NJ students in Israel organize “day of sports” for youth at risk in Jerusalem.
(Courtesy of Aish) Every year, students at the Yeshiva Aish HaTorah’s Aish Gesher program in Jerusalem bring joy to the children of Sandhedria, a residential treatment center for youth at risk. Every year, that is, except for 2020. Coronavirus restrictions canceled the usual celebrations, including the much-anticipated Chanukah party, disappointing both the Aish Gesher students and the kids at Sanhedria.
For Aish Gesher student Avi Kroll, the experience he had the previous year with the kids was a memorable one. He befriended program director Miriam Braun and they stayed in touch. When she learned that he was back for shana bet, the second-year learning program, Braun invited him to see whether his Aish Gesher friends would like to find a different opportunity, now that the students have been vaccinated or recovered from coronavirus.
Because yeshiva students begin their Passover break two weeks ahead of the holiday, they have a lot of free time. So instead of hiking, visiting family or running off to the beach, Avi chose to organize a “fun day” with the boys at Sanhedria. “I wanted to do something more meaningful,” he explained.
The students decided to host a “Sports Day” event, which included gifting a collection of brand new soccer balls for the boys.
Avi, son of SAR principal Rabbi Jonathan and Jennifer Kroll of Riverdale, said he was overwhelmed by the response to participate and even had to turn some students away. “Our group of shana bet students is just a really, really special group of guys. We all remembered what a great time we had last year and wanted to do something special for these kids again.”
The Sanhedria Children’s Home was established in 1943 in Jerusalem’s Sanhedria neighborhood for orphans of the Holocaust. Today, Sanhedria is a rehabilitation center for disadvantaged boys (ages 6-18) who have suffered severe physical and/or emotional abuse and neglect. Sanhedria provides a nurturing and warm environment, protecting them from further abuse and neglect.
Rabbi Rosman, director of Aish Gesher, expressed pride in the student initiative. “For many years, Aish has enjoyed a close relationship with Sanhendria, with annual holiday parties and regular visits throughout the year, tutoring in math and other subjects. Unfortunately, this year we were unable to provide those much-needed events. The minute restrictions started to loosen up in Israel, our students jumped at the chance to go back and bring huge smiles to the faces of the children. This was 100% the initiative of our students, and we are so proud of their drive to give back and help their fellow Jews in need.”
The day of sports apparently descended into a water fight and ended with a multi-age group of boys having incredible amounts of fun. The students discussed other programming ideas that would allow the entire Aish Yeshiva student body to return, without waiting until Chanukah 2021.
“Maybe a barbecue late in the school year,” Braun said. “We can’t wait to have them all return.”
For information about Sanhedria, visit https://sanhedria.co.il/tzedaka-opportunities/