News & Events
Educators Gather to Share Strategies and New Ideas at Derech Kfar Conference
05-30-13 - More than 450 educators from around Israel at...
Josh Weston Receives Yemin Orde Tikkun Halev Award
05-30-13 - Friends of Yemin Orde honored businessman and...
Celebrating Shavuot at Yemin Orde
05-30-13 - The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is reflected in...
On May 19, 2013, Chaim Peri delivered these remarks at a breakfast gathering of Brandeis University Fellows prior to the university's commencement program. Chaim was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by university president Frederick Lawrence for his lifelong work on behalf on Israel's at-risk immigrant youth.
Over eight decades ago, Judge Louis D. Brandeis envisioned a future Jewish State where "…there will be developed a new Jewish civilization worthy of the Jewish past; worthy of the aspirations for the future. And from the old home – restored in fulfillment of prayers and striving, there will go out again to the world, in all its troubles, the light for which nations will bless Israel again."
In 1929, visiting Palestine after the brutal Arab attack on its Jewish population, Judge Brandeis reported: "I found in the colonies far more joy than sorrow. They reminded me of our pioneers of the West, and those who developed the East, two centuries ago – Palestine has developed a Jewish character!"
I find his words relevant especially today in Israel, where our educational work indeed focuses first and foremost on character building of youth emerging from a destitute and - in many cases - chaotic childhood.
The motto: "It takes a village to raise a child", which has been reintroduced to public consciousness by Hillary Rodham Clinton in her years as U.S. First Lady, was present in youth villages of pre-State Israel. The founders were pioneering educators, who perceived each educational environment as a vehicle for building a new Jewish civilization with character and spiritual strength - a microcosm of an upright future society. Thus, they initiated youth villages, environments imbued with the values and qualities that existed in the lost Village of Humanity – from which, after all, we have all emerged.
Our work seeks to revive this authentic Israeli creation by providing an applicable methodology which is based on decades of successful experience in the youth village arena. We have named our endeavor "the Village Way"; and now, growing numbers of educators are adopting the method and its tools to actually "take a village, and raise a child" within the environments of residential education and schools.
The Village Way draws its know how from our work with at-risk youth, yet it is relevant for any educational setting which is aware of the need to provide their young the environment they innately deserve – in stark contradiction to the chaotic environments that are becoming more and more prevalent in streets and neighborhoods.
I wish to conclude with some lines of poetry, Israeli and American:
"Man is only a small piece of land / Man is nothing but his native landscape form" wrote Hebrew poet, Saul Tschernichovsky.
Translating these lines -which most Hebrew speakers are familiar with – into educational terms, it's all about providing the young generation coherent environments to grow up in; environments that are carefully crafted to endow the formative years with landscapes that are not void of utopian elements.
From the other side of the ocean, it seems that Emma Lazarus's "lamp beside the golden door"- as inscribed on the Statue of Liberty – is also in context here. Indeed, I believe that her Zionist vision, which preceded even Theodore Herzl's, comes to life when we open wide the golden door for "tempest-tost" youth through education.
A golden door, through which they can enter a life of self-worth, inclusiveness, and the broad-mindedness that comes with universal and Jewish values.
Click here to see photos from the Brandeis University commencement program featuring Chaim Peri.
Arlene and Bernard Potter have remained dedicated and generous supporters of Yemin Orde Youth Village and Yemin Orde Educational Initiatives for many years. Recently, they traveled to Israel and visited many friends - both old and new - at the Village. Their stopover at Yemin Orde turned out to be the highlight of their trip.
Our April 2013 visit to Yemin Orde reinforced for us the concept of Yemin Orde as “family.” We were scheduled to be at the Village on Monday, April 15th, Israel’s Memorial Day, but on the previous Friday afternoon, travelling north on the road to Haifa, we passed Yemin Orde. How could we not stop for an unexpected, unannounced visit?
Within minutes after entering the gates, we met David Kanotofsky, Coordinator of Informal Education, who spoke to us of his life-long involvement with the Ethiopian immigrant community. Soon we were joined by Coordinator of Volunteers, Batya Shmueli, who heard there were “visitors” at the Village. She insisted that we come home with her for Shabbat dinner, Ethiopian style.
What a treat it was to spend the evening with Batya and her family and to experience a Shabbat that looks so familiar but tastes so deliciously different! Their warmth and hospitality made us feel as if we had been friends for years and now we will be. Definitely a highlight of our entire trip.
On Sunday, we had the the pleasure of spending the the day with Shuli and Chaim Peri whose dedication to Yemin Orde is legendary. The insights gleaned from Chaim's experiences and wisdom provide invaluable teaching moments that inspire us and elevate our lives.
We returned to Yemin Orde on Monday as scheduled to meet with Director Benny Fisher, Outreach Director (and guiding light), Susan Weijel, and Yemin Orde High School Principal Shmuli Bing for an overview of how the Village is progressing in the aftermath of the devastating fire that engulfed the Carmel Forest a few years ago. We also planned to attend Memorial Day observances at the Village.
As part of the Memorial Day ceremonies, some of the children of the Village acted in a heart-wrenching play detailing a family's trauma in sending a loved one off to war, and then waiting for his safe return. Several staff members spoke to the assembled group and to our surprise the keynote speaker that morning was Dalit Lebovitch, a teacher at the Village, who had experienced a tragic personal loss exactly ten years ago. Ironically, we were at the Village that fateful weekend ten years ago to dedicate Yemin Orde's new Health Center and we mourned with her family and the whole Yemin Orde community their senseless loss.
Now, ten years later, we had come "full circle," meeting Dalit once again and remembering the strong connection that will always link her family and ours. It was as if we were meant to be there this Memorial Day.
Over the years our association with the Village has added so much meaning to our lives and we are very proud to be included in the Yemin Orde family: a family that remembers its past and looks to a brighter future for its children; a family that celebrates joyous events together and grieves over sad ones together as well; a family that nurtures the children in its care and gives them the opportunity to become productive members of Israeli society - what Yemin Orde calls its "success stories."
May the Village continue to thrive for many more decades bringing thousands more at-risk youth into its fold.
Arlene and Bernard Potter
Dix Hills, NY
We wanted to share a beautiful story as told by a Yemin Orde Youth Village graduate. Through the support, loving care and encouragement she received at the Village, "S" is now a university student and pursuing her dreams. Read about her inspiring journey!
"S" is studying mechanical engineering at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When she arrived at Yemin Orde, immediately following her Aliyah to Israel, she didn’t know how to read or write and she learned to hold a pen in her hand for the first time in her life at the age of 16, at Yemin Orde.
“I had a strong desire to study and to succeed and to assimilate into the country and thus I knew to use all of the various resources that Yemin Orde gave to me – the learning center, after school activities, field trips – getting to know Israel and to connect to my country. I chose to connect with ambitious kids as it was important to me that I have supportive and encouraging friends. I completed my high school studies with an average of 106 with five units of physics and this opened the doors to academia for me. Today, seven years after making aliyah and five years of which I studied at Yemin Orde, I am a student in a University and I have additional ambitions. All of this is because I had a home – Yemin Orde – which supported me so much. Graduate's Day is very important to me, not because I am receiving a scholarship; rather it is important to me to pass on the message that anything is possible with willpower and a family like Yemin Orde.”
Recently, "S" was married, and several of the Yemin Orde staff members attended the wedding, including Susan and Benny. Seventy graduates attended the wedding, from different classes, as S' sister is also a Yemin Orde graduate.
Benny brought the invitation to his Friday morning chat with Yemin Orde children the day following the wedding and asked the children:
" Do you know why "S" chose to put a picture of Yemin Orde on her wedding invitation? Because Yemin Orde is her home. Do you know why I was invited to the wedding even though "S" did not even know me while she was living at the Village? Because she feels close to the people of the Village who helped her to become who she is today and she wanted them to participate in her simcha. Do you know why Shagau and I, and other staff members, talked to each and every graduate at the wedding? Because the graduates, like you, are our children and we care very much about you. We want you to know that we will always be here for you and we want to help you, should you need help."
Indeed, the notion that Yemin Orde is always there for you is important to each and every child living in the Village. Celebrations, holidays, weddings - even in times of crisis - the message is clear. Graduates are assured that they will never again experience abandonment or isolation. The children know they are loved.
Yemin Orde is so special because it represents the promise and security of a home. Yemin Orde is family!
An interview between Chaim Peri, Director-Emeritus, Yemin Orde Youth Village, and Daniel K., 16, a high school student in New York City who has nominated Chaim to receive his school's annual humanitarian award. This interview was conducted via email as part of the award's application process. Daniel is actively involved in UJA-Federation of New York’s Teen Philanthropic Leadership Council. The group provides teens with leadership skills and the opportunity to learn about charitable giving. In 2012, Yemin Orde was the recipient of a grant awarded by the teens on the Council.
Daniel visited Yemin Orde this past summer when he and his family traveled to Israel. Since then, Daniel has nominated Chaim Peri for one of his school’s highest honors. The recipient of the award is honored by having his/her name prominently displayed on a building on the school’s campus for that entire school year.
Daniel: When and where were you born?
Chaim Peri: I was born in September 1941, before the establishment of the State of Israel, in Tel Aviv.
D: How did your professional career lead you to Yemin Orde Youth Village?
CP: As often happens in life, one thing led to another. As a young man in my 20's, I started teaching in one of Israel's periphery towns in the south. Back then, you didn't even need a teaching certificate to do that. It was the best training ground. Along with the staff, we altered the school curriculum in order to address the needs of the local kids. It was a great learning experience. Then I was asked to serve as headmaster in another institution. Somehow I was always "called to duty", and that was also the case with Yemin Orde. The village head at the time had to leave his post, and that is how I joined in.
D: How did the idea of a youth village evolve? When did you begin to envision Yemin Orde Youth Village in the format we find it today?
CP: In Israel, there is a long tradition of youth villages, which serve as residential and educational settings for youngsters who cannot be accommodated in their biological home. When the State of Israel was newly established, the villages were there to absorb waves of post-Holocaust immigrant youth. Many of the country's foremost leaders grew up in youth villages.
Over the years, with social and economic changes in Israel, many of these institutions fell into disrepair and lost much of their glory. Yet, in their essence, youth villages have the capacity to offer at-risk youth a community to lean on and learn from, in the sense of “It takes a village to raise a child.” Just as in the past, people lived in villages and tribal communities of extended families, and children grew up surrounded by wholesome adult figures. Sheltered by the balanced environment of the village, they naturally inherited values, social skills and a sense of well being.
It is this total and enveloping environment that appealed to me as an educator of at-risk youth. The potential was there to provide children with a congruent and supportive backdrop, in contrast to the chaotic and debilitating environments of their biological homes. Over the years, based on experience, experimentation and academic specialization, my "educator's intuition" evolved into a structured method, which is called "the Village Way" or "Derech Kfar".
D: Can you talk about how Yemin Orde evolved from sheltering and educating abandoned Holocaust survivors to helping at-risk children from around the world?
CP: By the time I arrived at Yemin Orde, the waves of Holocaust survivors were already a thing of the past. Yet, waves of new immigrants from outside Europe continued to arrive, such as Jews from then-Persia who fled their country due to changes in regime. Then, in the mid 1980's, immigrants from Ethiopia began to arrive, and this was a totally new phenomenon for the State of Israel – absorbing a Jewish-African community.
The newly-arrived Ethiopian Jews had to overcome the language barrier and figure out the local customs like any other Olim Chdashim (new immigrants in Hebrew). But in their case, there was also a need to make a psychic leap from the tradition and values of small rural villages straight into the hectic 20th century, modern way of life. Many of this community did not fare well with this overnight transition, which caused a tremendous strain on parents and families. Their entire social structure, honed over thousands of years, was fractured, leading to broken homes and at-risk kids.
Later, there was also the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union; and on top of that, we have many kids coming from other countries of the world due to individual plight – persecution in their home countries, etc. – or plain idealism. We also had at Yemin Orde a special project with Tibetan refugee children from the Tibetan Children's Village in India. Yemin Orde's gates were always open.
D: Why do you feel the need to help children and what attracted you to empowering youth?
CP: There is great satisfaction in knowing you have impacted a young person's life in a positive way, because you know that this has shaped that person's entire life. When a child grows up in a harsh environment, he or she is at risk of being trapped in a cycle of harming and being harmed and remaining stuck in the margins of society.
For at-risk youth, especially, adolescence can be said to be an "hour of grace". It is often the last chance to repair those damages caused by early destructive upbringing in fractured homes. Through education in the right ambience, these children can grow up to become normative grownups, raising good families and contributing to society. So in the case of the populations that arrive to Yemin Orde, there is this knowing that you –the educating team – have really saved lives.
D: What would you consider to be the mission of Yemin Orde Youth Village?
CP: Yemin Orde, the Youth Village on Mt. Carmel and named after British Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate (buried in Arlington National Cemetery, VA), aims to provide a "home away from home" for 21st century at-risk and immigrant youth. The goal is for these kids to grow up to be functioning heads of households, and citizens their country can be proud of. Yemin Orde imprints children with recognition and pride in their past, a sense of direction and security about their future, while building an awareness of personal strengths and limitations. This is done by reproducing the qualities of the original "village of humanity” using a structured educational method, called "the Village Way".
Chaim Peri's book, "Teengers Educated the Village Way" is available on Amazon.com in paperback or ebook format.
by Sarah Palmer, graduate, Brandeis University
Currently volunteering at Yemin Orde Youth Village
As a new volunteer at Yemin Orde, I did not expect to get emotional at the Brazilian graduation ceremony a few weeks ago. While at the Village, I had only met a fraction of the students and thought I would just be a spectator at the program while names were called and speeches were given.
When I arrived in the gymnasium it was like being transported out of Yemin Orde. The quiet mountain village dominated by images of flowers and sunsets became an explosion of music, dance, and reflection in a glow-in-the-dark universe that used to be our gym.
I was told, “When we celebrate at Yemin Orde, we’re not kidding around.” Words have never been more true.
The graduating students from Brazil built a set for their program that celebrated life and culture at Yemin Orde. I was so proud of these young adults who worked for six months to create a celebration worthy of their amazing years of growth at the village. The decorations occupied the entire space, all shining with bright neon colors.
As each diploma was given, I felt this rush of pride, even for students I did not personally know. Then the fun began.
There was a full-length musical production adapted from the Sound of Music. It was an amazing show that involved several central elements of village life. You would think that would be enough for the night, but you forget their motto: “When we celebrate at Yemin Orde, we’re not kidding around.” Many songs followed including an exposition of Ethiopian, Russian, and Brazilian dance, meant to show that no dance can beat the Samba.
The graduation celebration closed with hugs, kisses, and tears. Throughout the ceremony, I just kept thinking, “This is so much bigger than me. This is so meaningful, and I must be a part of it.”
Thanks to the open hearts of those at Yemin Orde, children and staff alike, after just three weeks of living here, I am calling Yemin Orde home. I can only imagine what it gives to its children in four years.
Almost exactly two years ago during Hanukkah, a devastating wildfire swept through Yemin Orde and nearly destroyed the Village. Since then, a tradition has evolved whereby Village staff and their families gather together to share Shabbat and holiday festivities. The tradition started as an effort to help the staff members who lost their homes and possessions in the fire.
The host family will provide traditional food and organize activities that are appropriate for adults and children. In this way, the community stays connected to each other and lasting friendships are formed.
The children at the Village, help make traditional Hanukkah foods such as sufganiyot (fried jelly-filled doughnuts) and potato latkes. Everyone gets a chance to display their handmade menorahs and all join in for the special blessings and songs.
The children at Yemin Orde are on their "winter break" during this time of year. Many of them visit family and friends throughout Israel; others without family in Israel chose to remain at the Village, which is always open to them.
Recently, some youth from a nearby kibbutz made an unexpected stopover at the Village. The group was on a hike in the nearby mountains where they planned to set up camp. But, because of poor weather conditions, they needed to seek shelter and Yemin Orde opened its doors to the kids.
Everyone was able to seek comfort and warmth and, in the true spirit of the holiday, gathered to kindle the Hanukkah lights together.
Wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah! Chag Chanuka Sameach!
As the Jewish New Year approaches, I would like to wish you and your families, on behalf of the children at Yemin Orde as well as our dedicated teachers and staff, a Shanah Tovah! May this be a year filled with health, happiness, education and laughter.
We are beginning this New Year with many blessings. Talented new staff has joined the Yemin Orde family and children from all over the country and the world. They have chosen us as their home base for education and a better future.
The rebuilding and rehabilitation of Yemin Orde, a process that will change the face of the Village, has begun.
I would personally like to thank all of our supporters in Israel and abroad for making this happen. I invite you to stay in touch and to be part of making Yemin Orde an educational environment for the coming generations.
I'd like to quote the words of Charles Orde Wingate (knows as "the friend") and the namesake of our Village:
“When I studied in school, I was looked at from above and I was led to feel that I would be unsuccessful and unwanted in the world. When I arrived in Israel, I found there a whole nation who were treated in a similar way for many generations, and despite this, in the end, their spirits were not defeated; they are a presence of great power in the world, and they are building their nation from start. I felt that I belong to these people.”
May these words be a guiding light for us in our daily lives as well as in our educational path.
A Happy and Healthy New Year!
Director, Yemin Orde Youth Village
My name is Sasha Istratova and I am a proud graduate of Yemin Orde Youth Village. I want to share my story with you so that you will understand just how important your support is for every single child at the Village.
I was born in Ukraine in 1984 to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother; my parents divorced when I was young and my mother and I survived on our own. My knowledge about Judaism was basically non-existent. My father died when I was 13 years old at which point I was embraced by my Jewish family.
At 16, I began to understand the beauty of Judaism and learned about Israel at a special summer camp for Jewish Russian children. At that point, I decided to move to Israel to live freely as a Jew, to pursue a good education and have opportunities for a successful future. I said a tearful goodbye to my mother and arrived at Yemin Orde Youth Village to begin my new life.
From my very first day at Yemin Orde, the staff embraced me and treated me like family. I felt that I was truly home. In school, I learned Hebrew, made new friends and excelled in my studies; Biology, Physics and Computer Science were my favorites. Evening activities included art, music and dance classes. I also learned more about Judaism and began conversion studies.
After school, my friends and I volunteered for local community service projects as a part of Yemin Orde’s emphasis on “tikkun olam”, which means repairing the world. I understood the importance of helping other people in need, just as the staff and informal educators at the Village helped me when I first arrived. My self-confidence was strengthened and I became a more positive person.
Graduation brought new opportunities for me. The excellent education I received at Yemin Orde enabled me to qualify for university scholarships and to apply for good jobs after completing my military service. I was confident in myself as a new Israeli, as a Jew and as a productive member of Israeli society. Whenever I had a problem, Yemin Orde was there for me. I was welcomed back home without question. The staff guided me through tough decisions and helped me figure out my next steps.
Today, I am happily married and working in the Information Technology field. My husband and I currently live in Chicago while he attends a graduate fellowship program. We look forward to returning to Israel when his studies are complete.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. As I hope you can tell, Yemin Orde will always hold a very special place in my heart. On behalf of the children at Yemin Orde now and the thousands of graduates who have come before me, thank you for making sure that Yemin Orde will always be there for us. It is our safe haven and our family.
Wishing you a good summer!
For many years, my personal connection with friends and partners in the U.S. has been expressed through reciprocal visits. For our friends, dropping by Yemin Orde when they are in Israel is a must, while I have always made it a point to come to the U.S. and meet with as many friends as I could.
These days, as the leadership of Yemin Orde has passed on to a younger generation, and while we focus our efforts on reaching out to more children throughout the country and giving them what we know best to give – I could allow myself to accept the invitation to spend a longer period of time in the U.S., and to pay a visit that is less condensed and strenuous as in the past.
The first stop on my two-month tour was New York City. I visited as many friends as possible and participated in special discussion programs where I shared the latest news from the Village and the Educational Institute. I also visited friends in Boston and addressed the pressing needs of at-risk youth in Israel. Next stop: meeting old and new friends in South Florida, where the cultural diversity there reminds me of our Village. I truly appreciated the dedication and support which I encountered every step of my trip.
After Florida, I’m off to Los Angeles where I will participate in Yom Ha’Atzmaut or Israel Independence Day celebrations. I am also looking forward to two important programs in the San Diego area geared for educators and those in the child-welfare and related fields. At these events, I will talk about The Village Way methodology, and examine its possible integration with the U.S. foster care system. Traumatized foster children need emotional and cultural balance as well as educational balance in order for them to achieve wholeness and success in their lives.
I always do my utmost to convey the full meaning that our outreach has on a national scale. Yet sometimes friends can articulate our message in the best way. Here are excerpts from one response that has also been put into writing, that of Barry Shrage, President of Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston:
"Derech Kfar’s mission has significance even beyond the vital task of repairing Israel’s educational system. Derech Kfar aims at restoring the sense of common destiny, citizenship, community and spiritual mission that filled the early settlers. Israel cannot survive as a nation without mission and purpose. The sense of common destiny that binds a nation together may already be dissolving in the absence of a unifying vision and inspiring leadership. This requires some reconnection to a renewed vision of Jewish life of the kind Derech Kfar represents linking the nation to its spiritual mission through Jewish history, Jewish philosophy and Jewish text.
According to Rav Soloveitchik: The password of the Jew is Chesed -- kindness, compassion -- to his fellow Jews and to his fellow man. He shares in the travail of man in general and of his people. [..] Derech Kfar reminds us of the special privilege of being part of the Jewish people and the nation we are creating together[..] In a time of anomie and loneliness, we carry the secret of community making and caring to provide our children and grandchildren a sense of community and belonging. In a time of rootlessness and alienation, we’re connecting to a 3500-year-old history and an infinite future. In a time of religious intolerance, [..] we represent a faith that [..] has the potential to foster religious communities that are serious and learned and particular in their spiritual core but also universal in their concern for the oppressed and connected to the network of all humankind."
When I return to Israel in mid-May, I hope to have many new stories and new friends to share with our children and staff at the Village. In the meantime, as we say in Israel, L'Hitraot, or until we meet again!