Supporting Women and Children

Ofer, Sigal, Oshrat, Tanya, Ruti and Rachel are all Israeli citizens benefiting from WIZO - the Women?s International Zionist Organization, which for more than 86 years has provided support and assistance to the women and children of Israel.

Founded in London in 1920 by Rebecca Sieff, WIZO is currently active in 50 countries around the world, providing for the welfare of Israel's infants, children, youth, women and elderly.

Furthermore, WIZO works to advance the status of women in Israel, to strengthen the bond between world Jewry and the State of Israel and to support the absorption of new immigrants.

Day care centers Three-year old Ofer was violently abused by his father and in his relationships with other children he used violence and aggression, the only tools he knew for expressing himself. Then WIZO stepped in. For six days a week, WIZO's multi-purpose day care center provided the haven Ofer needed. From 7am until 4pm, followed by an additional three hours devoted to high risk children, WIZO began to rebuild his broken world, lavishing upon him the love, care and attention he'd never had.

Gradually Ofer learned to relate to adults without fear and to have fun with other children. Soon he responded to the stable, loving environment of his day care center, and even developed a new relationship with his father, under the center?s supervision. WIZO's, and indeed Israel's, first day care center was opened in Tel Aviv in 1926.

Today, WIZO's 170 day care centers look after 14,000 children of working mothers, new immigrants and needy families from all sectors of Israeli life. During the most crucial years of their development and the formation of their characters, the children receive an enriched education, care and love.

The organization also operates 16 multipurpose day care centers, as well as summer camps, courses for single parent families and therapeutic frameworks for children who have been removed from their homes by court order, enabling them to live in nurturing homes with alternative families.

Schools and youth villages Sigal is a beautiful young girl who arrived at the WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim School in Haifa at the age of 15. Seven years earlier, the courts had removed her from her dysfunctional family, due to neglect and violence. Prior to her arrival at the WIZO school, Sigal had been shifted from institution to institution, and had even spent some time simply roaming the streets.

At Ahuzat Yeladim, Sigal gradually forged more stable relationships with her fellow students and the staff at the school. She has blossomed from the withdrawn and uncommunicative girl she was to an outgoing and responsible young woman. She is now working in a part-time job and will soon be inducted into the IDF.

Today WIZO operates nine schools where 5,500 pupils are educated, some living in dormitories on campus. The children study and live in youth villages, middle schools and high school frameworks in a warm and supportive environment, and receive an education which gives them a better chance to succeed in society. In addition to the schools, since 1942 WIZO has established over 50 youth clubs throughout the country, which grant services to over 20,000 children, adolescents and adults, providing them with a warm and supportive framework.

Activities take place in the clubs from the morning hours until late in the evening. The programs in each club are adapted to the needs of the community.

Help for battered women Ruti suffered for several years from her husband's physical violence. She always felt guilty, thinking she was at fault. She stayed with him, as she did not want to break up her family. It was when he started beating the children that Ruti knew she had to leave. She first called WIZO's Hotline for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Children at Risk. Following the volunteer's advice and assistance, Ruti left her violent husband and was housed in one of WIZO's Shelters for Victims of Domestic Violence.

After a few months of rehabilitation and guidance by psychologists, social workers and professionally trained WIZO volunteers, Ruti was ready to move on to WIZO's Half- Way House, which offers independent housing assistance to women who are ready to leave the shelter. Under the guidance of WIZO's professional staff offering legal advice, counseling services and emotional support, Ruti was soon ready to start a new life with her children away from her violent husband.

Indeed, WIZO has represented the rights of women since before the establishment of the State through legal frameworks, as well as educational and vocational courses. The organization provides support, training and guidance, in order to advance the status of women in all realms of Israeli life. Today, WIZO provides legal aid and assistance, protection and help during times of crisis in the family through its 34 legal advice bureaus, dozens of support groups, a 24-hour hotline for battered women, support groups for one parent families, bar and bat mitzvah celebrations for orphans and summer camps for children of single parents, widows and the war bereaved.

Support for new immigrants Tanya and Oshrat are new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia respectively. Tanya, a high school student, attends an after-school Hebrew-enrichment class for new immigrants at her local WIZO center, while at the same center Oshrat regularly joins some of her Ethiopian friends at an embroidery group - a WIZO project preserving the culture of new immigrants.

From the days of the pioneers, through World War II and the Holocaust, the establishment of the State and up to the present day, WIZO volunteers have given support to new immigrants, demonstrated for their right to freedom, and helped in their initial stages of absorption until they were integrated into Israeli society. These activities include tutoring the children, discussion groups in Hebrew for senior citizens, social and cultural meetings, needlework groups, home economic groups, and meetings between veteran Israelis and new immigrants.

Clubs for senior citizens Rachel, a very active 'golden-ager,' used to do everything with her late husband, Micha. When he died, she thought her world had come to an end. Her children live quite a distance from her, are at work during the day, and have their families to attend to after working hours. Rachel joined a local WIZO group - and is now busy from morning to night.

Thousands of senior citizens in Israel attend WIZO's clubs, which provide activities throughout the day. WIZO volunteers lend a sympathetic ear and offer advice when the members have personal problems.

Today, WIZO caters to the needs of women and children from all walks of life all over Israel: babies and toddlers in the day care centers, teenagers in the youth clubs, activities or women of all ages and the elderly. In addition, WIZO has programs for the political advancement and empowerment of women, and courses and clubs for Beduin and Arab women. Many of the programs are in cooperation with the local municipality welfare departments and/or government ministries.

In all of these activities, WIZO volunteers are professionally trained.