Tenufa and community work: giving new meaning to ‘Shop Till You Drop’

In this summer of ‘mom camp’, where volunteering became a theme last week, I want to share another kid-friendly volunteer opportunity, this time in the Jerusalem area.

Where else but on Facebook did I learn about a brand new initiative from Tenufa: Shop Till You Drop. I highly recommend and want to add that the second event of its kind will be held in Talpiot the Wednesday, August 10th. Read on to find out more…

Tenufa is an Israeli non-profit organization, which helps change the lives of Israelis living in poverty, in 7 cities across Israel. Our highly trained professional staff provides critical repairs that range from repairing leaky roofs and moldy inner walls to replacing broken kitchens and electrical systems, at no cost to the families. While our professional repairmen repair the homes we bring in Social Workers to help the family face their challenges; thus our intervention becomes a means to repairing the family.

We participated last Wednesday, the first time they had done the supermarket shopping event. The activity was essentially built for kids to get involved in a very familiar chessed: providing food and household necessities for individuals and families Tenufa has worked with on their home renovation.

Families meet a Tenufa representative at Osher Ad, a major Israeli supermarket chain (or, the ‘Israeli Costco’), and receive a shopping list designed for a specific family who, with one week’s shop taken care of, really gain a lift. Based on the amount the family is willing to spend, they shop for their list around the store, crossing off items and, if deemed appropriate by an accompanying social worker, add on a special item or two.

The activity was totally appropriate for my 7 and 5 year old, who could identify the items by either reading or looking at the printed pictures on the list. They spoke to the reps and learned about what kind of kindness this was and how it was a help to people who needed it.

It went by a little quick, but the kids totally got into it and were excited to be in a supermarket (always, for some reason, a carnival) and to be helping a family nearby.

The second half of the program is joining the social worker to actually deliver the shop. We left the packages outside the door, and the social worker, who the family knows, was in touch with the family directly about taking it in after we left.

To get in touch with Rena, the representative in charge of the program, contact her here.

Big plans for Tzur Hadassah.

Build it, and they will come. In our case, many already did, but I’m sure that attracting more is part of the plan.

Walking through the yishuv this week I noticed the sign declaring what we all thought were just rumors and faraway promises: a major community center in the middle of Tzur Hadassah, servicing the ‘יישובי המזלג’ or the five towns that comprise the Matte Yehuda ‘fork’. That includes Tzur, Matta, Nes Harim, Bar Giyora and Mavo Beitar.

So… let’s break it down. What started being built in February 2011, and has no declared end date yet, are the following…

  1. בית ספר הדסים / Hadassim elementary school: Ok, this one already exists (and got a whole refurbished play area outside it last year) but it’s around this building that the rest will be done. From what I understand, they are also adding middle school to this (I believe it only goes up to sixth grade).
  2. בית ספר ממלכתי דתי / Religious public school: This school year a religious public school was started; it began with kita aleph and bet (first and second grade) and both religious and secular families from the surrounding yishuvim sent their kids. It’s been housed in an unused building in Bar Giyora, but it seems that its permanent residence will in fact be in this new complex. I heard that the original plan was to have a mixed TALI-type school, but because the administration and parental interest of this one has created such an open, mixed atmosphere, they decided it was unnecessary and instead, this ‘dati’ school would serve the purpose. This is the first new building being built in the complex, which is meant to be completed by this coming school year, and you can see in the photo that it’s made significant progress since February:
    The amazing thing about it is that for next year, apparently kita aleph has over 30 kids registered. It will also go up to gimmel (grade 3), of course.
  3. מרכז חוגים / Activity center: What I’m hoping is that kids can go straight from school to next door where they can partake in the expensive chugim (extracurriculars, after-school activities) that we will pay for. As a working mom who isn’t a teacher or part time, I worry a lot about what the bleep my kids will do all afternoon after school lets out.
  4. בית ספר תיכון / High school: This will be a secular high school for local kids to continue after the elementary/middle school. Currently they shlep on buses to Jerusalem or Beit Shemesh.
  5. בריכת שחייה / Swimming pool: This has (literally) been the talk of the town for years. There are a few public pools in the area yishuvim, stretching from five to fifteen minutes away. Some are actually focused on serving Beitar Illit’s charedi population, with separate swimming. Others are fine, but the rates of membership are probably not as good as they could be if we had our own local pool to join. And what better way to build a strong sense of local community than a swimming pool? Not to mention giving kids what to do in the long, school-free summer.
  6. אולם ספורט / Sports center: Goes along with after-school activities, school teams, and hell, who knows? – maybe a gym for the adults.
  7. אולם רב תכליתי / Community center (multi purpose): I assume this is where our tekesim will take place… Community meetings, cultural events, shows, etc.
  8. ספריה ומרכז מוסיקה / Library and music center: This could actually be really great. I hope they do it right. The lack of libraries in Israel makes me terribly sad. I would love to take my kids to a local library every week, just like my mom did with us in New York City.

With everything going on in this area, things are really going to change. It’s going to be a huge win for creating more of a sense of community here, though there’s always a risk to demographics with attempting to attract more people. The pace is good, and these are things most people want anyway. But change is still change.

As they, סכנה! כאן בונים (danger, here they are building).

Bring out the big guns: Shmira for Tzur Hadassah.

We’re now officially Tzur Hadassah residents, no matter what amounts of arnona tax we’ve been paying for the last six months.

We got our first shmira (security) service notice in the mail. Of course, it’s not really we, it’s more he. I’m too woman to be standing alone at gate of the yishuv, I suppose.

Basically, you can either do volunteer shmira service and get called up for a shift every half a year or so, or you can pay 80 shekel a month and get out of it. Which means that everyone is drinking coffee at 10 pm and enduring a six-hour middle-of-the-night shift every once in a while.

It feels so wild, wild west.

A small community Yom HaZicaron.

A small community Yom HaZicaron tekes is unlike the others I’ve been to in Israel. There is something about it. Maybe it sounds strange, but it’s almost like the smallness makes it more intense. At the kotel or Rabin square, you know why you are there… Or you feel the obvious magnitude of the occasion.

Hundreds of community members gathered in the school yard, with a small stage set up. Everyone was chatting, moving chairs, petting dogs. The MC was attempting to get everyone’s attention over the loud talking. He started to announce that in a few moments the siren would sound, would everyone turn off their phones, and please take their –

Everything stops for the Yom HaZicaron siren. Everything. Chatting, babies, dogs, microphones, MCs. This siren was really loud, the loudest I’ve ever heard it; it was also the quietest I’ve ever heard it.

There is something about a small Israeli community on Yom HaZicaron. When it is families that are surrounding you, you can feel the pain in the cracks between the crowd. They say everyone knows someone who has perished for the country – and here are the young families, remembering while moving on. A woman singing a song dedicated to her father, who died in ’67. A boy reading a rhyme for his shevet’s madrich, who perished in Lebanon. A mother-to-be reciting a poem for her brother, who was lost this past year.

The abruptness of the stop was what jerked me into Yom HaZicaron this year. Chatting, laughing, talking, cooing – stop.

There is something about a small Israeli community on Yom HaZicaron.

Have a wonderful holiday of hidden miracles.

Here’s what I love about it being Purim in Israel and being a part of an Israeli community: Coming home after a seuda with new friends (including 342674 kids) and then finding Mishloach Manot at your doorstep –
Mishloach Manot

I guess you could say it’s a hidden miracle that we come to Israel single and adventurous and within three years, we end up married, suburban and combating baby spit at a tea party on a Friday afternoon.

Happy Purim!