Speaking Up for the Vulnerable
April 1, 2014
Dear Friends of The Fellowship,
Over the past few weeks I have done much traveling – from Ukraine, where the beleaguered Jewish community is under threat from widespread social unrest, to an area of southern Israel that for years has been bombarded by rockets fired from neighbouring Gaza.
During my travels, I have had the privilege of witnessing Fellowship programs – programs that have reminded me of the vital importance of the work we do.
In Ukraine, I met one of the many homeless, abandoned, and abused Jewish children now benefiting from our care. Her name is Sofia – a little girl I won’t soon forget.
Sofia, the youngest of her three siblings, is two and a half. Her family lives in a slum in the city of Odessa, and her mother and father are unable to care for her due to alcoholism and mental disorders.
As I fed Sofia lunch during our visit, I was both deeply touched and struck by how vulnerable she is, and how utterly dependent she is on the people around her. Surely, it is children like Sofia the Bible speaks of when it tells us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).
Shortly after returning from Ukraine, I attended an event in Jerusalem run by ELEM, a group that cares for at-risk youth living on the streets, many of them new immigrants from the former Soviet Union. A few years ago, The Fellowship in Canada supported ELEM’s Community Center on Wheels initiative. Through this program, over 42,000 at-risk youth visits were recorded and 14,000 were first time visitors.
When I spoke at the ELEM event I reminded those in attendance that when Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, he told Pharaoh, “We will leave with our youth and our elderly.” He gave prominence to two groups that are too often weak and vulnerable, but that are so critically important to any society. We at The Fellowship see great importance in helping both the young and the old, so they will know they are valuable to God and to others, and so they will have a strong future.
Looking at the struggling young women served by ELEM through its innovative programs and facilities, I realized this is who little Sofia would become without our help. And without this home, these young people might become like Sofia’s parents – adrift, unemployed, and unable to care for their own children.
Knowing this – with your help, and with God’s – we speak up for these vulnerable young people, ensuring they receive daily meals, a bed to sleep in, and a secure place to call home. Thank you, friends, for your continued support, generosity, and prayers that allow us to do so.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada