Successful Freshman Retreat At YUHSG

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Central HS girls enjoying the freshman retreat
Central HS girls enjoying the freshman retreat

The beginning of a school year is a time of transition, and never more so than for freshmen. The key to the program at Central (Yeshiva University High School for Girls) is the belief that each student should feel embraced and celebrated, and freshman retreat presents the perfect moment to demonstrate that philosophy to the newest Central family members. Freshman Retreat is a two-day sojourn to camp where students can learn about one another, about the school, and about themselves. “Being up in Camp Kaylie gives the retreat a wholesome, welcome, and fun feel,” says student-activities coordinator Leah Moskovich. “It is the perfect way to kick off the new school year and the freshmen’s high-school experience.” Ms. Beverly Segal, associate principal, adds, “Freshman Retreat is a wonderful opportunity to break the ice as we build a community together.”

According to Ms. Moskovich, “Freshman Retreat is designed for the freshman grade to get to know one another through ice-breakers, team-building activities, and interactive learning sessions,” and in that spirit, the fun got off the ground as soon as the students got off the bus! They got to know one another formally over icebreakers like “Fruit Salad” and “Pillow Talk,” and informally as they worked in teams during rousing games of “Paint Wars” and “Duct Tape Boat Wars.” Among the highlights of the retreat were wacky games led by Powerhouse Studios and a spirited bonfire. Participants also had a blast enjoying the many facilities of the Kaylie campus, including go-karting, sports, and swimming.

Joining the new freshmen were the senior “Big Sisters,” each of whom has been appointed to support a few freshman “Little Sisters.” Throughout the school year, the Big Sister/Little Sister Program, spearheaded and run by director of student guidance Danielle Wyner, creates fun and oftentimes wacky opportunities for Central novices to forge bonds with their fellow Little Sisters as their more experienced Big Sisters provide a listening ear and sage advice.

Freshman grade-level coordinator Aliza Gewirtz was blown away by the palpable sense of community. She was impressed by “the maturity of our Big Sisters, who gave the freshmen a wonderful Central welcome.” Ms. Moskovich agrees: “The Big Sisters did an incredible job showing the freshmen how much Central has to offer, while expressing leadership, responsibility, and great enthusiasm.” The freshmen, too, made an impact. “This is a very special group of girls,” said Mrs. Gewirtz, “and we’re so happy to have them as part of our school.” v

Aleph Institute Receives Project Tikvah Grant

The Aleph Institute is pleased to announce receipt of a $250,000 Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles to support Project Tikvah, its innovative program that serves troubled youths facing incarceration or already in prison due to addiction or mental illness.

The foundation’s Cutting Edge Grant supports initiatives that have proven early success and leadership in addressing unmet needs within the Los Angeles Jewish community. The multi-year awards facilitate the expansion of promising programs to transform the lives of community members.

Project Tikvah, a new program that advocates for alternative sentencing options and effective intervention solutions for hundreds of struggling Jewish youth, ages 16–32, represents such innovation. The program aims to halt the vicious cycle of repeat incarceration, hospitalization, relapse, homelessness, and sometimes death among this vulnerable population. Early results have been remarkably successful, with many of those served currently out of jail and in various stages of recovery and rehabilitation, including several who have secured employment and are mentoring others in need.

Tikvah, which means hope in Hebrew, advocates for an end to the counterproductive measures and devastating impacts of incarceration by offering a humane and holistic solution: advocacy for court-approved alternatives to prison sentencing, placement in appropriate detox and rehab facilities, referrals to counseling and mental-health professionals, spiritual guidance, family engagement, and ongoing supervision from onset of crisis to complete recovery.

“The stigmas surrounding mental illness, addiction, and incarceration can prevent those in the Jewish community who need help the most from seeking it,” said Marvin I. Schotland, president and CEO of the foundation. “We are proud to support the innovative Project Tikvah program in providing assistance to those in recovery and rehabilitation, and helping to reduce the rate of recidivism among its clients.”

Tikvah focuses on rehabilitation rather than recrimination because it knows that with the right tools and meaningful support, struggling young people have tremendous potential to heal, recover, and resume productive lives.

As project director Leah Perl notes, “These young people can become the most beautiful, strong, and selfless productive members of society. Their strength and resilience is like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

Her firsthand experience with young adults like Nathan makes her certain of it. As the son of a seriously ill woman, Nathan spent his childhood worrying that his mother would die while he was at school. In the midst of this health crisis, he was repeatedly molested by a family friend.

“One time, it was violent,” he remarked in a barely audible voice. Not surprisingly, the troubled teen turned to drugs and spent nearly two decades addicted and living on the streets.

Once Tikvah was contacted, staff used emergency funds and its network to secure a rehab bed for him. Aleph Institute rabbis also visited him regularly to offer solace, support, and inspiration.

Today, Nathan is clean, employed, and working to develop himself as an independent member of society. He is grateful to G‑d for connecting him with Project Tikvah, and, for the first time in a long time, he is excited to be alive.

Nathan’s story is but one of dozens that together demonstrate Tikvah’s power and unparalleled success in improving communities, rescuing shattered families, and saving lives.

With the new foundation grant, Tikvah expects to serve many more in Los Angeles via emergency living expenses, advocacy for alternative sentencing proposals, assistance with medical-insurance procurement, community engagement and support, and rabbinical guidance.

Through ongoing dialogue within the community and a broader dissemination of its services to those in need, Tikvah also strives to shatter the stigma of mental illness, addiction, and incarceration that prevents too many families from seeking vital help and support.

If you have a loved one in prison or suffering from a mental disease or addiction who might benefit from Project Tikvah, please contact Leah Perl at tikvah@aleph-institute.org or at 310-598-2142. All communications will be kept strictly confidential. v

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