Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Leo Baeck Education Center in HAIFA

The Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa is an incredible institution -- a school, an absorption center, an early childhood center, and now, a shelter for so many who have nowhere to go in Haifa. I remember visiting the school and seeing hundreds of Israeli children receiving a Progressive Jewish education in an incredible environment.

Up until a few days ago, the facility was closed.

Recently, Leo Baeck opened its underground parking garage (safer underground, of course) as a community center. This is from a member of their staff, Rebecca Kristovsky:

My two joined eighty other Haifa children and some of their parents six floors below me, in what was yesterday the lowest level of the Leo Baeck parking garage, and has today become an indoor play and activity area. Leo Baeck was approved by the Home Command of the IDF and the Haifa Municipality to run an emergency children's center in the safety of our subterranean parking garage.

Leo Baeck Community Center has again opened its doors and opened its
arms to populations in need.

Leo Baeck Community Center staff, together with volunteer reinforcements from the City of Haifa, have created a play area with board games, arts and crafts, foosball and air hockey, giant inflatable 'jolly jumpers' and climbing equipment, a clown performing magic tricks and making balloon animals, and an underground movie theater showing cartoons. Seven soldiers from the educational branch of the IDF and Home Command units are doing their service protecting, and entertaining, the children of Haifa.

The Director of Development at Leo Baeck explains the following:

Never before have we found ourselves on the front line of battle.

Never before have we witnessed this level of trauma.

In order to continue and to expand the emergency day camp we require $40,000.
Multipurpose mattresses for longer term occupation of our bomb shelters will cost $7,500. Emergency lighting, almost $1,300. Appropriate stocks of dry goods, over $10,000. Games, puzzles, toys - $2,500.

In the darkest days of the Jewish People on the eve of World War II, Albert Einstein said, "The power of resistance which has enabled the Jewish People to survive for thousands of years has been based, to a large extent, on traditions of mutual helpfulness. In these years of affliction, our readiness to help one another is being put to an especially severe test. May we stand this test as well as did our fathers before us."

May it be His will, and may the soldiers of Israel be crowned with victory.

Aharon Pulver
Director of Development

What I think is most incredible about all this -- what makes me so proud to be a Jew, so proud to support a country that is MY country, that holds the values and ideals and beliefs that I hold so dear -- is the following from Rabbi Ron Symons:

Despite this, the Board of Directors has made a commitment to pay salaries even though all tuition payments and fees are being returned. Over thecourse of the first 9 days of the war, we estimate that are initial loss isover $185,000. With each day of the war, we estimate our losses mounting by$18,000.

Staring on July 25, at the request of the Haifa Municipality, we will convert the 3rd level of our subterranean garage (already outfitted as a shelter) into a 'Gymboree' gymnasium for young children throughout Western Haifa. Of course, we agreed to provide these services even before we knew from where the $37,000 to provide the gymnasium equipment will come.

During a normal week, over 4,500 single-use individuals walk through the doors of Leo Baeck in order to explore Jewish living. Now, no one is walking through our doors, but we must maintain our commitments and we are fully committed to the safety of those on our campuses.

It is a Jewish obligation to support our workers, even in the face of a war. But somehow this institution needs to be supported as well.

To send tax-deductible donations to Leo Baeck: The Leo Baeck Education Center Foundation3555 Timmons Lane, Suite 1440Houston, TX 77027

There are thousands of stories and thousands of people affected by the current war situation. This is just one institution doing its part. Let's help them out.

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