One of the most pressing social issues facing modern Israel is the increasing number of at-risk youths. The first waves of youth aliyah arrived during the 1930s. As the threat of Nazi Germany extended through Europe, many Jewish parents made the heart wrenching decision to send their children away, literally embarking them on a journey to safety.
The Youth Villages, or Kfar No´arim, were created to house the incoming youth. They presented an innovative model that combined the European boarding school system with the kibbutz, bringing both hope and structure to their new lives.
Today, these villages provide intensive educational programs, vocational training and social services, to help children who are 12- to 18-years old successfully complete high school and become productive members of society.
Today, there are more than 60 Youth Villages in Israel, with a student population of 18,000.
The Villages’ population is now largely made up of Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, and Russian children, whose parents are struggling to find a footing in their new land. Others come from families facing financial hardship or emotional turmoil. Many have suffered severe emotional, behavioral, and family problems. At the Villages, they find support.
Hadassah-Neurim, in Netanya, was the first Youth Village to offer vocational training, thus making it an ideal launching pad for the inaugural ReSurf Club. Since the arrival of the first ReSurf team, it was clear that the program would be a great success. We saw the kids get instantly engaged and positively stoked. It was as if their lives changed right before our eyes.
Here, we provided a much-needed opportunity for teens to participate in extra-curricular activities, challenging them physically, emotionally, and creatively. As one participant candidly expressed: “I’m just too exhausted by the end of the day to get into any kind of trouble. Surf changed my life.”
The ReSurf syllabus requires each teen to do a number of community service hours and take part in filmmaking, web design and photography classes. By doing so, we provide teens with useful skills to enhance their future opportunities and experience firsthand the “giving back” culture that brought ReSurf to life.
Having started with 30 participants in 2012, the ReSurf Club at Hadassah Neurim now includes 100 participants on an annual basis. We have partnered with the Surfing Sports Academy, the largest surf school in Israel.
Because of the extremely successful experience at the Hadassah Neurim ReSurf Club, we are now building four new locations at Youth Villages in Tel-Aviv, Acco and Hertzelia.
The four new programs are scheduled to launch in 2015.