News From Ohel
School Essay Competition. Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services has launched a new school essay competition titled “A Country Attached, A People United.” Ohel invites all students in grades 3–12 to share their insights at a time that saw tremendous ahavas Yisrael, prayer, and support for our brethren in Israel.
The competition aims to inspire through personal stories of overcoming challenges and to increase sensitivity to those in need. There are cash prizes for all winners. All entries must be received by Monday, November 3.
In Ohel’s last school essay competition, over 1,500 entries were received from schools throughout the U.S. and beyond.
For over 45 years, Ohel has helped strengthen the community, and this competition is part of Ohel’s celebration of that milestone. Winning entrants, together with their school administrators, will be invited to Ohel’s Annual Gala Dinner in New York City on Sunday November 23, where they will be recognized.
Winning and notable entries will also be published in the media and Ohel publications.
Any inquiries can be addressed to Jeremy Pasternak at Ohel at email@example.com or his direct line at 718-686-3284. More information can be found at www.ohelfamily.org/competition.
Bushkill Inn Retreat Inspires and Renews. This past week, Ohel’s Adult Mental Health Services department went on their annual summer retreat, in the beautiful Bushkill Conference Center and Resort in Pennsylvania. The three-day retreat gave the individuals a chance to relax in an informal atmosphere, where they can socialize with one another and with the staff.
Over 100 clients and staff went on the trip. All the clients live in an Ohel residence or in Ohel’s supported housing and apartment programs. Amongst the participants were three married couples from Ohel’s supporting housing program.
There was incredible programming throughout the week, including sports, swimming, games, activities, and a group hike through the beautiful scenic trails of Bushkill Falls. Delicious meals were served each day, and the clients appreciated the chance to stay at a hotel, which they do not get to experience very often.
Each night had its own theme, so participants could dress up and express their creativity. There was a Hawaiian night, a cowboy night, and even a magical night, complete with a strolling magician who engaged and performed for everyone in small groups.
A guest at the hotel who crossed paths with the Ohel group commented on how organized and happy the group was, but she asked, “Why is there so much staff on this trip?” It was explained that many of the adults she met in fact had a mental illness. Through its supported housing program, Ohel is able to provide these adults with the opportunities and resources to enjoy and experience life, and integrate into the community while minimizing stigma.
“I have worked at Ohel for over 14 years and never have I experienced anything more meaningful than what I experienced these past few days,” said Farah Nehmad, who works in Ohel’s Development Department. She continued, “I was able to have such a close connection with so many of the clients which I never experienced before, and it had such a great effect on me.”
A special donor and longtime friend from New Jersey, who wishes to remain anonymous, joined the trip with his wife. He was awed by the devotion of the staff, the full programming, and the sense of satisfaction and desire to be part of the community that he witnessed when spending the afternoon on this trip.
Jonathon, a client on the trip, was heard excitedly saying, “This was the second year in a row that I was able to complete the red-trail hike! If I can survive the red-trail hike, I can survive anything!”
Ohel receives no government funds for this retreat; it is fully funded by parents and community leaders who recognize its value, in that it pushes individuals to go beyond their comfort zone and enables them to meet others from similar programs. Additionally, many other community members were in the hotel and had a chance to see firsthand Ohel’s programs and community integration at its best. It also give the individuals a chance to enjoy a hotel vacation as we all do, even if just to rest and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
All of the participants are already looking forward to next year’s exciting trip!
For more information about Ohel and its many services, please call 1-800-603-OHEL, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.ohelfamily.org.
Since 1969, Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services has served as a dependable haven of individual and family support, helping people of all ages effectively manage disability, surmount everyday challenges, heal from trauma, and manage with strength and dignity during times of crisis.
JInspire And JHC Lead Kiruv Trip To Israel
By Susie Garber
“It will be doubly special if you go now,” Rabbi Moshe Turk, co-director of Jewish Heritage Center of Queens and Long Island, said, encouraging his wife, Rebbetzin Sheva, to lead a group of non-observant women on a mission to Israel. The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project partners with many organizations to bring non-observant women with children 18 or under on these life-changing trips. A total of around 200 women from different Jewish organizations throughout North America participated in this trip.
Rebbetzin Turk; Rebbetzin Brocha Portnoy, wife of Rabbi Naftoli Portnoy, co-director of the Jewish Heritage Center of Queens and Long Island; and Mrs. Debbi Portnoy were the city leaders for the Jewish Heritage Center of Queens and Long Island’s group. Mrs. Gold Fried and Mrs. Henny Kenigsberg were city leaders representing JInspire of Queens. The two groups worked together and shared a bus on their tour in Israel. This year was especially challenging due to the situation in Eretz Yisrael. Although many women canceled, an impressive group went and was immensely inspired.
Rebbetzin Turk noted, “It was truly doubly special. In Israel, people stopped us on the street, recognized us as Americans, and thanked us for being there. It was a life-changing experience for us as well as for secular women we shepherded.”
Rebbetzin Turk and Rebbetzin Portnoy stressed that this trip to Israel was not merely a tour. There were daily Torah classes and creative and engaging experiences developed to deepen these women’s attachment to Torah, the Jewish people, and Eretz Yisrael. A major component of this trip was the theme of the unity of the Jewish people. These women are our sisters, no matter their current level of observance. The goal of the mission is for each woman to bring home her inspiration and excitement about Torah observance and to share with her family and community.
The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project has brought many thousands of women on trips like this. The trip does not work in a vacuum. The women are handpicked from a pool of numerous applicants and are given a phenomenal Israel trip for little more than the cost of their airfare, but they must commit to almost a year of monthly meetings with these kiruv organizations and to phone chavrusas for 45 minutes weekly to study Torah. This ensures that the inspiration of these trips does not dissipate with the passing of time.
The women were treated to many dynamic speakers and shiurim. One highlight was when Racheli Frenkel, mother of Naftali Frenkel, Hy’d, and Mrs. Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons in two different Israeli wars, spoke to the crowd. The women were overwhelmed by the uplifting lessons for life that these two brave women shared. Mrs. Frenkel imparted how she sat down with her children after the recent tragedy and said, “We are going to have a happy family.”
The participants found the experience eye-opening. For most of these women, this was their first authentic Shabbos ever. For most of these participants, as well, this trip offered them a close glimpse at Torah-observant women for the first time. They developed a great respect and real understanding of a community they had never understood. One participant commented that she would never buy challah again; she plans to bake it every week. Another participant called after returning and told one of these rebbetzins that she is preparing her first ever Shabbos meal for her family. Some women spoke about extending their Shabbos observance. One woman took on lighting Shabbos candles.
The group toured Tveria, Tsfat, Masada, Yam HaMelach, and Yerushalayim. Baruch Hashem, they didn’t feel frightened or have to go into any bomb shelters during the trip. The leaders also acknowledged how this mission gave them a deeper appreciation for the land and people of Israel. When they toured, they found out that many of the tour guides had husbands or friends in Gaza fighting. The Kotel plaza was virtually deserted. Rebbetzin Portnoy commented, “It was sad to be there and see it like this.” They visited an army base, Nevei Yair, and they brought supplies for the soldiers and letters from the Queens community. They also packed special bags for soldiers at Nerova. When Rebbetzin Turk thanked one soldier with tears in her eyes, he replied, “We see miracles every day, and it is your tefillos that are doing it.”
The Israel trip is now over, and the work of follow-up is now ongoing. JInspire of Queens is grateful to many women who put in tireless effort for this organization and for help behind the scenes for this trip. They are particularly grateful to Mrs. Tova Begun of Queens JInspire, who has been a driving force in all of their trips. The Jewish Heritage Center also put in much effort to help make this trip a reality. The city leaders of both organizations are already recruiting local community women as follow-up learning partners. Some follow-up activities that are in the planning stages include monthly get-togethers and classes, erev Shabbos phone calls, monthly challah baking, and yom tov activities.
Information about future trips is available at JWRP.org. Anyone who would like to get involved locally or to donate to future trips likes this can contact JInspire Queens at email@example.com or the Jewish Heritage Center of Queens and Long Island at Queens@theJHC.org.
Real Estate Pros Golf For Israel, September 8
Over 200 of New York’s leading real-estate professionals will come together for a day of golfing on Monday, September 8, for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) New York Real Estate Division golf outing.
Beginning at 8:30 a.m., the event, which is set to take place at Glen Oaks Country Club in Old Westbury, tees off with golf in the morning and concludes with a dinner reception. Co-chairing the event are Jeffrey Mann, president and executive editor of Mann Publications, and Ofer Yardeni, co-chairman and CEO of Stonehenge Partners.
“During these challenging times, our priority is focusing on the well-being of the soldiers in Israel,” said Yardeni. “FIDF’s Real Estate Division is committed to creating influential events that support the well-being of the brave men and women of the IDF. I’m pleased to see such an impressive number of New York City real-estate professionals providing their support to Israel’s soldiers.”
Active and non-active Israeli soldiers will attend the event to share their stories with FIDF supporters. The soldiers will include Ortal, a former Battalion 727 operations officer, and Amir, a combat company deputy commander in Yahalom (an elite unit that specializes in engineering missions including smuggling and sabotage skills).
This year’s honoree is Dean Palin, a Boston University business graduate serving as principal in Palin Enterprises, overseeing a number of residential, commercial, and industrial properties from New York to California.
The FIDF NY Real Estate Division was created in 2006 by a group of successful business and philanthropic leaders who were passionate about uniting members of the real-estate community in support of Israel’s soldiers. The division has supported several construction projects, including a well-being center at Revaya Base for Battalion 71 of the 188th Brigade, as well as other FIDF well-being programs to benefit the soldiers, and is an integral part of FIDF’s Tri-State Region.
Susan Brot On ‘Aging In Place’
Susan Brot knew that she wanted to work with senior citizens back when she was a freshman at Boston University and found herself volunteering for its Adopt-a-Grandparent program. “I think I have always had an old soul,” she said with a chuckle.
At a recent seminar at Touro College, “Aging In Place: A stakeholders’ conference on care, healthcare, finance, and law,” Brot, coordinator of the Aging Social Work Initiative at Touro’s Graduate School of Social Work, told an audience of doctors, lawyers, and policymakers about progress that has been made in the field of aging. She described her unique experiences as the former director of retiree services at the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, one of the most powerful industrial unions of the 20th century (the union’s famous television ads depicted garment workers singing the union theme song, “Look for the Union Label”).
At the ILGWU, Brot oversaw groundbreaking initiatives for the union’s 250,000 retirees; one of those initiatives, the Friendly Visiting Program, was a forerunner for what is known today as “aging in place.”
“The union’s Friendly Visiting Program was a model social-services plan as well as a retraining program for older workers,” Brot said. “We did not use the term ‘aging in place,’ but in fact our friendly visitors encouraged and supported this very concept,” she added.
The visitors were retired ILGWU workers trained and paid to help other retired ILGWU workers—essentially their peers—who were homebound, disabled, or frail. The visitors could, for example, escort homebound workers to medical appointments, help them complete benefits forms, or obtain absentee ballots so they could vote.
The program was clearly ahead of its time, and Brot speaks with great enthusiasm about how relevant that program still is today. “We were really in the middle of something so historical and so important,” she said.
Brot says that aging in place is a “hot topic” because it is where baby boomers are all headed. “Most people don’t live in nursing homes,” she said. “The whole push now is with community-based care.”
Other examples of aging in place today, Brot explained, exist as “naturally occurring retirement communities” (NORCs) in suburbs and in parts of New York City near the Garment District, where some former ILGWU workers still live today and team up with social services, health and wellness professionals, and visiting doctors.
Brot encourages students to pursue social-work practice with older adults at NORCs and in other settings, such as nursing homes, elder-abuse programs, community agencies, hospitals, or outpatient mental-health centers. Some of these opportunities are made possible through a special Aging Education Fellowship available to students, and through a unique partnership with the Hartford Foundation and the New York Academy of Medicine.
“The Graduate School of Social Work is training the next generation of geriatric social workers, who will play a critical role in the lives of our older citizens,” said Brot. “As America ages, we will have more at-risk, frail, and vulnerable older persons, and we will need to continue to develop more successful and innovative strategies to help our elderly population.”
Dr. Steven Huberman, dean of the GSSW, added another perspective: “Due to the Great Recession and the greater health and independence of many of today’s seniors, many are not moving as frequently as in the past. The key to their successfully staying in the home is developing effective support systems.”
The conference was presented by Touro College’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, the School of Health Sciences, and New York Medical College’s Center for Long Term Care, Research, and Policy, and took place at the Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip, L.I. Other members of Brot’s panel on Aging and Disability included representatives from Touro Law Center, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Touro School of Health Sciences, and the Suffolk County Office for People with Disabilities.
A follow-up conference is to take place on September 18. For more information, or to enroll in the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, visit gssw.touro.edu.