Invitation design by Uri Rumano
(We are truly blessed to have one of the best graphic designers in New York City!)

Ann Bialkin, Chair of Elem-America Hosting Elem Activists at her home
Photo by: Elem Activist Ayelet Levron

By Mitchell Slepian

Edited by Stephanie Slepian Vivolo

Still energized from our recent Hamptons retreat, over a two-dozen Elem activists gathered in the beautiful home of Elem’s Founder and President Ann Biaklin.   We sat just a few blocks north of Strawberry Fields and listened to Ann’s inspirational story of how Elem came to be. As she spoke, in our heads, the wheels were going round and round.  Our hearts were imagining how to continue to follow in her strong footsteps to make a difference.

We did a quick round robin introduction of the activists.  We all told the reasons we decided to join.  Nitzan deserves big thanks.  So many of us credited her with being the one to spark our interest. What was so cool is one of the things we discussed during our retreat was improving our group’s communications skills. We put this event together on short notice and the attendance was staggering.

Ann began by taking us back 29 years ago, when she learned from Israeli Family Court Judge Saviona Ruth-Levy that there were many children in Israel that needed advocates because they were falling onto the wrong side of the law and wound up in court.  Rebecca Rozen, ELEM vice president, joined Ann’s storytelling.

She started a small little group of Israelis and Americans and set out to make changes.  Ann told us, “Americans went to Israel a lot and we thought we knew Israel. But we knew nothing about these kids and as we moved forward there were millions of Russians, 100,000 Ethiopians and two to three wars. It was inevitable that we’d grow. The need for our support would only grow.  It is immensely important to get people to help. I just cannot tell you how important it is.”

They compared experiences

We started with homeless kids.  Delinquent kids were included.  No one believed there were any in Israel. We were forced to point this out.

She continued, ‘When we started we were continually pressed by the Welfare Department to help.  We recognized there was a huge problem and thought about what we could do about it?”  One big problem was that, mostly the Welfare Department kind of hid these kids. They didn’t want anyone’s face to be seen.  Legal reasons prevailed.

Ann told us they moved to do something temporarily to get something started and to give it someone else.  At first, they built hostels for children.  They were located near their families.  It is paramount to always have family involvement.  We always wanted to be close to the community because Israel is very family oriented.

Per Ann, we have a project that is relatively rare. We help both the offender and the victims. We learned very early to help them when they are young and we will get to them quicker.  It is really hard; this is a very difficult issue.

Questions popped in as to why people should donate to kids in Israel, when there are people here with the same issue? Ann responded, “one key thing we learned as the problems the kids were having in Israel were the same that as those in the U.S. and the rest of the world.  All problems are universal. “

Rebecca informed us how in the very beginning that we performed job training and made a commitment to be involved in the community. Many parents came to us. They asked if we would take their child.

Davidi talked about his own experience visiting Elem shelter and how great it is that we help all people.  We are apolitical and help all Israeli kids who need our support regardless of religious or ethnic background.  He mentioned help given to orthodox kids, who were kicked out of their families for being gay.

He mentioned our upcoming Meeting a Star Under the Starlight event and how the star, Diana Golbi, is one of our success stories.  He talked about his own youth and how kids that grew up on farms stealing cars was the standard.

Davidi discussed how the volunteers work very hard despite any problem confronted. One women’s house was broken into and the stuff from their music program was stolen.  But she carried on and helped all the kids.

Rinat discussed her recent visit to Israel and the time she spent at a center in Tel Aviv.  She told us how it is hard for us to be here and understand what is going on there.  She mentioned how the director of the center, was asked by a kid if he believes in G-d? He said, “it doesn’t matter if I believe in G-d or not, but I believe in people”. One of the kids told him because of us he is turning his life around   She mentioned we raise money. But we don’t realize how it translates.

Yuval asked Ann, how she’s able to get along with everyone and keep things going in the right direction.  She let us know that it is a very difficult thing and you have to work at it.  We have to be a group and help each other. It is really important to get to know each other.  It is always important in any group for the lay people and the professionals to work together.

We spent a few moments rehashing what we learned on the retreat.

Ann concluded by saying the best thing is to get to Israel and visit Elem projects and see our work in action.

Words tell stories. But the only way to conclude is to view the photographic magic of Ayelet Levron that would make Mathew Brady proud. Power to the People of Elem!

Photos by Ayelet Levron:

A big thank you to Elem Entry Activist Mitchell Slepian for preparing the below press release with such exciting news:

Israeli Idol Winner, Diana Golbi, to Perform at Elem’s “Meet a Star Under the Starlight” Fundraiser

All Money Raised at Performance will help Youth in Distress in Israel
WHAT: Diana Golbi, 2010 winner of Kokhav Nolad, the Israeli version of American Idol, to perform at Elem’s “Meet a Star Under the Starlight” fundraiser. All funds raised from the minimum $100 price of admission will go directly to Elem to assist more youth in need.
Elem is Israel’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of abused, neglected, and adjudicated Jewish and Arab Israeli youth. Golbi is an Elem success story.

WHEN: Sept. 15, 8:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

WHERE: The rooftop of the Setai Building, 40 Broad Street, NYC

WHO: Golbi came to Israel with her family from the former Soviet Union and was faced with the tribulations of adapting to a new culture and the deterioration of her family structure. Taunted by classmates for being Russian and despondent after a close friend overdosed on drugs, Golbi started spending nights away from home and became one of Israel’s “street children.” She found support and direction from ELEM’s night van volunteers and social workers who encouraged her to pursue her talents and helped her turn her life around. She auditioned for Kokhav Nolad. Golbi was named winner of its eighth season, Sept. 4, 2010.

About Elem
ELEM was founded in 1982 by a group of American and Israeli professionals and lay volunteers to help Israel’s population of at-risk youth become productive citizens. Today ELEM is Israel’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of abused, neglected, and adjudicated Jewish and Arab Israeli youth. The youth ELEM serves face tremendous hurdles; many live below the poverty line or struggle to assimilate as new immigrants. With a network of 250 professionals and almost 2,000 volunteers, ELEM is able to reach tens of thousands of youth each year. ELEM provides a unique brand of non-judgmental, innovative aid including group and individual therapy, mentoring, occupational and educational placement, and vocational training. ELEM also operates a wide network of counseling and support centers, as well as a fleet of outreach vans that take to the streets to reach the hidden “children of the night”.

EleMusic Productions Present
September 15th, 2011
Meeting a star under starlight
Diana Golbi – The Israeli star who became our idol!

By Mitchell Slepian

Edited by Stephanie Slepian Vivolo

When one spends a weekend in the Hamptons, the first thing that comes to mind is traffic. Yeah, the traffic on LIE was horrendous. However, the traffic in the house at Elem’s retreat was the exact opposite. We were riding in rapidly moving traffic, racing to the finish line to change the lives of children in need.

So, before we spread the dirt on what we did, we first need to thank Lenore Ruben, president, Elem/America Board for letting us use her spectacular home. The views of the lake from the deck were breathtaking.

As an Elem newbie, joining after the Jazz and Wine Fest, this weekend created the kind of traffic you want to be stuck in. The exchange of ideas was amazing. If only corporate America had these types of positive, lively discussions the world would be in a better place, even without ChocoChange. But ChocoChange gives you that extra charge, which is what Elem’s activists have.

The team building exercises showed our ability to work together. We devised ways to drop eggs without breaking them from outdoor play sets and attempted to get coins and gather as many personal items as we could. And we relaxed by kayaking, swimming and chillin’ with lots of great food, music and tons of great ideas, there’s no doubt that the next year will rock.

Some of the heated arguments that occurred could be described as being symbolic of anger or miscommunication. Yeah, we need to work harder on a few things. But if we didn’t have compassion for what we are doing and real devotion to making changes for the children, we may have not been so tough with our words. Our heated discussions illustrate our steadfast commitment and willingness to work to make things better for those kids who need it.

To dive a little deeper into our work, we kicked off our program with a bunch of simple team building exercises to get our blood flowing. Nitzan played a few songs. We did a quick analysis of why we liked a particular tune. Then our path got steeper.

We moved outside and were charged with more difficult tasks. We successfully completed each one with quick-thinking and teamwork. All of our voices were heard and we all joined together as a team in overcoming all obstacles presented.

We moved into some free time and just bonded in the pool, on the lake or by listening to a great jam session led by Bator, Yuval and Ayelet. We heard some great guitar and ukulele playing accompanied by awesome vocals. We had an amazing BBQ. Everyone pulled together to make it taste great. We moved into some Jacuzzi time and just got to know each other.

Sunday arrived. After a great breakfast, we delved into more team building games. The top one was Rinat’s assignment to create chocolate product to change the world. Change the world we did with Azdek and ChoCoChange.

Itzhak Zur, a sports team psychologist led us in a lively discussion. We spent some time analyzing things we all need to do to make our team bigger, stronger and closer so we can achieve our endeavors.  His insightful commentary and thought leadership was inspiring.

We grilled some more, cleaned up, ate some watermelon and rode off to shake the world to give distressed children a chance.

Each task that was assigned was taken very seriously with an overwhelming amount of passion. At the end of the weekend, the feeling of empowerment to advance Elem’s cause was sky-high. We created a team that will rise to the top. Nothing will get in the way of our unwavering devotion to the children that need our support. I know I will do my best to do more. While words can tell a story, one must be mindful that a picture speaks a thousand words. So, for those who were there and for those who unfortunately missed this tremendous weekend, you can see below Ayelet’s images that speak billions of words. There’s no doubt her images will leave a lasting impression of our togetherness, which will only make you want to do more.

Retreat photos captured by Ayelet Levron

Retreat video by Ofir Yaloz