The Jewish Chronicle
‘I feel that this is where I belong — I am so thankful’
FOR CHABADNIK Shlomo Weltman,“obviously the Kotel is probably the most holy place where we can go. All our thoughts are on that place. I sit with my kids at home and we talk about it all the time. It was a dream, but now it’s a reality for me.”
The 39-year-old, originally from Sweden, had not visited the Western Wall for 16 years, in which time he had married and fathered seven children.
Shlomo Weltman He was grateful to Wizo UK for the opportunity to visit once more as one of the winners of the charity’s commitment awards.
Mr Weltman was honoured in the vocational training category for his contribution to Kisharon in helping those with learning difficulties to find work.
Eleven other award winners joined the tour, which took in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Herzliya, Haifa and Jaffa. “I felt that I was home,” Mr Weltman added. “You know when you come into your own home and you can just relax? It was like ‘this was where I belong’. I do not know when I will go next, so I am so thankful to Wizo.”
In their third year, the awards recognise those who have demonstrated “outstanding commitment to changing lives and building futures”.
Categories run the gamut from the promotion of healthy eating to multiculturalism on campus, so it was a diverse tour party, including non-Jews.
Some had been to Israel dozens of times — for others, it was their first trip.
Beyond the sightseeing, the programme was designed to showcase the philanthropic work across the country which supporters of Wizo UK help to fund.
It is around a century since Wizo (the Women’s International Zionist Organisation) was founded to provide community services in Mandate Palestine, effectively creating a social welfare system for a state which did not yet exist.
Today, the charity’s many international groups fund 183 day care centres, five youth villages, three schools, 55 community centres, 34 youth centres, three violence-prevention centres, two shelters for battered women and hundreds of localised projects for women and at-risk youth.
Many of the tour group were moved to tears as they visited schools and residential homes supporting children experiencing the most challenging of circumstances. Rachel Fidler from Mill Hill singled out for praise Ahuzat Yeladim, a school in Haifa for those who have suffered “severe violence, trauma and neglect”, and are considered some of the country’s most at-risk children.
Billed as pupils’ “last opportunity to succeed”, it is home to around 100 youngsters, aged from seven to 18, with behavioural, emotional and psychiatric problems.
Observed Mrs Fidler, who won her Wizo award for establishing a tech summer camp at Finchley Reform Synagogue: “If these kids weren’t at Ahuzat Yeladim, they would be in juvenile detention. It’s the last chance saloon — the stakes are very high.
“But all the staff were so passionate and committed to the care of the individual child. There was such a determination to not give up on these kids.
“They turn kids who have no future into valued members of society, who give back by going into the army, going