The Place We Call Home

Since 1979, OU Israel has been making a difference in Israel, touching the lives of children and adults, immigrants and native Israelis, visitors and residents, and soldiers and civilians.

OU Israel's five-story building in central Jerusalem is home to classrooms, event halls, and more than 80 weekly programs that attract Jews of all affiliations. Through social connection and spiritual inspiration, OU Israel's goal is to maintain and invigorate each member's Jewish heritage while fostering Jewish pride and unity.

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Photo on left: Makom Balev Youth Center girls in Beit Shemeshwelcome Deputy Mayor Moshe Shitrit to their club./div>

The Zula Teen Drop-in Center

The COVID-19 lockdown has been hard on everyone. But imagine feeling unwanted or unsafe in the only home you had. For kids whose best option is the street, the Pearl & Harold Jacobs Zula Outreach Center helps save lives—mentally, spiritually, and even physically

Since 2000, when it opened with five kids and a guitar, the Zula has been a home for tens of thousands of troubled teens, most from religious homes. Counselors and social workers create a safe space, building trust and encouraging kids to get in touch with their spiritual side, and to reconnect with their Jewish roots and their Jewish pride.

Before the coronavirus, Rachel, who had a history of alcohol abuse and a tense relationship with her family, had become a Zula regular. She was getting stronger and healthier.

And then she was stuck at home 24/7. Fighting bitterly with her parents and struggling emotionally, Rachel was on the verge of returning to her destructive habits. Then one of her Zula counselors began calling her daily. “She has been my lifeline,” Rachel says. “Things still aren’t perfect at home, but I don’t feel alone anymore. The Zula has kept me sane and has given me hope.”

OU Israel Youth Centers
(The Jack E. Gindi Oraita Program & Makom Balev)

The coronavirus has been particularly tough on youth dealing with violence, crime, and poverty. For thousands of these teens, OU Israel Youth Centers are their last resort.

Counselors at 20 OU Youth Centers across the country are “big brothers” and “big sisters” to these kids, giving them unconditional love and instilling Jewish values and a sense of responsibility and confidence, so they become proud, contributing members of Israeli society. For the teens who count on OU Youth Centers, even short-term closings are devastating.

After six months of virtual programming, the OU Youth Center in Ariel reopened with a newly decorated and freshly painted clubhouse—thanks to help from the kids themselves. Together with counselors and alumni, the youth whitewashed and repainted the center and fixed up the interior.

“The kids and staff have poured in their energy,” says Branch Director Yaden Cohen. “The club is homier, and you can see the smiles of pride on the kids’ faces. That means everything.”

From OU Youth Centers Through the IDF: Breaking the Cycle

Oraita Youth Center Alumni CoordinatorAharon Karov and Ariel Branch Director YadenCohen attend an IDF ceremony for alumni

When OU Youth Centers young adults move on to the IDF and beyond, it’s easy for them to fall through the cracks. To make sure that doesn’t happen, OU Israel Youth Centers offer a variety of programs for alumni. Last year, the Centers began a pilot program in partnership with Amit LaDerech, providing mentorship to released IDF soldiers from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program gives these young adults the support and tools they need to succeed, ensuring they’re never alone.

Torah Yerushalayim: Much-Needed Inspiration

Building on the success of 2019’s first annual in-person event, this year’s three-day virtual event leading up to Yom Kippur featured 50 of the world’s top rabbinic scholars, educators, and Jewish communal leaders. Nearly 3,000 people from around the world viewed the online lectures.

The program was dedicated in loving memory of David & Norma Fund Z”L by their children.

Nearly 3,000 viewers from around the world watched shiurim that provided chizzuk and inspiration during some of the pandemic’s most difficult days.

Hiking in Support of New Lives

In August, 20 dedicated Zula supporters trekked for 8.5 hours and 17 miles—overnight—from Tekoa to the Dead Sea, raising $10,000 toward the Zula.