“Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17 (The Israel Bible™)
For the past four years, Colel Chabad, Israel’s oldest charity organization, has been running a unique educational program for orphans called The Barad Scholarship Fund. The program addresses the particular challenges of orphans by creating customized solutions for each child and his or her family as orphaned children are particularly vulnerable to emotional breakdown and academic failure.
In order to publicly recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the participants, an emotional event was recently held in Jerusalem. Rabbi Yitzhak Marton, Director of Programming and Educational Projects for The Barad Scholarship Fund, explained to Breaking Israel News that the program is setup to encourage orphans to take responsibility for their day to day lives as well as to build a successful future.
“Students are required to email copies of all of their tests to their Colel Chabad field representative,” Rabbi Marton said. “All year, they receive points based on their test scores. Their scholarship money is in direct correlation to their grades. The students recognize in a tangible way that what they invest in their lives pays off in proportion.”
Additionally, if a student feels that they need extra help to succeed in school, they can personally make a request for extra tutorials. All requests are filled and the cost is covered by Colel Chabad.
Last year, the Barad family joined in with Colel Chabad to fund the program in memory of the family’s patriarch, Ulo Barad. Mr. Barad, a Holocaust survivor, was known for his generosity, especially towards widows and orphans.
The Barad family recognized how this program perfectly emulated Ulo’s life. Mr. Barad lived by the dictate that one should give to others what God has blessed him with and that people must persevere through the challenges God sends.
The event was held at the Colel Chabad-subsidized Gutnick Center party hall in Jerusalem. One hundred and fifty orphans along with their families were honored for this past year’s academic success in a joyous and emotional ceremony.
Each student was individually called up to the podium by Rabbi Amram Blau, principal for The Barad Scholarship Fund, to receive public recognition and the scholarship. As a seasoned educator with a 40-year career as the principal of Jerusalem’s respected Boys Town school, Rabbi Blau personally checks the progress of every orphan every day and provides helpful intervention and direction to their educators.
The rabbi also maintains direct contact with each student and family. He shared a bit of each student’s background with the audience.
The overall message of the event was love and survival in the face of adversity. The hall was filled with people from all walks of life and religious observance. Mothers displayed incredible strength and determination as they declared that they would not allow terror or disease to win over living accomplished lives.
One of the participants, Hadas Mizrachi, a mother of five, miraculously survived a brutal attack when terrorists riddled the car she was in with 45 bullets. However, her husband of 32 years was murdered. In Israel, a child is considered an orphan after the death of one parent, even if the other is still living.
“Colel Chabad came to the hospital the next day asking what they could do for us,” she said. “I didn’t want to take help but they were so humble and happy to give that they make one comfortable to take. They delivered games for the children, money, and support. We could have become broken and lost but Colel Chabad made sure that wouldn’t happen.”
After the death of a parent, student motivation often decreases. The Barad Scholarship Fund helps keep orphans on a positive course. Besides the program teaching individual responsibility, the children are required to achieve good grades in English and math. Participants are also encouraged to take enrichment lessons such as music, art, theatre, animal care and sports, all paid for by Colel Chabad.
“We could have just mailed the scholarship check and certificate to each student,” Rabbi Marton told Breaking Israel News. “But hosting this special ceremony is very important. Each name is called out and a few words of public praise are given. This strengthens both the children and any relatives who are present. Each student feels honored and they enjoy honoring each other. This encourages them to persevere under such difficult circumstances.”
Nearly all of the orphans volunteer their time to others in need in addition to their studies. The message generated through Colel Chabad is that giving and taking go hand in hand. “Being a good citizen is a taught skill as is giving back to society,” noted Rabbi Marton.