GIRL POWER: OTZMA TZEIRA CELEBRATES GIRLS’ EMPOWERMENT
Two hundred teenage girls from all over Israel gathered at WIZO's headquarters in Tel Aviv to mark the culmination of this year's Otzma Tzeira ("Young Strength") project, a program which empowers them through the teaching of photography, film, theater, and more.
February 20, 2018
From Nahariya in the north to Eilat in the south, over 200 energetic teenage girls from 14 cities across Israel came together at WIZO's headquarters in Tel Aviv to celebrate the conclusion of another successful year of the Otzma Tzeira ("Young Strength") project.
Established in 2003, the initiative, which is a flagship program of WIZO Israel's Family Welfare Division, is a social educational program that helps at-risk teenage girls who have suffered emotional traumas, social difficulties and dysfunction in the family, to express themselves artistically, develop a personal identity and learn to make better choices through group experiences and utilizing empowerment values.
Otzma Tzeira's social and emotional reinforcement program deals with issues of adolescence with a gender emphasis via artistic tools such as: theater, music, photography and cinema. During the celebratory evening, the girls all presented their final projects from the program.
"These girls, despite having suffered in one way or another, suffer invisibly," Cathy Sagie, head of WIZO's Family Welfare Division explained. "They are identified by their school counselors but do not receive treatment from the public school or health systems – leaving them open to unhealthy development in the future."
In the framework of the program, groups of 15 girls, who were chosen by their school advisors for participation, met 15 times at their local WIZO branches across Israel. They took part in individual and group activities in order to develop awareness of their own personal, psychological and physical development, as well as to improve their decision-making skills. In order to enrich their coping strategies and building of personal identity, the program uses different forms of art therapy including photography, ceramics, music, drama and video.
The girls in the Otzma Tzeira theater group rehearse. "The program focuses on the challenges that every teenage girl faces." Sagie said. "Otzma Tzeira enables these young teenage girls to develop a safer personal-feminine identity, to find their inner voice through the use of artistic tools." Sagie emphasized that the Otzma Tzeira program reflects all of WIZO's core values: gender equality, women's empowerment, education and family welfare.
Otzma Tzeira: Regaining Their Voice
Liora (not her real name) is a 14 year-old ninth grade student from Kiryat Malachi. She was a good student in elementary school. However, when she made the transition to junior high, she wanted to be in the theater track, but she was afraid the other students would mock her when she had to get up on stage and perform an audition that included a monologue and a song. Due to her fear, she dropped her ambition to study in the theater track and soon lost interest in her studies. She began to distance herself from classmates and for the next two years of school, throughout 7th and 8th grade, she did not go out with friends, she had no one to talk to at school, and she did not go to class parties. Liora did not want her parents to interfere and refused their attemps to help her. She was all alone. For ninth grade she moved to a different class but that did not help either.
Everything changed when her school counselor told her about Otzma Tzeira. Her mother reported that once she started the program her daughter began to sing at home. For the last few years her daughter had simply stopped singing and and now, thanks to Otzma Tzeira, she found her singing voice again. "For me," Liora says, "Otzma Tzeira is first and foremost a group of girls who listened to me and loved me. This project has enabled me to rediscover my talents and my dreams."
"Thanks to Otzma Tzeira, girls find their lost voice again, discover their own unique female voice, and become aware of the endless choices they have," Sagie said.
The Power of Otzma Tzeira
The success of the program is evident. One girl wished to enter a local photography competition, but her parents discouraged her from competing for fear she would not be able to withstand the tension that accompanied the competition. However, through her participation in Otzma Tzeira, she took a picture that reached the finals.
Thanks to Otzma Tzeira, another girl had the courage to run for youth office and won the position of Deputy Chairman of the Municipal Student Council. Yet another girl who learned photography via Otzma Tzeira, had a photo she took in the program chosen by a major Israeli law firm as the picture for their Passover greeting card to their clients.
A photograph of one of the girls from the Otzma Tzeira photography group from Nahariya taken by another girl in the group. "Otzma Tzeira is one of our most important projects," Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO said. "It embodies one of our highest goals: to empower women, starting at a young age. It's so exciting to see the heights to which WIZO can lift these girls through art, which allows each participant to personally express herself. I applaud all those involved in this wonderful program."
Yaniv, a 13-year-old boy whose family has been through many challenges, could not believe his own eyes when he arrived at the WIZO Nir HaEmek Youth Village and was placed in a foster home where for the first time in his life he'll have his very own bed, cabinet, closet and desk.
About two weeks ago, Esti Cohen, Director of the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Youth Village, sponsored by WIZO USA and WIZO Argentina, was approached by the welfare department of the city of Afula and asked to accept a 13-year-old boy named Yaniv (not his real name), who had recently arrived in the city, to the youth village.
Unfortunately, because the residential dormitory was at full capacity and because their seventh grade was already full, they could not accomodate him.
However, despite the response, the following Sunday Yaniv and his mother arrived at the school accompanied by one of the city’s social workers.
That's when they first heard Yaniv’s moving story.
Yaniv's parents came to Israel from Ethiopia as a young married couple, and lived in the city of Ashdod where Yaniv was born. When he was only four years old, his parents divorced. Yaniv’s mother then moved to Rishon Lezion and his father and his father's family raised Yaniv while his mother paid child support to the father.
Four years ago, Yaniv’s father became ill with cancer, and passed away. His mother then returned to Ashdod to raise Yaniv.
She then met a new partner and gave birth to a new baby about a year and a half ago. About a month ago, Yaniv’s mother separated from her new partner, and moved with Yaniv to Afula because of the city’s lower cost of living. She left her baby daughter in Ashdod to be raised by her ex-partner.
Throughout the whole time that the social worker told Esti this sad story, Yaniv kept his head down, avoiding eye contact.
Yaniv is a good student with outstanding marks, a nice, well behaved boy. He speaks to, and about, his mother with respect, and understands his situation. He is not angry with his mother that he has been at home for the last month and not in school, because he knows how much his mother has done for him. After all, she did register him for school in Afula. He simply hadn't been placed yet.
After hearing Yaniv’s touching story and seeing what a special boy he is, everyone at WIZO Nir HaEmek immediately fell in love with him, and decided they had to find a way to enable him to live and study in their youth village.
So, as a temporary solution, they placed him in their “mishpachton” ?? a foster family home for children at-risk.*
As is their custom at WIZO Nir HaEmek, they invited the family and the new student to first see the mishpachtonliving space, and only then decide if they wished to continue.
When he was shown the residence for the first time, Abaye, the foster father of the mishpachton, reported that Yaniv and his mother were "in shock" from the wonderful physical conditions of the mishpachton.
First Yaniv was shown the well-equipped and modern kitchen, and couldn’t believe it when he was told that it served only the children in the mishpachton.
Then, when they showed him the bedroom and where his bed would be, Yaniv asked, “Who else will sleep in the bed with me”?
When he was told he would not need to share a bed and that he would also have his own closet, cabinet and desk, Yaniv was very excited. He repeatedly asked the foster father if it was really true that all these things - the bed, the closet, the desk - would be just for him, until he finally understood.
That evening, Yaniv and his mother returned to the mishpachton, and ate dinner with the whole group. Yaniv was welcomed with balloons, which made him very happy.
Now, Esti Cohen reports, Yaniv is already beginning his studies in Nir HaEmek's 7th grade class.
We all wish him all the success in the world!
* The mishpachton at WIZO Nir HaEmek is a foster home for children at risk. Twelve children, aged 4 to 12, referred by the welfare authorities, live in this home, and are cared for by devoted foster parents, who raise them and give them love, warmth and security so they can grow up in a stable environment and overcome the traumas they experienced at home. The mishpachton has been generously supported in recent years by the family of Hellen Deller and WIZO USA.
A crowd of over 100 Bal Harbour, Florida residents broke into applause last night after the Village Council unanimously passed a measure that cleared the way for local law enforcement to consider anti-Semitism as a “motivation for criminal offenses in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its Jewish community.”
Unofficially referred to as the “Anti-Semitism Definition Act,” the 5-0 vote adopts the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism — directing the police department to consider this description when investigating crimes, consistent with the federal and state hate crime statutes.
A small Florida town that is popular with snowbirds, Bal Harbour is not new to combating anti-Semitism.
In 2015, the Village Council passed an ordinance “prohibiting the Village from entering into agreements with businesses that boycott a person or entity based in or doing business with an Open Trade Jurisdiction such as Israel, and requiring businesses to pledge not to engage in such a boycott during agreements with the Village.” Two years later, approximately 35 cities have followed Bal Harbour’s lead and have passed anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) legislation that forbids the municipality to do business with or invest in entities that boycott the Jewish state.
Currently, nearly half the states in the union have passed anti-BDS measures, a number that is expected to greatly increase in the coming year. But while debate exists on the inherently anti-Semitic nature of BDS, defining anti-Semitism has also become a subject of controversy.
Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on rising anti-Semitism on college campuses and varying perspectives on the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” currently under consideration by the committee. This bill that passed the Senate (but not the House) last year, would direct the Education Department to rely on the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.
Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman, who introduced the measure, felt the issue was too important to wait for Washington to act.
“As a local municipality we can do things more efficiently and faster than a state or federal bureaucracy,” Groisman explained to the Haym Salomon Center. “Anti-Semitism in our country is growing at an alarming rate. What is right can’t wait for state and federal politicians to act. That is why I have proposed this measure and hope other towns and cities will follow our lead.”
Groisman added after the vote:
We may be a small municipality, but we now represent an important voice. This fight is significant not only for the Jewish community but for the entire American community at large, as hate breeds hate, and we cannot stand still and allow intolerance to threaten our society.
Groisman’s leadership is being praised by Jewish community leaders and members of Congress.
Sara Gold Rafel, Southeast Director for the Israel education group StandWithUs, praised Groisman and the Bal Harbour community.
This legislation will clarify what Anti-Semitism is and thereby help combat it. The bill doesn’t regulate anti-Semitic speech, or any form of speech. It relates only to unprotected behavior, such as vandalism. It is definitely a crucial step in the right direction.
Joseph Sabag, Executive Director of the Israel Allies Foundation, an organization that works with elected officials on issues related to anti-Semitism and the Middle East, sees Groisman as a leader in combating anti-Semitism.
“With anti-Semitism rising in the United States and around the world, we need leaders on the local level who can be emulated by other mayors and local officials, who will realize they don’t have to wait for higher levels of government to act,” Sabag said. “Adopting the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism should be a no-brainer for states, municipalities and college campuses. Israel Allies applauds Mayor Groisman’s leadership and can only hope others will follow his example.
Before yesterday’s vote, the Bal Harbour Village Council received letters supporting the measure from Florida Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-26) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-27).
A mandatory second reading of the legislation is scheduled for December 13. At that time, the bill is expected to become law.
“With the passage of this ordinance in December, we will be the first government body in the nation to codify the proper definition for anti-Semitism, reflecting the realities of the day,” said Groisman. “We hope that cities and states across the country will follow, and our nation will continue to reject all forms of hate and discrimination.”
Paul Miller is the President & Executive Director of the Haym Salomon Center.
Article first appeared on The Daily Wire and may be found here.
WIZO Nachlat Yehuda Youth Village is training pupils to be the next generation of firefighters. The new firefighting track includes full matriculation certificate.
Some high school students learn biology, others prefer geography, dancing or theater. There are also those who choose to protect the environment and battle wildfire.
WIZO Nachlat Yehuda Youth Village is training pupils to be the next generation of firefighters with a special track that is part of environment studies, which provides students with a Bagrut (matriculation) certificate.
In addition to matriculation, students from this track will be taught specialized topics from the field of firefighting and rescue. This track does not replace the regular classes but instead introduces additional classes dedicated only to the firefighting track. These additional classes include regular in-class activities as well as outdoor learning activities.
"I always liked playing with fire, and wanted to do something for other people," says Nava Alkaslay, one of the students of the track. Another student, Keren Or Lahav, said: "Because I have the relevant experience and skills, I can react in real time, which can help the firefighters who arrive later."
Most of the students from this track are interested in pursuing a firefighting career whether in the army or later in life. "This track is in essence a track for self-empowerment for youth through firefighting and rescue studies. Students of their age are usually interested in these subjects," says Pnina Geffen, director of the youth village.
Dr. Beni Fischer, Director of the Rural Educational Authority, dormitories and youth Aliya of the Ministry of Education, said: "This track incorporates regular matriculation subjects with attractive professions, such as firefighting – a role that entails a sense of a mission and a national need and priority."