May 6, 2012 / 14 Iyar 5772
When speaking about his Torah portion, Korah, Evan Viroslav from San Antonio described the gratitude the People of Israel had for what God had granted them. In thanks, they give a tenth of their produce to those less fortunate than themselves.
Evan’s Bar Mitzvah donation to The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Youth Futures Program was an act of charity, inspired by gratitude. He wanted to thank God, as the People of Israel had, by giving to those who are not as lucky as he to grow up with the stable home, unconditional love and all the forms of support that his parents have provided for him and his sisters.
Today, there are over 2.4 million children in Israel – of whom 36% live below the poverty line and cannot access the services and institutions they need to develop and succeed. Nearly 330,000 children and youth in Israel live in conditions that compromise their chance at a bright future.
Youth Futures, established in 2006, stepped into this void and quickly became a success story for children, families and communities. Each specially-trained professional Mentor (formerly known as Trustee) acts as a facilitator, role model, leader, and sounding board for 16 at-risk children and teens (third through eighth graders) and their families.
Evan donated 145 empowerment baskets to the Youth Futures program. Each child in the program (beneficiaries) receives an "empowerment basket". These are funds for individual empowerment, designated for individual meetings with his or her Mentor, group activities, and enrichment programs.
In his Bar Mitzvah speech, Evan said, “I can relate to these kids because they are kids like me: we practice Judaism, and they also enjoy and benefit from after school activities. These kids are different from me because they don’t have all the blessings I do.”
One such “kid” is N. N has been participating in Youth Futures for three years. Her parents are divorced and she has two younger brothers. She lives with her father in Acre (Akko), following a decision by the Social Welfare Department to award him custody of the three children. As a result of the divorce, the economic situation of the household worsened. As it is, N’s father works 12 hours a day in a factory and earns minimum wage.
N told her Youth Futures Mentor that she does not always enjoy a warm meal and sometimes, after school, eats only a sandwich with hummus or an omelette that she made for herself and her brothers.
Each morning, N prepares her small brothers for pre-school because their father leaves for work in the very early hours of the morning and also, because the girl understands that her father needs help.
N meets her mother, who lives far from the rest of the family, once every two weeks. She has two other children from another man, which upsets N greatly. Already, at the beginning of the program, N revealed a desire to share and to articulate her difficult emotions.
Her Mentor recognized in N an ability to sing. When she understood that it would be difficult for N’s father to afford the extra-curricular activity offered at the municipal conservatory, the Mentor helped N to be selected for her school choir. The Youth Futures Mentor continued putting her faith in the girl, and, through her empowerment basket, N was able also to begin study at the municipal conservatory program.
At a concert to raise additional funds for Youth Futures that was held on February 23rd in Acre, N performed Shlomi Shabat’s song, “Let Them Grow up in Peace,” in front of many guests, astonishing the audience with her voice.
N’s dream is to compete on “Kochav Nolad”, Israel's version of "American Idol". Thanks to Evan’s generosity and Youth Futures, her dream may just come true.
Evan, however, sees his contribution as not only monetary. He cites the last line of his Haftarah (the Bar Mitzvah boy's additional tanach reading): “For the sake of His great name, the Lord will never abandon His people, seeing that the Lord undertook to make you His people” (Samuel 12:22). Evan interprets this as God reassuring the People of Israel of his love for them. He feels, in his own life, that when he feels overwhelmed or that things are not going his way, his family is there to reassure him. He exhibits his understanding that the meaning of family extends to the children he is helping in Israel.
“…I hope that these kids feel reassured when they know that a kid thousands of miles away cares about them, and hopefully by being reassured by me they are also being reassured of God’s love towards them.”
Evan hopes that his Bar Mitzvah donation to The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Youth Futures Program “will symbolize a blessing from God to the beneficiaries, and a sign of many more to come.”
Fun Day in Nature - pitas prepared in a tabun oven, crafts from nature, outdoors games, and more…