Strengthening our children


JCC and Ohel partner in program to help students

By Yaffi Spodek

Issue of Oct. 10, 2008

The JCC of the Greater Five Towns has joined with the Ohel Bais Ezra Lifetime Care Foundation to offer a program called Project CHINUCH –– Children Need Chizuk. Funded by a grant from the Caring Commission of the UJA Federation, the new initiative provides the services of a certified social worker one day a week in several yeshivas and day schools in the Five Towns, to help children face emotional and personal challenges stemming from academic demands, peer conflicts and family dynamics.

“Kids are under a lot of pressure and it becomes overwhelming for them at times,” explained Howard Foster, the JCC’s assistant executive director, who is helping to coordinate the program. “Kids can have difficulties moving forward and this puts an extra professional in the schools to help them navigate these challenges.”

The seven participating schools include Bnos Bais Yaakov, Brandeis, DRS, SKA, HAFTR, HANC and Darchei Torah. Ohel’s Judy Hulkower, LCSW, will work from students from Bnos Bais Yaakov and SKA, and Dov Wilkes, LCSW, will visit the remaining five schools one day each week.

“Though each school has their own guidance department, our social workers are there to supplement a very strong need,” said Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, LCSW-R, Ohel’s director of community health services. “Our workers try to focus on social skill-building, relationships and positive images.”

“In addition to what the schools already offer in terms of guidance, the students will benefit from having another person to go to,” Foster elaborated. “The social worker will go on the same day every week to the same school, so there will be a sense of continuity with the school, teachers, guidance counselors and students.”

Project CHINUCH, which began in September, also plans to conduct three educational workshops over the coming months, which will be open to parents and the entire community. With the help of guidance counselors, administrators, students and parents, the social workers will identify and discuss the most pressing issues at each school and address them accordingly.

“We’ve worked together with Ohel in the past and this seemed like another perfect opportunity, so we came together again,” Foster added.