By Meir Abelson
(Submitted by Malcolm Baker)
One day in 1980 Meir Abelson, a Land Valuer with the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem, was walking along Alkalay Street in Rehavia when he spied a newly painted notice on the door of number 9: "THE CENTER FOR VOLUNTARY SERVICE." Something impelled him to enter; sitting at a desk was Hava Ya'ari, a retired head teacher at Yehuda Halevi School. She looked at him and said: "I only put that notice on the door five minutes ago; you are the first person to come in!" Meir replied: "What can I do for you?"
So began over thirty years of voluntary work that began in the slums of Katamonim in Jerusalem and eventually spread to Carmiel in the north to Ashkelon in the south, so that today's estimate is that over 10,000 youngsters have – with the help of what became a Charitable Trust named "The Future Generation Fund" – been given a chance to succeed in life that they could never have envisaged.
Firstly – a word about the organization. It was formally registered as a non-profit organization in 1993; it holds a Certificate of Proper Management from the registrar of non-profit associations, and is recognised for section 46a tax credits for Israeli contributions. We can receive US tax deductible contributions through PEF Israel Endowments Funds, Inc., and through "Israel Gives," a 501C3 organization; In the UK we are recognized by the Charities Aid Foundation. Our activities are conducted by an accountant and an auditor.
Our first case was a penniless, lonely boy named Eli who came alone on aliya, leaving his family in Morocco to follow him some years later; after serving in the Army, he aspired to become a teacher. Convinced of his worth, we financed his training with the help of the B'nai Brith First Lodge of England, which became our first regular contributor to what became the Future Generation Fund, and continued until the Lodge closed down a few years ago. After an outstanding career, he was finally appointed Director of the Youth Department of the City of Carmiel in Galilee. Our partnership has been so successful that a recent estimate of the number of youngsters we have helped together is over 3,000.
These youngsters have had their education, and often their lives, transformed as a result of the help and encouragement we have given them. Talented youngsters from large families, illiterate parents and single parent families and orphans have become engineers, computer experts, hi-tech operators, teachers, nurses, electronic engineers, opticians, police investigators, security and army officers. Many have been school dropouts who, after having been referred to us, completed their Bagrut examinations; former petty criminals and drug addicts have succeeded in life and raised families. In many cases, the personal involvement of one of the Trustees has been crucial.
It should be noted that our Fund's basic purpose has been to assist underprivileged youth with urgent needs that cannot be met by welfare or other sources. This initially focused on purchasing school books, clothing and footwear, providing them with tutoring and after-school enrichment, and arranging vocational training courses. Since 2006, however, we have broadened our activities to include physical fitness and sports activities, as well as psychological evaluations and counselling for youth in order to keep them gainfully occupied and safe from violence and abuse. We have also been working with underprivileged families, providing them with assistance in purchasing appliances, receiving medical care and participating in vocational training – provided they cannot be supplied by welfare or other sources.
Our unique nature is that unlike other organizations, in which the members decide on the beneficiaries, we provide assistance only in direct response to the social work professionals who are in direct touch with the individuals or families requiring assistance for a specific purpose that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
It is noteworthy that grants made to the FGF are devoted exclusively to the support of underprivileged populations. Our staff works on a voluntary basis, with only a symbolic salary to cover the out of pocket expenses and minimal administrative expenses of the Director. Furthermore, we conduct our activities from the private homes of the Association's members, so that there are no rental expenses.
Most of our other donors over the years have been fortuitous. A retired dentist from Missouri, strolling in the grounds of the hotel in Kibbutz Shoresh, encountered a crippled young man we had helped. As a result of their conversation, the visitor decided to form a Committee in his home town to help us; that continued until he passed away some years ago. Another US citizen who made his home in Jerusalem, heard of us through the grapevine, and through his personal assets and his own Charitable Trust, sent us no less than $100,000 annually – again, until he passed away. Another family still sends us $10,000 annually via the P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc.
Today, our mainstay has been for many years the various Funds associated with the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation of Lauderdale Road. This is perhaps fitting, since the vast majority of our cases are Sephardim.
A word about our Trustees: At the outset the register contained two Bank managers, the treasurer of Bank Tefachot, and two members of the Ministry of Justice (Chief Government Valuer's Office,) and two business men. Today, most of them are retired, but continue to manage the Fund – as they always have – in an atmosphere of complete harmony and friendship.
The story would not be complete without a few words on "feedback." A group of former "cases" in Carmiel have taken upon themselves to prepare a sumptuous plaque expressing in exaggerated terms their appreciation of what we have done for them. Most of them are now middle-aged, but all are successful, married with children – and help others as they have themselves been helped. There are regular telephone calls from Carmiel. Before every festival, one former oleh (immigrant to Israel) from Kurdistan telephones to remind us of his ever-lasting gratitude for what we have done for him. He still cannot believe that with his background, he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams to reach a high position in the High-Tec field. Chance meetings in the street, in cafes or shopping centres, remind us of the early days of cleaning filth from the slums of Jerusalem with the aid of volunteers recruited from the Hebrew University and from yeshivot. They do not forget….
Meir Abelson (Director) 10.02.2013
If anyone wishes to donate, please send a cheque made out to “The Generation Fund”, and post it snail mail to: The Treasurer, The Future Generation Fund, The Shalom ben Aharon, 30, Nayot, Jerusalem, Israel.