By Rochelle Maruch Miller
“AMIT saved my life,” Dr. Barak Avraham says as he begins telling his compelling story. It is the evening prior to AMIT’s annual dinner and the brilliant and personable young man, a true AMIT success story, is the scheduled guest speaker.
Born in Ethiopia, Barak was nine years old when he emigrated to Israel with his parents, two brothers, and two sisters. He grew up in Netanya, where his mother still lives, and now resides in Petach Tikva. As a student, he was floundering until he began studying at AMIT Kfar Blatt Youth Village. He is currently a partner in an Internet start-up company and previously spent a month in the United States in Boston on a full scholarship from AIPAC.
“I have always attended dati, religious schools, but there was a long period of time when I was not doing well,” he recalls. “As I entered my teen years, it became clear that I was floundering, going nowhere. The situation got to such a point that my mother sat and cried, sobbing uncontrollably. Her heart was breaking and I was responsible for causing her so much pain and aggravation. It was then that I decided I was going to change and that if my mother would cry for me, they would be tears of pride and joy, not of sorrow.
“I came to live in the AMIT Kfar Blatt Youth Village in Petach Tikva, the city where I live today. At AMIT Kfar Blatt I was given direction. I was given hope. When you are at an AMIT school, everyone is happy; it feels like you are part of a family. If you have a problem, you are given the tools to find the solution.”
Although he says AMIT will always be his second home, Barak readily admits his time spent at AMIT Kfar Blatt was “not always smooth sailing” and that he was almost expelled at one point. Indeed, he credits Amiran Cohen, the Kfar’s director, for helping him choose the right path. Amiran became Barak’s role model and mentor; they remain close friends to this day.
“Amiran gave me a second chance and finally, with his help and guidance and with the support of others at the Kfar, I turned myself around. So when I tell you that AMIT saved my life, these are not just words.”
Today, Dr. Barak Avraham is himself a source of inspiration to the village’s young residents. Maintaining a lifelong connection with AMIT, the 30-year-old entrepreneur often returns to the Kfar, inspiring and encouraging them to remain on the right path. He says it is very important for him to continue to work with young people and to do his best to transmit to them the values that he learned from Amiran as well as from his other mentors at Kfar Blatt. “AMIT gave so much to me during my years at the Kfar, and I am now committed to passing those values to other young people,” he passionately declares.
Located in Petach Tikva, AMIT Kfar Blatt Youth Village has over 500 students, half of whom are Ethiopian. Mishpachtonim afford students in grades 9 through 12 the opportunity to live with a young married couple, together with the couple’s children, in a warm and nurturing stable family unit.
Recalling his promise to his mother, and with his priorities clearly in order, Barak graduated from high school at Kfar Blatt and entered the Israel Defense Forces soon thereafter. When he was selected to serve in an elite special intelligence unit, his mother was so proud, she cried tears of joy. And when Barak went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in government and was valedictorian at the commencement, and continued on to receive his master’s degree in public service–all at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, Israel’s prestigious private college–his mother proudly cried tears of joy again.
Dr. Barak Avraham is a true source of nachat to his mother, to all of his mentors at Kfar Blatt, and to AMIT. Deeply committed to giving back to the village and to AMIT, he lauds AMIT’s recently launched top tech initiative. “I understand how important it is to get a good education and for our AMIT schools to keep pace with the modern world. Children today don’t learn the way even people my age once did and it’s so important that AMIT is bringing this new thinking into education. AMIT gave me the educational foundation to succeed in the army, in my advanced studies, and now in my business career.
AMIT Kfar Blatt Youth Village teaches Torah, religious Zionism, and mutual respect and aims to help each student reach his or her full potential. In addition to the mishpachton staff, the village has a support staff, including social workers, a psychologist, and an adviser.
There is also a program for students who do not live on campus but receive all the services throughout the day that on-campus students receive. When foster children “age out” of Beit Hayeled and still cannot return to their own parents, they will often continue with AMIT at AMIT Kfar Blatt. Of paramount importance to Kfar Blatt’s administrators is each student’s participation in extracurricular activities. Students are involved in planning and determining the way of life in the village. The student council, which is elected in a democratic process, is active in various areas. Students are encouraged to serve on student committees. Additionally, there is a wide range of electives to choose from, including music, sports, drama, dance, computers, hair styling, choir, as well as performing instrumental and drama groups. v