ELEM'S Newsletter, September 2017

Editor’s Letter:

I hope everyone had a great summer. At ELEM we kept ourselves busy. Our president Lenore Ruben hosted an amazing night of Sephardic culture. We had a wonderful Challah Bake, led by Michelle Benasdigh, our volunteer of the month.

As we head into September, we want to wish everyone a L’Shanah Tova and hope that the year 5778 brings more great things to ELEM.

Stay tuned for information about our upcoming gala and amazing events geared toward helping distressed youth in Israel.

My First Visit to ELEM

by Liora Attias

I have been the administrative assistant at ELEM-USA since 2014. I have always had passion and enthusiasm for the work ELEM does on the ground in Israel. I have heard and read many stories about the youth our staff and volunteers work so hard to help. I’ve read stories about the struggles and have seen far too many pictures of the youth in need. I saw photos of the programs and learned about our projects.

That being said, until you see these projects and the work being done first hand you cannot truly appreciate what ELEM really does.

Last month, I visited Israel and was able to see the work first hand. What I saw blew my mind and ignited the passion I had for the work even more.

An ELEM volunteer reached out to me and asked that I meet her at a park in Ramla at 8 o’clock at night. If you’re familiar with Ramla, you know that is not a city you want to wander around so late in the evening. Upon arrival, two volunteers who seemed extremely comfortable and ready to start the night greeted me. For the first 30 minutes, I stood in the park as they gave me details about how their project helps youth. I learned that usually they have tables set up with food and hot drinks and soda. They usually stand around waiting for kids to come over. They do this twice a week at the same exact time so that the youth know when to show up.

In this particular neighborhood I learned that many youth have no parental guidance or meals. The nights that ELEM is at the park is a getaway for these kids who desperately need someone to care about them. On this night, there were no tables or food set up, as there was a concert a few blocks away that teenagers usually attend and stay until the wee hours of the night.

On these nights, volunteers go to the concert and walk the grounds looking for the youth who need help.

When the concert concluded, we headed over to the venue. We met up with five more volunteers who were ready to start the night. As we were standing there, two teenage boys approached our group and greeted each volunteer as if they were all longtime friends. The volunteers expressed how excited they were to see them. I learned that these boys have been a part of ELEM for a few years now and knew they were going to be there that night. They attended the concert for this particular reason. They find the ELEM volunteers to be their family and expressed it feels like “home” when they are with them.

The volunteers sat around with them for the first couple of minutes to find out how they were doing. They asked them about their home life, their activities
during the summer and school. After spending some time catching up with the boys, the volunteers decided to split into two teams so that they could cover more ground while searching for youth that need help. What I found the most fascinating was that the two teenage boys joined the groups in search for troubled youth. They searched the streets with us and even pointed out areas where we should look. As we walked, I noticed how happy and content they were to just be a part of ELEM’s team. Those few hours made all the difference in their lives.

At 11:00 P.M., I had to leave and head back to where I was staying. Even though I had to leave, ELEM volunteers continued to walk the streets until the late hours of the night. For them, the night has just begun.

After speaking to the volunteers first hand and seeing them in action, I became extremely proud. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that has so many people dedicated to the mission. And proud to be a part of an organization that helps so
many kids every year. I will never forget the look on one of the boy’s faces when he saw ELEM that night. The overjoyed look on his face will forever stay embedded in my heart. I know that with ELEM around, the troubled youth of Israel will always have a home.

Sephardic Culture Night at Lenore’s

By Mitchell Slepian

At the end of July, about 100 people gathered at Lenore’s were treated to “Sephardic Culture Night”. Guests dined
on delectable foods from the cookbook, “Stella’s Sephardic Table” by Stella Hanan Cohen. We were fortunate to have her at the event to discuss the Sephardic transition from Spain to other locales. Her family fled Spain for Africa. My family had a similar situation. But we kept our culture of delicious food, great music and the spoken language of Ladino. Food at the event was prepared by a great chef,
Tal Leo Volner. The fine music our ears were treated to was performed by cellist, Elad Kabilio, clarinetist Avigail Malachi-
Baev and Mezzo Soprano Inbar Goldman of Music Talks.

Bobbie Glass, one of ELEM’s founders and earliest supporters checking out her brand new copy of “Stella’s Sephardic Table”

Volunteer of the Month: Michelle Bensadigh

I started working for ELEM/Youth in Distress in Israel as their bookkeeper. However, I did not know that much about the work that they do in Israel. In the first two weeks of working there, I sat down with Liora Attias, ELEM’s executive and marketing assistant and simply began asking her questions. I asked her what the main projects are? What the goals are for the next few years, etc. I did know how severe the distressed youth problem is in Israel.

I soon became very passionate about the cause. I knew that these youth would soon become adults. They might be future leaders. If they failed to get the help they needed now, they might hurt themselves more. Further Israeli societies and communities would be at risk.

To help redress this situation, I worked with ELEM’s NYC office to fundraise. When we began, I was saddened to learn that ELEM is not that involved in the young community downtown. So
I thought it would be nice to increase awareness of the issues and fundraise. We arranged a very successful “Challah Bake” for around 30 young women. It was great to be able to educate others and inspire them to help the cause. I’m very excited to see what else we can accomplish.


ELEM Mourns the Passing of
Professor Yochanan Wozner

In March 2017, Professor Yochanan Wozner, a founder of our organization
and first board chair passed away. Wozner, a man of great vision and spirit
is greatly missed. During his tenure he bravely led us in the uncompromising
treatment of children and young adults who were at risk.

Professor Wozner was a native of Hungary who immigrated to Israel in
1950. He worked for many years with distressed youth serving as a guide,
manager, supervisor in charge of the dormitories at the Ministry of Social
Affairs. In 1974 he joined the School of Social Work at the University of Tel Aviv and was head of school nearly eight years.

Wozner founded the Center for the Treatment and Research of at-risk youth
at ELEM and was active as chairman of the center for 22 years. He was chair of the Rehabilitation Committee of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association
and served as a mental health officer in the IDF.