A Brighter Future and a Better Life with Orr Shalom

Updated: Jan 18

In Israel, we are one family.

When there is not enough food on someone’s plate, we collect the funds to refill their entire kitchen. When the winter is cold and families are shivering, we donate blankets and jackets and scarves. When there is an injustice to humanity, all of Israel jumps in to help save lives and foster hope.

 

And when it comes to raising the children of our country’s future, things are no different.


Each year, hundreds of parents are unable to properly care for their families. Too many children begin their lives in homes lacking the love and basic care they both need and deserve.


While welfare workers have worked tirelessly around the clock to find the support these children need to live, unfortunately, for decades, many of them only received the resources they needed to survive, not the ones they needed to thrive.


But for Israelis, this was simply not enough.

Orr Shalom was founded in 1980 by Hal and Shelley Cohen, an Israeli couple looking to revolutionize the foster care system in Israel. With the help of philanthropist Gottfried Muller, the Cohens successfully created a new system of out-of-home care for youth at risk, transitioning from the traditional and impersonal institutions that made up Israel’s foster care system for decades. With the belief that intimate, family-like structures would be the best way to nurture and support children in such a vulnerable place, the couple became the first successful pioneers as foster parents using this model.


Quickly thereafter, the Ministry of Health helped the Cohen’s to establish the first Therapeutic Family Group Home for children-at-risk. Within 10 years, Orr Shalom had opened multiple Therapeutic Family Group Homes, adolescent girls’ homes, intensive care facilities for young boys and girls, and prevention programs across Israel. In 2013, they expanded to establish an innovative graduate program, to help care for young adults through their late 20s as they begin their newfound journey of independence.

Today, Orr Shalom is Israel’s largest organization dedicated to bettering the lives of children and youth at-risk, and cares for 1,400 children who have sadly been removed from their homes as a result of abuse and neglect. Each and every child who walks through the doors of Orr Shalom not only receives the resources to survive, but also the love, support and opportunity to thrive. With an intimate, warm and loving home, and an array therapeutic services and professional help, these children are given the chance to change the course of their lives, and grow into responsible and contributing adults within their communities. Through the proper love and care, healing the trauma of neglect, abuse or tragedy is possible. One child at a time, Orr Shalom continues to save the children of Israel’s future.


And their numbers are here to prove it:

78% of Orr Shalom graduates have finished high school, and 80% of graduates continue on to enlist in the IDF/National Service, both higher than the national average. The majority of their graduates go on to study in academia with career paths and employment.


* There are 230 children living in 21 Therapeutic Family Group Homes across Israel.

* 850 children live among 600 foster families who are recruited, trained and supported by Orr Shalom. 200 of these foster children have special needs.

* 30 babies live in the 6 emergency shelters for babies and toddlers at any given time.

* With the “Beating the Odds Graduate Program”, 275 Orr Shalom "graduates" participate in a comprehensive program for 18-26 year old’s.

With the support of Orr Shalom, these children will not only break the patterns of abuse and neglect for future generations of Israeli children, they will be the warriors who fight it. They will be the forebears of a new tomorrow.


Who are the children of Orr Shalom?


Children like Noam, who was born addicted to cocaine and had to undergo two brain surgeries after the harrowing experience with his parents.

Or Yael, who was just 8 years old when her father murdered her mother and committed suicide.


Today, they are both supported and loved dearly by their families at Orr Shalom, along with hundreds of others. Regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or ability, every child deserves another chance at a vibrant and healthy life.

“Rinat was recently referred to Orr Shalom at the age of 9. She comes from a very harsh and troubled background: Rinat experienced years of abuse and neglect at the hand of her mother, who still struggles with serious mental health issues. She has refused any contact with Rinat since her referral to Orr Shalom; Rinat has never known her father. When Rinat first joined Orr Shalom she was not comfortable with washing her clothes as she was used to wearing the same dirty clothes for days on end, without bathing. We found that nearly all her clothing had holes or stains in them – and they were all about two sizes too small. Her house mother took her shopping and explained what the budget was, and helped her pick out appropriate clothing for her age. Once they arrived home, however, Rinat would not let anyone wash her clothes for fear that they would be stolen or damaged. Thankfully, through constant reassurance, and over the course of acclimating to the home, Rinat began allowing for her clothes to be washed, trusting that they would be returned to her at the end of the process. Her house mother says that Rinat’s demeaner and overall well-being has improved by leaps and bounds.”

 

With Rinat, and with the 1,400 other children that come through the doors of Orr Shalom, it is about trust. When a child can learn to trust life- to trust and accept the abundance of love all around them- they are given another chance at life; and this is what Orr Shalom is all about.