– Avi Kumar
In 1995, Rabbi Victor Harari and his wife Nili founded Nesach Yisrael, an institution that “gives children with learning disabilities a future.” Rabbi Harari was born in Egypt and grew up Brooklyn. He is of Syrian Sephardic heritage. Harari, a community advocate and businessman in New York, made Aliyah in the 90s along with his wife Nili, who holds a PhD and is an educator by profession.
In an interview with Community Magazine, Rabbi Harari said, “We teach children with all kinds of disabilities and disorders so that they can go back into the regular school system without any stigma. What most people don’t realize is that you can feed a child, clothe a person, and provide them with various other things. But to teach them how to become independent, and do these same things on their own, now – that takes a very high level of charity to accomplish.”
A School Is Created
The Harari’s first opened up a childhood center over twenty years ago. Later, they were approached by many teachers and parents regarding children with a myriad of different disabilities, especially dyslexia, hyperactivity, and reading and learning difficulties. Rabbi Harari calls these challenges, “all the ABCs of life that these children struggle with.” He continues, “So, we asked a few rabbinical leaders for their blessings and guidance with this. Eventually, some of them suggested creating such a school and so we decided to do it.”
The 62-year-old rabbi explained, “Some of our students come from very decent backgrounds, good homes that are not dysfunctional, and have no serious ailments. It is just that they have some problem that they need help to overcome. As the years go by and they fall through the cracks of the system, they become mislabeled or misrepresented by the educational institution and then end up falling out of society. Our job here is to help them at an early age, so that when it is time to enter elementary or high school, they will be better settled and able to interact with others in society.”
Inspiration from Community Elders
“Growing up in the Sephardic community of New York was my inspiration to begin this venture. The elders in this community are the pioneers in helping. We believe in passion with compassion. When we see a child walk in through our doors we don’t discriminate. We don’t see a kid who is smart or not smart, rich or poor. Our goal is to help them with whatever challenges they and their family face in life – this is done with a lot of love!”
Working with Students and Families
“Our school does not function like a regular school.” said Nili. “We have 15 students per class, the teachers all have a BA. The assistants also have the necessary qualifications. We have on board a psychologist, speech therapist, behavioral therapist, and occupational therapists. We have special teachers for everything. Our job is to give them all the tools to upgrade their abilities.” She continued, “We ask the parents, ‘Which school do you want your child to go to?’ We then go to meetings with local principals and talk with them to see what they require. Think of it as an ‘in-between school’ that gives students a much-needed boost before they can go back to regular school.”
Nesach Yisrael also places an emphasis on extracurricular activities. For example, during the holidays, they take their students to hospitals to give gifts to children or the elderly who are hospitalized. “And I hope, that when they grow up, they gain the maturity to do volunteer work and acts of kindness on their own. This is why we try to celebrate as many special occasions with the children and their families as we can,” explained Rabbi Harari.
Each child has a file, which includes notes on their learning abilities, “So even after they leave, if they fall between the cracks, we can help them once again.”
Today, Nesach Yisrael has around 100 students in total, ranging in age from 3-14 years, with the younger students attending class in the morning and older students in the afternoon, after “regular school” for their supplementary guidance. Many of them go back to “regular” school after getting the help they need!
Individual Approach for Each Child
“Every situation is different. So, we go deep into the home and sit down with the parents. Sometimes the whole family has difficulties, and it affects everyone. Some kids may need more attention than others,” said Nili. Some families have children with language difficulties because they have made Aliyah, and Nesach Yisrael is geared to assist them with that. One young boy had parents who were deaf, but he was not. So they had to assist both the child and his family to overcome the obstacles they faced. Baruch Hashem we were able to help this youngster to get on track.
There was another case where the parents said that the child was unable to grasp anything at all in school. Nili, realized after a short while that actually the boy had emotional issues stemming from self-consciousness due to acne. After a stint at Nesach Yisrael he returned to his regular school. His teacher was awestruck at how his performance simply shot up and his performance went through the roof! “He had an IQ of 120, he was a genius. He just had to get over certain things!” Nili exclaimed. There are so many similar happy and heartwarming stories here!
The Goal – Prepare Students to Mainstream to Regular Schools
The goal at Nesach Yisrael is to be able to prepare the students for regular school. Staff members are regularly in touch with the Board of Education. And the Board of Education staff often seek advice from the Nesach Yisrael program’s staff. In addition, Nili has been in communication with some of the children who have left Nesach Yisrael. She says that they have “moved on to different places in life – some are working, some are doing their higher education, others have children of their own now. We are like one big extended family. We help our students and their families when they are in great difficulty and they stay in touch,” she affirmed.
Now Nesach Yisrael includes three facilities in the Jerusalem vicinity. Rabbi Harari and his wife have a vision of reaching out and helping more children across Israel in the future.
“The key secret is that we believe in all the children who come through our doors. And we want to make them believe in themselves. That is how they will become amazing, productive citizens and an integral part of the Jewish state.” Rabbi Harari said.
For more information, please contact Rabbi Victor Harari at: firstname.lastname@example.org.