a safe haven, away from drugs and crime, wherein shooting pool, a hot meal and a feeling of acceptance and belonging are hopefully a prelude to the greater possibility of a brighter future.
Drop in centers provide unrivaled opportunities for meaningful discussion and personal growth. Their more relaxed atmosphere is conducive to creating positive relationships and providing opportunities for growth that are difficult to duplicate in more formal settings.
Similarly, a well chosen educational setting can offer tremendous benefits, often helping those who might slip through the cracks in a different school flourish and realize their full potential.
Providing physical, spiritual, emotional and vocational support to hundreds of young men each year, the Brooklyn-based Aliya is dedicated to in-reach, helping young adults to become healthy, stable and fully functioning members of the Jewish community.
Over the past year Aliya’s dedicated professional staff has assisted approximately 20 young men in finding accommodations, helped six young men enter rehabilitation programs, aided over 100 young men find gainful employment and arranged GED and college courses for over 20 young men.
With an in-house, highly qualified and subsidized therapist offering complete confidentiality, career counseling referrals, a fully equipped gym, regular minyanim, 10 daily shiurim, uplifting shabbatons and wholesome food, Aliya is a safe recreational facility that has become an important part of the day for so many young men.
Aliya Girls – The Girls Loft is a full time drop-in center for school aged and post-school aged girls in Crown Heights. Their programming focuses on filling in the gaps between home and school, with creative arts classes, open forum group therapy sessions and entrepreneurial opportunities through a series of small businesses.
Dedicated professionals devote their time to building trust with the girls in order to help them face their unique challenges, getting them emotional and legal help when appropriate, obtaining school placements and repairing parent/child relationships as needed.
Over the past year, The Girls Loft attracted over 950 girls and ran 96 successful programs.
“Everyone has a back story and we all need help from each other,” explained administrator Rabbi Meir New. “That’s what happens at The Girls Loft. It is a community of young women and girls helping each other.”
Aliya Youth Space is a drop-in center in Australia dedicated to serving the Melbourne Jewish community’s youth who seek an alternative to mainstream Jewish institutions.
The warm, friendly and non-judgmental environment at Aliya Youth Space encourages self-expression, builds self-esteem and creates lasting relationships while supporting career development. The only organization of its kind in Australia, Aliya Youth Space has helped young adults that were literally at the bottom do a complete turnaround, going on to lead fully observant Jewish lives.
“You need a place where young people can just hang, be themselves and not be judged,” said director Rabbi Yakov Feiglin. “Only then you can try and help them. By Aliya being that place, Judaism gets the credit instead of other unfavorable youth hot-spots, and hopefully that will pay dividends down the road.”
The Center works with Jewish youth in South Florida ages 17 through 30 who are dealing with challenges such as livelihood choices, overcoming adversity, and the search for identity, meaning, and happiness.
Furthermore, many of them have been victims of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or are simply jaded by the hypocrisy of their leaders, teachers, or parents. The Center provides a warm, fun and non-judgmental environment for Jewish young men, equipping them with the requisite tools to overcome the challenges of transitioning from youth to emerging adulthood, and guiding them towards discovering their own unique and fulfilling life purpose.
Thanks to the Center’s efforts, more than 25 boys have gone back to yeshiva, over 15 have started college, and upwards of a dozen have gotten married. Countless others have gone on to start their own business, build successful careers or have enlisted in the IDF to help protect the land of Israel.
“Our sages teach us, ‘whoever saves a life, it’s considered as if he saved an entire world,’” said founder and executive director Matisyahu Abarbanel. “With G-d’s help, The Center has had a positive impact on the lives of over 1,800 South Florida Jewish youth.”
Bais Menachem Youth Development program has been helping those who have found it difficult to succeed in a traditional yeshiva setting for the past 18 years. Located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the program offers both formal and informal counseling, recovery, Judaic studies and recreational and community service activities as well as a GED program and vocational and career training in a warm, non-judgmental environment. With a small staff to participant ratio, students receive individualized attention, guidance and an educational plan that is custom tailored to them.
Bais Menachem serves 35 students in their flagship facility and a group of twelve younger students, ages 14-16, at a satellite location. In its dual role as a community organization, Bais Menachem has inspired the growth of a local community which now includes over 100 members, a new synagogue, a Jewish elementary school with an enrollment of 75 and a network of adult education and women’s classes.
“Bais Menachem is more than a school, it’s a place that teaches young men how to accept who they are, overcome past issues, make plans and take steps toward their future,” noted Bais Menachem’s founder and director, Rabbi Uri Perlman.