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Monday, October 20, 2014

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Emunah dinner aids children in Israel

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Faygie and Phil Schwartz were honoured at the Emunah Family in Israel Dinner.

TORONTO — Wednesday night’s annual Emunah Family in Israel Dinner is thought to be the organization’s biggest one yet, according to the dinner co-chairs Edie Kalb and Sari Rosenblum.

This year, the dinner was in honour of Phil and Faygie Schwartz, Toronto philanthropists who have been extremely generous in helping the Jewish community both in Canada and Israel. The Schwartzes, who are among the founders of Toronto’s Yeshivat Or Chaim and Ulpanat Orot high schools, are making aliyah in the fall of this year. They will be joining three of their four children, as well as their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Israel.

“They are pillars in our Jewish community,” said Rosenblum of the honorees, adding that it was their commitment and generosity that ensured the success of this year’s Emunah dinner and fundraising efforts.

Emunah Women of Canada is a national non-profit organization of women who volunteer and fundraise primarily to benefit Israel’s children, women and senior citizens. The organization is an affiliate of World Emunah, which has been around since the 1930s.

The funds collected from this year’s dinner, which was held at the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto synagogue, are being donated to Neve Michael Children’s Village in Pardes Chana, Israel.

Neve Michael is a safe haven for children who have been separated from their biological parents due to traumatic circumstances, including alcohol and drug addiction and abuse. The children are given housing in a family environment with therapists and counsellors who live on site. They are educated and cared for until they are 18 years old and able to join society as healthy adults.

“Any Jewish child in danger can go to this place to be safe and sheltered from whatever horrible situation they’re going through,” said Rosenblum about Neve Michael. Kalb added that  “children often get the brunt of whatever dysfunction is going on at home,” explaining the importance of helping the kids to recover and grow.

Currently, the centre houses about 300 children aged four to 18, but they are planning on building additional housing and facilities. “This expansion project is because [Neve Michael] needs upgrading, renovating, expanding to help more children,” said Kalb.

In addition to the on-site therapy, education and family units, Neve Michael runs a 24-hour crisis centre to remove children from immediate danger around the clock. Eventually, these children are transferred to the village, where they, too, can receive the care and security they need.

“They get that sense of family and love and community,” said Rosenblum.

Most of the children leave the facility and go on to lead successful and safe lives as adults. “They become quite productive members of society,” said Kalb.

The Schwartzes visited Neve Michael on a recent trip to Israel and were able to see the work of the important institution that they are helping. “We were impressed by the staff that we met, the counsellors that we met,” said Faygie, who herself has been an Emunah volunteer for many years.

Phil added that while Neve Michael exists for sad reasons, it is a place that “results in happiness.”

The Schwartzes said they are grateful for the opportunity to help Emunah with this cause. “We are extremely impressed by the hard work, integrity and drive of the [Emunah] volunteers,” said Phil.

The Schwartzes feel that the work of both Emunah and Neve Michael are integral to helping the Jewish community. As Faygie said, using the Hebrew phrase, the organizations deserve a lot of respect for their efforts, “kol hakavod!”

For more information on Emunah and Neve Michael, visit emunahcanada.org.

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