FOR many years, Colorado Springs has actively supported the United Jewish Communities effort through events and fundraising in the local community.
This endeavor is part of Colorado Springs membership in the Network of Independent Communities of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). The network links more than 300 small Jewish communities across the US, building local community and strengthening commitment to Israel.
The network represents over 200,000 Jews who come together to care for the global Jewish people.
The public is invited to an upcoming event evening entitled Israel Through the Decades As Seen by Visitors and Those Growing Up in Israel in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Etc. on Sunday, Feb. 9, 7 p.m., at Temple Shalom.
Guest speakers from Denver and Colorado Springs will include Perry Bach, Ofer Ben-Amots, Kobi Chumash and Rabbi Anat Moskowitz.
Stories from the 1920s in Palestine through modern day Israel will be shared during the evening.
HISTORICALLY, the Jewish community in Colorado Springs has maintained a tradition of collecting funds for those in need.
In 1898, a Hebrew Benevolent Society was founded, and in 1904 money was first collected for JNF.
Since then, funds have been donated to the Hebrew Ladies Aid Society, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Hebrew Loan Assn., United Jewish Fund, Israel Bonds and NCJW.
All funds raised locally are devoted to JFNA for distribution to these types of Jewish agencies.
UJC-Colorado Springs main fundraising activity has been an annual brunch with nationally known speakers held each fall at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort for major donors.
Last fall, in addition to hearing from Marty Greenberg, executive director of the Network of Independent Jewish Communities, UJC-CS recognized and heard from five teens who had been in Israel last summer.
During the event, leaders of the local Jewish community were also recognized for their contributions.
Honorees have included Gary Altman, Warren and Bobbie Goldstein, Norton Bain, David Supperstein, David Bram, Joe Siegel and Joe Gordon.
Two years ago, a new direction was forged when UJC-CS adopted the Youth Futures program in Kiryat Shmona.
Youth Futures is the Jewish Agency for Israels flagship program that brings together young activists as mentors to work with children at risk in Israels neediest communities.
The program is viewed as a tangible way to help in an area of great need within Israel and to forge additional ties between the Colorado Springs Jewish community and Israel.
To develop and maintain the relationship between the Kiryat Shmona program and Colorado Springs, personal visits were made by David and Sheila Ervin and their sons Jakob and Daniel in 2012, and Perry Bach last summer.
THROUGH Youth Futures, 10,000 children around Israel benefit from participation with parents, teachers and community resources in creating a plan centered on social, academic and community goals.
Kiryat Shmona is located two miles from the Lebanese border. Today, about one-third of Kiryat Shmonas population of 23,100 is younger than 19, which creates a variety of challenges for the community both economically and culturally.
The majority of the towns inhabitants are Jews of Sephardic descent. Kiryat Shmona is marked by high rates of poverty and many of its young people are ineligible for college acceptance, which creates additional hurdles for young adults, families and the community.
Youth Futures in Kiryat Shmona connects the child with any and all resources required, including working with the childs family to improve home life, planning activities to increase self-esteem and to set goals for the future, and coordinating enrichment and educational activities with the childs school.
Reflecting on his visit there in 2012, Jakob Ervin, 15, said, “Youth Futures in Kiryat Shmona is a great program that lets children play and have fun after school and in the afternoon, without being scared or worried.
“When I went there, I got to know the kids, and then all of us just went outside to play soccer. We played table tennis and foosball, and did other fun activities together.
”During all of this, I noticed that the equipment and toys they had were old and starting to break down almost to the point where they couldn’t be used.
“Later, I decided that my Bar Mitzvah project would focus on raising money for the Youth Futures program to help them buy new things and fix the toys that were broken.”
The designated mentor is vital and pivotal to making this all happen. Aside from coordinating activities and resources, the mentor develops a three year relationship with the child, generating trust and serving as a role model for success.
Some activities designed to help the child achieve success are folk dancing, horseback riding, ice hockey, tennis, and remedial instruction.
UJC-CS will continue to devote funds to their programs in the coming years.
The Ervin family came away from their visit with a strong commitment to remain connected to Youth Futures. With very lean resources, they are changing the trajectory of these kids lives, the Ervins said.
They are a support to families whose circumstances are so dire, from abject poverty to lack of education, community-wide trauma from years of conflict, the Lebanon war, broken families, etc. There are many circumstances which create ample reasons for these kids to fail.
But Youth Futures refuses to allow the kids to contemplate failure.
We left there inspired and, perhaps most importantly, hopeful. If any organization can alter the trajectory of a generation of kids, it surely must be Youth Futures.
Members of the UJC-Colorado Springs steering committee include Gary Altman, Alan Davidson, Bobbie Goldstein, Steven Mullens, Julie Richman, Trudy Taxman and Perry Bach, chair.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News