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How Israel is Transforming This At-Risk Population

12-20-2015
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JERUSALEM, Israel -- We often talk about the problems facing Israel from outside its borders. But like any society, Israel deals with issues from homelessness to caring for its aging population.

Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute and JDC Israel are partnering with the Israeli government to create strategies and develop solutions for some of the greatest internal challenges the Jewish state faces, including helping young people at risk and integrating Jewish and Arab children.

The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is the world's leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization.

Susan's House

One place they've helped is Susan's House, which takes at-risk youth who've been abused, gives them a job, teaches them art, and prepares them for the future.

Eti Pingasov, 23, is one of those who was helped by Susan's House and has now returned to help other at-risk young people take charge of their lives.

Pingasov is confident, beautiful and talented. She also won the Israeli president's prestigious award for excellence as a course commander in the IDF.

But she wasn't always so happy. Her father was a drug addict so her parents divorced when she was just 2.

"At the age of 15 and a half, in my adolescence, I was a little bit [rather] a very rebellious girl. So I came to the point that by 15 and a half I left my house and went to live with my boyfriend," she told CBN News.

Pingasov described herself as impatient, impulsive, hard – a different person until a social worker brought her to Susan's House.

"Simply, it gave me tools for life and it gave me a new life," she said. Now she tells the teenagers that make it to Susan's House, "You've won!"

Professor Jack Habib, director of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, shared more about what his agency is doing to transform the lives of at-risk youth on Tuesday's edition of The 700 Club. Click play to watch.

Avital Goel, director of Susan's House, founded the place 13 years ago with his friend Ayal Kaplansky. They named the place after Kaplansky's wife, Susan, who had had a vision to teach art to youth at risk but died of cancer at 38 before fulfilling her dream.

Standing on Their Own Two Feet

"What we are trying to do here is to teach [the youth] that it's not their fault and to give them the skills to stand on their own two feet, not in the streets, but where we want them to be -- in universities, in national service, in places like that," Goel told CBN News.

"We have many things to do because the idea is when a kid is coming from the streets, we don't know what he's good at and we want him to succeed in something," he said.

The youth make top quality glassware, jewelry and pottery, which is sold in their shop, and they learn life lessons along the way. Goel said they start with the most basic ideas, like the importance of being on time for work.

"A lot of the skills we get from home -- say for example from our parents -- these kids did not get and this is what we can teach them through work. Because it's not talking about things, it's doing it. I'll give you money as a salary, so then I can talk with you about how you spend your money wisely," he explained.

Another program that JDC helps with is a unique dance program called Minds in Motion. They teamed up with the Richmond Ballet and brought Jewish and Arab children together to teach them dance. The fun program is intended to teach tolerance and instill self-confidence in the children.

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