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A shoulder to lean on


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Posted on: 
19 Aug 2011
A shoulder to lean on

Gavriela is a new Jewish immigrant from Argentina. She made aliyah together with her daughter, not knowing where they would go or what they would do. But she knew she belonged in Israel and was determined to get here.

Thanks to the organization Katef l’katef (Shoulder-to-Shoulder), she is very hopeful that the decision will lead to a brighter future.

“They really are a shoulder to lean on”, Gavriela assured with a smile.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder was originally founded to help new immigrant families with little means to adjust to life in Israel. More recently, it has expanded its charitable outreach to also assist Israeli-born families escape the cycle of poverty. Based on a unique mentoring program, the organisation has created an innovative model for lifting the underprivileged back into the mainstream of society.

“When we first started with Shoulder-to-Shoulder, the Christian Embassy was one of the first to support us”, recalled Yehuda Am-Shalem, director of the organisation. “We started out by helping five families and today we work with over a hundred.”

Many new immigrants to Israel need employment training, or even simple instructions on how to open bank accounts or arrange telephone services. Through their unique program, Shoulder-to-Shoulder is there for the olim in very practical ways, giving ICEJ AID the chance to sponsor new immigrant families when they need it the most.

As opposed to plans that rely on welfare payments, Shoulder-to-Shoulder enables families to move from economic dependency to financial independence. Rather than depending on government assistance, Gavriela and her daughter receive training on how to manage their own budget. Her daughter has also been properly prepared for the upcoming school year.

“I didn’t want money”, confessed Gavriela. “I needed practical assistance in going about daily routines in this new land.”

It makes for a process of family stability with minimal expense. Both Gavriela and her daughter speak Hebrew now. The daughter has learned the language especially fast by playing with other children.

“We want to be Israeli! We don’t want to remain immigrants for the rest of our lives”, Gavriela insisted.

The organisation has a holistic approach to the families they sponsor. The program operates by means of centers which are each headed by a family guide responsible for the progress of a family over the ensuing year. The mentor examines the family’s particular needs, identifying its strong and weak points and the main factors preventing it from achieving independence. At the start of the process, the family and the guide together formulate a vision that sets attainable goals for the family.

These goals are based on four main features of daily life for the family, including:
Quality of life (health, food, clothing, items for the home);
Proper management (economic recovery, family budget);
Education (school supplements for children, extracurricular activities, enrichment), and Employment (professional training, assistance in finding and qualifying for jobs).

Ella Yosefov is a Shoulder-to-Shoulder guides who meets regularly with seven families. Each one is very different, with differing backgrounds, needs and outlooks.

“I try to focus on the new generation especially”, Ella noted. “They often deal with a serious identity crisis, and at the same time they are the future of Israel.”

The guide and the family develop a year’s work plan together that gradually transfers all responsibility onto the family itself. Each family can also receive free legal advice and other assistance for adjusting to life in Israel. If needed, Shoulder-to-Shoulder provides family and marriage counselling as well. Sometimes, families within the program also help each other, for instance by cooking for one another or babysitting each other’s kids.

To date, 90 percent of the families assisted by Shoulder-to-Shoulder have reached economic independence, with little or no need for state welfare services.

At present, the volunteer group has eight family mentors operating in four cities around the country: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheva and Jerusalem. But they will soon be in need of more family guides, as concerned citizens in other cities across the nation are realising the program’s worth and seek to open local chapters. The Minister for Welfare and Social Services has also meet with Shoulder-to-Shoulder representatives and a goal was tabled of expanding the work to 20 cities by the end of 2012.

Thanks to Christian generosity received from all around the world, ICEJ AID was able to prepare gift packages for some 30 new immigrant families through the Shoulder-to-Shoulder program this summer. The arrival packages included duvet covers, towels, toiletries and other household products for everyday use.

Please join with us in continuing this very worthwhile outreach to needy Israelis through our local charitable partners. Give to ICEJ AID today at

Over the years, it has become a tradition for pilgrims coming to the Feast of Tabernacles to bring along something extra in their suitcases for ICEJ AID to give to those in need. If you are considering to bring something to bless the people of Israel, here is a list of practical items that usually prove most helpful, preferably if new:

TOILETRIES: Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand creams and body lotions.
NEW CLOTHES AND ITEMS FOR BABIES: Help us with gift packages for newborns.
NEW CLOTHES AND TOYS FOR CHILDREN: Gladden some young hearts; socks and underwear are often requested.
NEW KITCHEN AND BATH TOWELS, SHEETS & PILLOW CASES: These are wonderful gifts for needy families and new immigrants.

(Please keep in mind that we do not take used and second-hand items.)


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