Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your yield of that year, but leave it within your settlements. Then the Levite, who has no hereditary portion as you have, and the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your settlements shall come and eat their fill, so that Hashem your God may bless you in all the enterprises you undertake. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
For some fortunate children, the warm summer months conjure up comforting memories of ice cream trucks, summer vacations and quality time with parents. But, for those who were born into families who had a bad turn of luck, summers can be long, miserable and even dangerous.
What does a working single mother, after all, do with her children when school is out? Without having a family member or close friend to rely on, oftentimes, these children roam the streets where they are exposed to unsavory elements like violence and drugs.
And, for the thousands of kids who only have one living parent, this is their reality. For the harried single mother who lost her husband to disease, war or terrorism caring for her children seems almost impossible to do on her own.
Colel Chabad never wants a parent to have to choose between saving enough money to feed their children and keeping them safe providing sponsorships, the organization enables families to send their children to summer camps.
At these camps, they’re not merely spared from a few weeks of boredom, they’re shielded from making harmful choices that could have a detrimental effect on their lives.
“Every kid should go to camp, but for these kids, attending camp is crucial to their survival,” Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker, a Colel Chabad representative, said. “These parents don’t have the luxury of hiring a babysitter, so many parents are resigned to having their children spend their summer in the streets.”
While many of the children hail from single-parent homes where one is a widow, some children are simply unfortunate enough to come from one of the many families in Israel who live below the poverty line.
At these summer camps, children are given nutritious meals and have a daily routine that enriches them. Whether the children are secular or religious, participants enroll in daily activities that are stimulating, thought-provoking and fun. What’s more, the impact they have on their development is undeniable.
The research bears this out.
A 2012 Yeshiva University study found that placing children in summer camps works wonders. At camp, kids develop meaningful relationships with their counselors and become more self-confident. For children in impoverished towns in the periphery where little to no summer holiday options are available, these camps are exactly what they and their overburdened parent(s) need.
Colel Chabad works closely with the children and their families to make sure each child attends the right camp for them. Some camps are overnight, while others are day camp where the children sleep at home.
“You have to make camp interesting to them. You want to engage the kids and give them a happy, enjoyable experience. So we strive to find the best fit,” Lipsker said.
Ultimately, however, Colel Chabad sees the responsibility of caring for children as something that is a priority year-round.
For its widows and orphans program, it ensures that the parents are cared for as well. To that end, they offer annual widows retreats where parents can relax in a child-free environment and enjoy the company of other parents in similar situations.
For children, it hosts Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies to make sure no Jewish child misses out on this important rite of passage. The organization cares for the children year-round, monitors their progress and keeps track of any worrisome developments.
In fact, in 2018 alone, the organization spent some $3.7 million to help orphaned children with psychological counseling, social integration, help with homework, tutoring, music lessons, Big Brother and Big Sister programs and holiday gifts.
“When a child tragically loses a parent it affects every aspect of a child’s life. And sometimes, the children can get lost,” Lipsker explains.
A prime tenet of the Colel Chabad philosophy is treating each person with dignity and respect. Colel Chabad is dedicated to ensuring that every child (orphaned or otherwise) is cared for – whether it be during their summer holiday or the daily school grind.
To donate to working widows like Naama and help send her to provide childcare for her children through Colel Chabad, please click here.
Written in cooperation with Colel Chabad.