Helping Young Women Victims of Abuse
EMUNAH of America (EOA) is proud to partner with TELEM, one of Israel’s most unique organizations. TELEM offers a variety of specialized educational, social, and therapeutic programming tailored to the diverse needs of Jerusalem’s most vulnerable teenage girls originally from Ultra-Orthodox families. These girls were expelled or dropped out of their schools and left their homes due to toxic environments.
Many of the girls fled the unspoken horrors of sexual abuse (more than 50% of the girls in TELEM’s programs have been sexually abused). In order to survive on the streets, many of the most vulnerable turn to prostitution, followed by drugs to ease their pain and guilt. TELEM’s pioneering approach, which utilizes vital counseling services, partners with a variety of programs aimed at preventing the downhill spiral experienced by these victims. TELEM provides stable, emotional, academic, and vocational training and support.
In order to attract those girls who are most at-risk, TELEM runs a Zula (translation: a popular, comfy place to hang out), providing a safe alternative to the street gangs, bars, cheap drugs, and eager pimps offering their version of solace and shelter for these vulnerable young girls. This program gets the girls to a safe place and offers an instant respite from the street for over 250 girls a week. Social workers gently and patiently direct them, over time and their repeated visits, to the many avenues of help that TELEM and EOA provide and support.
Three nights each week, from 7 PM to 2 AM, the Zula’s central Jerusalem underground safe house provides these girls, completely lacking survival skills, a home and new chance on life. Insides its three rented rooms, tucked away in an inconspicuous building in downtown Jerusalem, the Zula consists of a kitchen/eating area and a larger room to listen to music, get warm, feel safe, and be with other girls who share the same history and fears. Another room provides showers, clean clothing, and much-needed feminine/hygiene supplies. Each night a coordinator, counselor, and social worker slowly build relationships and hard-won trust with the girls, offering individualized plans to get them off the street, in to safe lodgings, help with medical needs (most of these girls have never even made a doctor’s appointment for themselves), entry to safe jobs, and a chance to resume their education. TELEM offers a special school for those girls who come to them from the evenings in the Zula and are in the highest risk category. Due to limited funds and the advanced state of risk for these girls, it is only admits 15 students at a time, providing one-on-one help to ensure the girls successfully advance in their studies and experience a new feeling of self-worth as they move forward toward their future. The Zula provides 250 dinners a week (for many the only warm, nutritious meal they get), counseling, workshops teaching much-needed employment skills, and even medical attention for those girls who have been roughed up or have just escaped a dangerous situation out on the streets. Taken as a whole, it offers them the first step toward self-respect and a new beginning.
In addition to the Zula, TELEM offers four different levels of high school classes (depending upon the level of risk, educational requirements, and emotional needs of each girl), with the end goal of successfully receiving a graduation diploma and passing subject bagrut (akin to subject-specific high-school regent exams). TELEM and EOA understands that education is the key to independence and self-sustenance.
TELEM also offers vocational training and certificate courses (such as specialty baking, photography and video editing, cosmetician training, insurance adjuster, phlebotomist, lifeguard and bookkeeping), preparing the girls for occupations in fields that interest them and that are always in need of skilled workers. The organization works with trusted employers to find employment matches for the girls, ensuring that they will be safe in their new work environment.
Together with YOU, EMUNAH of America will make a difference raising vital funds to support young women at-risk supported by TELEM.