While motivating oneself for school can be a challenge for any student, it can be all that much more difficult for those children who have lost a parent to tragedy or illness. In recognition of this unique group of students, the Chessed Menachem Mendel program of the Colel Chabad charitable organization developed a special initiative specifically designed to provide orphaned students with that extra drive to succeed.
Last Thursday, close to one hundred of these students were hosted for an award ceremony saluting their academic and social accomplishments despite their personal challenges.
Through a grant from the Barad Scholarship Fund, supported by the Barad family of New York, students who have lost a parent are provided additional financial support to supplement their school-based learning programs. Another 100 students will be awarded in a similar ceremony hosted by the Falic Scholarship Fund next month.
Former Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Mayer Lau, greeted the middle and high school students and their families at the event in Jerusalem.
“I know what you are going through all too well,” started Rabbi Lau, who was orphaned during the holocaust by the age of eight. Addressing the Balad family, Rabbi Lau thanked them for their support of these most important members of the Jewish people. “Every orphan and every widow are a world unto themselves. To support them and to help them succeed is to build up an entire world.”
Following his remarks, each student was presented with their certificate and a check – their scholarship fund for the coming year – and were entertained by several of the students who have been studying music as part of the enrichment program.
“My children are the only children who have lost a parent in our small community in the Shomron,” shared one mother, whose husband passed away from a brain aneurism two years ago. “They always feel different. Here, among all of these other children, they feel at ease and can finally relax.”
“These children have all been through a very difficult time. Not only with the loss of their parent, but with all the everyday challenges that come along with that loss,” said Yitzchak Marton, Program Director of Chessed Menachem Mendel. “This program invests so much time and support to each child, helping in the way that best suits them individually. It is inspiring to see the investment that these children have put in their studies and in their future.”
Depending on the need, students in the scholarship program are offered tutoring and mentoring in problematic subjects, didactic and neurologic diagnosis for more serious issues, home visits by social workers and professionals who keep an ongoing connection with the family, enrichment programs for those gifted in certain areas, animal therapy to help with emotional issues as well as funding for social and summer activities. In addition to the help provided to the students, the single parent is also supported by the program through professional training, support groups and fun days and retreats to rejuvenate the family.
The Chessed Menachem Mendell program is one of many run by Colel Chabad, the longest running social services organization in Israel. Founded in 1788 by the first Rebbe of the Lubavitcher Chassidic movement, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Colel Chabad was set up with the goal of supporting the welfare needs of the community in the Holy Land.
Since that time, the organization’s activities have continued and responded to the growing needs of the Israeli population. Colel Chabad runs a year-round assistance program for widows and orphans whereby the provide food, clothing and social services for close to 300 widows and over 600 orphans annually.