January 23, 2007 / 4 Shevat 5767
"The Paradox of Service Access is really very simple," says Nir Lahav, Director of the Youth Futures Division at the Jewish Agency. "The more vulnerable the population, the less able they are to access the services available to help them."
As an example, Nir cites an unemployed father who can't read. As a result, he is usually unaware of his rights or benefits, or who to turn to for help. Thus, he does not receive the available assistance he is entitled to and sinks deeper into need. The same theory applies to children at risk. Enrichment activities are offered, and programs are in place to help them, but many of these children have no knowledge of or way of accessing these services.
Nir cites four main reasons for this paradox: family and environment that do not promote or support progress; populations at risk, especially children, are unaware of the services available to them and do not know how to ask for help; service providers may veer away from at-risk populations because they are more difficult, and lack of financial support to access these services. He further explains that in many cases, it is the stronger population that is actually accessing the services, especially those offered by the municipalities.
"The model that we have created is based on dealing with demand rather than supply," says Nir, a lawyer by profession who entered the non-profit arena and has since focused on innovative new approaches for youth at risk. "There is a famous Jewish proverb that says, 'the cow wants to nurse more than the calf wants to suckle'. We need to increase the demand and accessibility on the calf's part."
The Jewish Agency is doing this through a new model that matches idealistic, informal educator activists, known as Trustees, with individual families to serve as mentors/role models/informal educators and liaisons with authorities. These Trustees help families break out of the cycle of distress in which they are often embedded.
The trustees are young, idealistic college students who are building Young Communities in disadvantaged areas and investing their energies to help at risk populations.
"These Trustees literally take the family by the hand to ensure that the demand for services is met in a holistic, positive way," says Nir.
The Jewish Agency has designed a number of new programs for the North that will work on this model, bringing direct assistance to new Ethiopian immigrants in absorption centers from toddlers to families, new immigrants in the wider community including lone immigrant soldiers and students, and the general population in the North.
"We must pay careful attention to ensure that needs are being addressed by the services offered and that those most in need have access to and knowledge of the services that our partnership with the UJC, Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod have deployed, " says Jeff Kaye, director of Financial Resources and Public Affairs for the Jewish Agency. "Similarly, where new services are created, we must provide the recipients the tools necessary to access these programs."
As Israel's largest and most important civil society organization, and with its proven history of effective "in-the-field" services, the Jewish Agency is uniquely positioned to undertake this task of deploying direct services and sustainable communal rebuilding for Israel's vulnerable populations in the North.