|Volunteers at Sanhedria are, from left, Rachel Pekarsky, a Bruriah graduate; Miriam Herman of Toronto; two Sanhedria children; Layah Schreiber of Chicago; Miriam Braun, director or program development at Sanhedria; Nikki Press, a Ma’ayanot graduate; Zahava Rothschild a Ma’ayanot graduate; and a group of Sanhedria children. courtesy Sanhedria|
Sanhedria Children’s Home in Jerusalem stands for hope, compassion, and commitment – the key words for what Sanhedria represents. It is what these boys have been deprived of in their home lives, and what Sanhedria is there to provide: total commitment to the boys’ happiness and well-being. These boys have seen failure. They have felt despair and disappointment that no one, let alone a child, should ever have to feel. Hardest of all, these children have never before had the security of a committed and constant support group. At Sanhedria, every madrich, every teacher, every family that has devoted years of their lives to the home is a member of a support group for the children. This is the very essence of Sanhedria. For the first time in their lives, these boys are enveloped in a community dedicated to giving them the love they so deeply need and deserve.
As seminary students at Midreshet Harova, we came to Sanhedria simply looking for a weekly volunteer opportunity. After giving us a tour of the home and introducing us to some of the boys, program director Miriam Braun made it clear that while volunteering there would be a rewarding experience, it would require a deep well of patience and responsibility and that we should think carefully before committing ourselves to such an undertaking. We returned the following week excited and anxious, unsure of what we’d just gotten ourselves into.
Initially, the situation was overwhelming. There were boys ranging from preschool age to junior high, speaking in Hebrew and displaying tendencies towards frustration and violence that we had yet to be exposed to. The task of forming a connection with them was made all the more difficult by barriers of language, age, and gender. At times we were tempted by the thought of dropping out, but we had made a commitment. And if there was one thing these boys needed it was commitment. As the weeks passed, we came to find our place; Nikki would often do art projects with the boys in the playroom and Zahava would play sports with them on the court. At the end of every afternoon, we would walk up and down all of the hallways of the dorms to say good night.
Times with the boys were often testing, but our commitment was strong. As the Tuesdays flew past, and we grew closer with the boys, we noticed that they started to let their guard down, that behind their hardened exteriors, all these boys were simply looking for love.
Love is exactly what we, along with the staff of Sanhedria, could give them. Every member of the Sanhedria Children’s Home is dedicated with a full heart to the creation of a community. There are teachers to help the boys with their homework. There are counselors to make sure their daily needs are tended to. There are couples that set an example for the boys to see positive family relationships. There are frequent activities, music lessons, and celebrations for the boys, enabling them to live a normal childhood and experience positive social interactions.
We saw firsthand how every penny was spent on the children. We found out that the beautiful basketball court, the boys’ favorite place to play, was the product of recent donations. We saw the boys beam with pride when they each received a warm new sweatshirt, a generous donation ensuring that each child would have something presentable and warm to wear in the cold.
Each boy has a story bottled inside of him, barricading him from normal childhood. Each boy also has a mind full of wonder and exploration, a wealth of potential waiting to be fostered. The wonderful people of Sanhedria Children’s Home have made it their mission to tear down the barricade and, with love and commitment, open every child to a future of promise and a grasp on hope.