As the new school year started, so did it for a special part of FJC’s ‘Or Avner’ students that no one would distinguish from their brethren – those coming from FJC’s Children’s homes and orphanages.
Every morning about 400 such children throughout the FSU attend ‘Or Avner’ schools, kindergartens and colleges. They attend regular classes. No one can tell them apart from those coming from a private home. They wear stylish clothing, they learn well and socialize with others. But after their school day ends, they go home to a clean dormitory and staff who wait for them. These people feed them, wash their clothes, help with homework and even play.
Among FJC orphanages are the children’s homes in Dnepropetrovsk, Moscow, Zhytomir and Odessa. The children’s home in Dnepropetrovsk opened 20 years ago. There are separate premises for boys’ and girls’ dormitories. “Most of the kids come from broken homes, some are complete orphans. All of them come from bad situations,” said Sara Glick the director of the Dnepr children’s home. The girls live in a private “very homey” house, she said, and study in Or Avner institutions, starting at kindergarten to college.
The children’s home in Moscow, Beit Chaya, opened 15 years ago, and its ‘residents’ come from all over Russia, said rabbi Menachem Gol, the home’s director. “It started when some children, who came to our Gan Israel summer camp, were left with nobody picking them up at the end of the session,” he said. The children learn in the FJC’s regular Jewish schools, and get additional tutors and lessons if they need it.
Besides studies, Beit Chaya invests a lot into social support and extracurricular activities: there is a social worker and a psychologist on staff, while the residents enjoy sports, swimming and cultural events. “They participate in community activities, the help each other. They feel that this is their home,” Gol said.
Meanwhile in Odessa, the girls of the Mishpacha orphanage are getting ready to move to a new home at the end of November – the new and spacious building was renovated for the orphanage by a generous donor. Just as their counterparts in Dnepr and Moscow, the girls and boys of Mishpacha learn in Or Avner. “Each child has individual, unique needs and we try to satisfy them,” said Chaya Wolf, the director of the Odessa orphanage. “We want them to grow up to be active, fulfilled members of society and hopefully their education and the support they get while here will enable them to it.”
FJC’s network of Children’s homes across the FSU is generously supported by the IFCJ headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and additional philanthropists and donors from around the world.