If it takes a village to raise a child, what does it take when a child is injured, maimed or G-d forbid killed, in an act of terror? There is not a village large enough to comfort and console the grieving mother, the bereaved father, the bewildered siblings and the heartbroken grandparents. Multiply one child by the hundreds of victims of Arab terror in recent years and we find that it takes more than a city and more than a country; indeed it requires the passion and compassion of the entire world.
The Chabad Terror Victims Project, based in Kfar Chabad, Israel, has developed a global outreach program to help the victims and their families financially, spiritually and emotionally. The program’s director, Rabbi Menachem Kutner, says that the Lubavitch Youth Organization, which sponsors the project, has over 200 shluchim (emissaries) throughout the land of Israel who live in the communities where the terror victims live and who know the families and the problems they face intimately. “When tragedy strikes” says Kutner “the shluchim are often the ones that the family turns to for support and guidance and they provide a network of emergency response teams.” The shluchim identify the needs for each family, and then turn to the Chabad Terror Victims Project to help fill that need.
“I just got off the phone with a young man who was injured in Rishon L’Tzion” says Kutner, “and he requires a prosthetic arm. The government will only pay for a standard prosthetic that is uncomfortable and unsightly. He asked if we can help him pay the difference for a newer, better fitting one and we did.” The Israeli social services organization knows they can call on Rabbi Kutner when a victim’s medical benefits will not cover all the costs.
Where does the money and financial support come from? “Mostly from donors in the United States and from countries all over the world who send monthly stipends earmarked especially for the needs of the terror victims” says Kutner.
The scope of Chabad Terror Victims Project is comprehensive and encompasses every aspect of the victim’s and family’s lives. Visitations, counseling, employment, medical care, holiday programs and gifts, mobilizing community resources and even Bar and Bat mitzvahs and summer camps are a few of the programs offered by the Project.
Lifesavers from the Girls Seminary
Rabbi Kutner is especially proud of a volunteer program in coordination with the Shoshanat Yerushalayim Girls Seminary, whose international student body commits to spending 4-5 hours every Tuesday helping families who have lost their father in an act of terror. The girls visit with the same family the entire school year and develop a close bond. The girls help the children with homework, play with them and do whatever is necessary to give parents a break and allow the family some time to de-stress. At the end of the school year, the girls arrange for an outing to the Jerusalem Zoo for the entire family.
All of the staff, rabbis and volunteers for Chabad must complete a training program, offered throughout Israel to prepare them to work with children suffering the effects of terror and the trauma that results. They participate in regular group sessions to help them cope with the intense emotional aspect of their work. These groups are commonly referred to as “help the helper” and are intended to prevent burnout and increase skill levels.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah Celebrations When Joy is Gone
When a child from a victim’s family reaches Bar and Bat Mitzvah age, they are encouraged to have a celebration although their hearts and spirits may be broken. One mother who lost her 19 year old son in a drive-by shooting, said: “Who has the strength to plan and celebrate a bar mitzvah in the shadow of this tragedy? There is no longer any happiness in this home.” Her local shliach spent many hours talking to her and encouraging her to plan a bar mitzvah for their younger son, stressing the joy it would bring to the entire family. Finally, the mother agreed but said “I cannot do it alone, only if you help us.”
Chabad’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah assistance includes buying the tallit and tefillin for the boys through a unique partnership with Chabad Lubavitch in France, who absorb the costs. They also help teach the boys how to put on tefillin and help them prepare their Haftorah. The Bat Mitzvah girls are given beautiful Shabbat candlesticks and taught the appropriate blessings. Celebrations are arranged at the Western Wall for both the boys and girls, oftentimes in a ‘twinning’ ceremony with children from out of the country.
Summer Camps for Emotional Well Being
With summer fast approaching, Chabad’s Terror Victims Project now turns its attention to arranging summer camps for kids. They contact all the families of terror victims and invite them to send their children to one of the more than 200 Chabad local day camps throughout Israel. They will provide subsidies, scholarships and special grants to children who are in wheelchairs or need any other type of physical assistance. Rabbi Kutner says that “integrating these children into regular camp programs is vital to their recovery and emotional health. We don’t want them to feel stigmatized as ‘victims’ and getting on with life is an important step in that direction.”
Rabbi Kutner wants us to know that this project was started as a result of instructions from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, who told his emissaries to develop programs for orphans and widows of the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. “We know that this is what the Rebbe would want of us now” he says.