2021 Impact – Youth Villages | The Jewish Agency - U.S.


The Jewish Agency's six Youth Villages are vital facilities that provide crucial intervention, healing and education for hundreds of young Israelis, especially those coping with severe emotional, behavioral and familial challenges.


The Jewish Agency's six Youth Villages are vital facilities that provide crucial intervention, healing and education for hundreds of young Israelis, especially those coping with severe emotional, behavioral and familial challenges.

By providing rehabilitative and cost-effective boarding-school settings for youth ages 12–18, as well as a variety of enrichment activities, our Youth Villages help these at-risk adolescents complete high school, offering them a safe and positive environment where they can flourish. And during COVID, our Youth Villages have become much more than just a home to these young adults as lockdowns further bonded our participants and staff.


Kalman Shaham personally knows how important Youth Villages are to kids in Israel. An involved donor of The Jewish Agency-founded Spirit of Israel organization, which strengthens vulnerable populations from Israel’s marginalized communities, Kalman went to live and study in a Youth Village at age 14, staying there until he finished high school. Today, Kalman lives in Tel Aviv and takes his grandkids with him when he volunteers with Spirit of Israel at Youth Villages across the country. He wants his grandchildren to see how important education is to at-risk adolescents and teens if they are going to grow up and actively contribute to society.


Kalman Shaham, Spirit of Israel volunteer and donor

In 2021, nearly 1,000 at-risk students lived in our Youth Villages across Israel.

For Yonatan, who graduated with high marks from The Jewish Agency’s Ben Yakir Youth Village in 2021, getting an education had never been a priority. In elementary and middle school, he rarely studied and frequently skipped classes. For high school, his mother decided they would look into boarding schools that would better suit his educational needs, which led him to enroll at Ben Yakir.


Ben Yakir is The Jewish Agency’s boys-only, religious technological Youth Village, based in the Hefer Valley region in Central Israel. In 2021, Ben Yakir was home to about 120 students, in grades 7–12, many coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and homes with a nonfunctional family structure. About 50% of the students are olim (immigrants) who made Aliyah in the last seven years or so, and nearly 25% of them are Ethiopian.


“Even when I got to Ben Yakir, I wouldn’t pay attention. But I knew I needed to change my behavior if I wanted to earn my high school diploma,” shared Yonatan. “And I did not make this change on my own. There were a lot of people at Ben Yakir who helped me along the way, and I am very grateful to them for not giving up on me. I would have given up on myself a long time ago.”


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Students participate in an activity at Ben Yakir | Photo provided by Ben Yakir


Einat Gilad, who is Ben Yakir’s Director of Resource Development and Community Relations, fell in love with Ben Yakir and what it offered the first time she visited.


“The Youth Village is beautiful and kids are pushed to excel and to graduate, no matter their backgrounds,” said Einat. “Ben Yakir gives kids everything they need, teaching them to love Israel and Judaism, and how to be good citizens, putting them on paths to success. Working here is really so fulfilling.”


Another Jewish Agency Youth Village, Hadassah Neurim, located near Netanya, also helps students build self-confidence and overcome a host of challenges in positive ways. A joint program of The Jewish Agency and Hadassah – The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, in partnership with The Jewish Federations of North America, Hadassah Neurim is a sanctuary for hundreds of adolescent olim from around the world as well as teens from the streets of Israel. Because of its location, the village offers a special activity, surfing, in addition to other programs including animal therapy, pre-army preparation, various sports teams and more, providing at-risk youth with a nurturing social and educational framework.


Participants from Hadassah Neurim Youth Village | David Salem / Zoog Productions for The Jewish Agency for Israel


Eleanor, a Hadassah Neurim student, was physically abused by her father and preferred to smoke outside with her friends than learn at school. Coming to live and study at Hadassah Neurim changed her life.


“Hadassah Neurim is truly my home. When a student comes here, everything changes for them. The staff gave me support, they listened to me. They have fought for me like nobody else ever has,” expressed Eleanor. “If I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have gotten an education. Hadassah Neurim saved me and gave me the chance to see a better future for myself. Now my dream is to help other kids realize their future is in front of them.”


Watch Olympian Anat Lelior visit Hadassah Neurim Surf Ranch and talk to students: