(Courtesy of Friends of Yemin Orde) Mt. Carmel, Israel—Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel officially dedicated its new soccer field complex on Sunday, Oct. 15, to the memory of two Jewish athletes and soccer players who played on the Maccabia team of Rzeszow, Poland, and who later perished in the Holocaust. The new soccer field is named in memory of Henry (Hersch Tvi) and Marcel (Mordechi) Blank, the father and uncle, respectively, of George Blank, who serves as board chair of Friends of Yemin Orde, the U.S. fundraising arm of Yemin Orde Youth Village. Most of George Blank’s family was murdered by the Nazis during World War II. The soccer field is named “Shal’hevet,” which means the flame. George and his wife, Harriet, have provided philanthropic leadership to Yemin Orde since 1990.
Among the approximately 300 guests at the dedication were Israeli political, education and Yemin Orde leaders including Member of Knesset Moti Yogev; Chaim Peri, founder, Village Way Educational Initiatives; Galit Leibovitch, principal, Yemin Orde High School; and Shmuli Bing, director, Yemin Orde Youth Village, among others.
“Yemin Orde is like a pearl. Not only because of its magnificent location, but because of its educational value,” said Knesset Member Moti Yogev, who serves on the Absorption, Education and Welfare Parliamentary Committee. “The youth who make aliyah will lead the people of Israel to a better future.”
Yemin Orde’s at-risk youth are either first- or second-generation Israelis and come to Israel from countries where human rights and religious freedoms are tenuous, including Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, France and Eastern Europe, among other places. Most of Yemin Orde’s youth arrive at the Village angry, under-educated and traumatized by the social, cultural and language challenges of moving to a new country.
George Blank’s philanthropic work on behalf of Israel’s fragile children is deeply influenced by his own traumatic childhood as a Jewish youngster in Rzeszow, Poland, during World War II. Following Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Nazis herded Jews into designated ghettos. George and his mother survived the Lvov and Zloczew ghettos and then hid for the remainder of the war on a remote farm in Eastern Poland. His father was taken by the Russian army as they retreated from Poland and never heard from again. Several members of George’s mother’s family survived; all eight members of his father’s family were killed during this time.
“Young men and women of Yemin Orde, when you play on this field remember my family’s story. My father and uncle embraced their opportunities to excel in sports and life and to represent their Jewish community. Just the way that all of you will represent Yemin Orde in the future,” George Blank said to the youth assembled at the field. “What will make you successful on this field and at Yemin Orde will make you successful in life. I believe you will become the next generation of proud Israelis.”
Two members of the Haifa Maccabi soccer team joined Yemin Orde’s youth at the dedication and played a practice game on the newly dedicated field.
The Blanks have traveled to Israel and visited Yemin Orde Youth Village many times throughout the decades. They strongly empathize with the Village’s youth and their personal stories of triumph over tragedy and are inspired by the children’s commitment to education and helping to build a strong Israel.
“At Yemin Orde, one sees the successful healing of broken young lives and the creating of proud and productive young adults. Anyone who is concerned about the survival of Israel and the Jewish people must spend a day at Yemin Orde,” said George. “There they will see our future.”
In 2013, George and Harriet supported and dedicated the rebuilding of the Golda Meir Children’s Home at Yemin Orde after it was destroyed in the 2010 Carmel Forest wildfire. The construction of the new home commemorated their 50th wedding anniversary.
“My husband and I have had the opportunity to visit Yemin Orde many times. The children in the Village deserve every opportunity we can give them on their path toward productive lives and a bright future. The dedication of the staff is amazing. We love being part of this process,” said Harriet.
George and Harriet are the parents of Howard Blank and Leslie Ostrin. They have eight grandchildren, which is equivalent to the number of Blank family members murdered in the Holocaust, and a great grandson. The Blanks reside in New Hope, Pennsylvania and Manhattan.