Home » Blog » So Little Time Remaining to Soften a Child’s Traumatic Experience

So Little Time Remaining to Soften a Child’s Traumatic Experience

Somehow Or Ami became invested in the sacred work of helping foster kids. It happened slowly. A project here, a program there. Suddenly our calendar was filled with activities aimed at helping care for children who, removed from their homes to escape neglect or abuse, would really appreciate the support of people with extra love to share.

How Foster Kids Entered our Congregational Radar

Our Torah teaches “You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me” (Exodus 23: 21-22). Like the commandment in the previous verse, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 23:20), these three categories of people – orphan, widow, stranger – are easily ignored. They have no power. They have no natural advocates.

Yet, God and Torah remind us, as Rabbi Philip Cohen teaches, that they are not anonymous, identity-less Others for whom we have no responsibility, but rather a fully enfranchised human beings, created b’tzelem Elohim (in God’s image) endowed with the same attributes of those of our own group and nation and therefore deserving of the same humane treatment. The stranger becomes a stranger by title only. The orphan becomes an orphan only by title. Because we are commanded to allow them the real human identity he or she possesses by virtue of, well, by virtue of being human.

Yet, God and Torah remind us, as Rabbi Philip Cohen teaches, that they are not anonymous, identity-less Others for whom we have no responsibility, but rather a fully enfranchised human beings, created b’tzelem Elohim (in God’s image) endowed with the same attributes of those of our own group and nation and therefore deserving of the same humane treatment. The stranger becomes a stranger by title only. The orphan becomes an orphan only by title. Because we are commanded to allow them the real human identity he or she possesses by virtue of, well, by virtue of being human.

Unique Relationships Lead to Special Caring

Through a unique relationship with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), fostered over the years by Laurie Tragen-Boykoff, Susan Gould, Debbie Echt-Moxness, Shari Gillis and others, Congregation Or Ami maintains a deep commitment to another category of faceless, nameless, powerless people, our community’s foster children. For years, our members have adopted DCFS Child Abuse Caseworkers and sponsored the children in their caseloads. The Adopt a Child Abuse Caseworker (ACAC) program pairs congregants with foster children for birthday celebrations and back to school preparations. Twice annually we participate in the annual Child-Spree programs – Back to School Childspree in July and Holiday Childspree in December – during which we help foster care children use donated gift cards to purchase new substantially discounted clothes and school supplies. Mothers and their younger daughters team up for Prom Prep 101, a mitzvah project designed to ensure that foster girls are able to take part in their High School proms. We have held information sessions for Jewish adults to explore the possibility of becoming foster parents.

But perhaps the centerpiece of our outreach to foster care children comes during Mitzvah Day in November when we create over 400 comfort backpacks for children who, in the months to come, will be pulled from their homes to safety.

“Finally, These Kids Have Something to Call Their Own”

When children are pulled from their homes to go into emergency foster placement, they leave with the shirts on their back and little by which to remember family and friends. Most are terrified and confused. At Or Ami, we have an opportunity to change their world, on Sunday, November 2nd from 11:00 am-1:00 pm.

Join us on as we assemble bags of comfort that will greet these children (ages 5-16 years) as they unexpectedly go into emergency foster placement. Our Or Ami community has once again committed to provide more than 400 bags filled with items of comfort and necessity. On Mitzvah Day, the synagogue is transformed into an awesome assembly line for compassion and caring. We create age-appropriate comfort bags complete with pillow cases personalized with messages of hope, clothes, toiletries, games, toys, journals, and an individualized card expressing love and caring.

Recently, an Or Ami congregant and attorney with a decade of experience in Department of Children and Family Services told us that we cannot imagine the true value these comfort bags bring to individuals pulled from their homes. When these children are handed one of Or Ami’s special comfort bags, personalized with reassuring and comforting messages, they have a moment of consolation and encouragement. They have something to call their own. We hear the same response from social workers who are responsible for these children. These children need us and are counting on each member of our congregation to make something wonderful happen!

Help! We Have Only 2 Weeks to Collect Items

Because the High Holy Days were so late, we have only two short weeks to collect enough supplies to help these children. We need up to 400 each of:

* coloring books, crayons, markers
* activity books (mazes,crossword,sudoku)**
* pens, pencils
* writing journals (for teenagers)
* small photo albums (don’t forget the teens)**
* books for 15-17 year olds (used ok if in good shape)
* night lites**
* small hand-held games/toys (for teens too!)**
* toiletries (deodorant, shampoo, conditioner)
* girls’ accessories (hair clips, head bands,etc…)
* t-shirts (youth large only)
* small stuffed animals

Do you know someone who owns a business, who can donate some of these items? Do you have a neighbor or a friend whose company can help us get ahold of any of these items from someone with whom they do business?

Of course, tzedakah is needed and welcome!! Send your check, payable to Congregation Or Ami, to the temple. Write “Mitzvah Day” on the memo line. Or donate online (scroll down to Adopt a Child Abuse Caseworker Fund).

So:

Help us collect the items in the next two weeks.
Then make time to help us assemble the comfort bags.

Questions? Contact our Mitzvah Day co-chairs Laurie Tragen-Boykoff or Shari Gillis.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *