Keren Yotzei South Africa is a caring, non-judgmental and energetic organization committed to helping and comforting South Africans living in Israel. We came together in 2006 with the aim of setting up something in the tradition of the societies` that our forefathers set up when arriving on the shores of South Africa to` take care of their “landsleit”. This is especially needed in a country of immigrants like Israel where with the clash of numerous cultures one man’s norm can often be frightening and strange to another. It is not a secret that acclimatizing in Israel is challenging – but it is definitely worth it.
Our first and biggest project was to assist those who don’t have their Yom Tov needs. Yom Tov is the time when the needy most acutely feel the pain of their lacking. Often paying for even the most basic Yom Tov necessities is beyond their abilities. It has therefore been the custom of Jewish communities throughout the world to address their brother’s pain at these times as well as giving them something extra to let them feel `normal` twice a year. Pesach 2013 was our biggest distribution yet. We assisted 229 families, spread out all over the land, from Tsfat near the northern border down to the Negev, living in settlements, in cities, in villages and on moshavim. The numerous letters of gratitude and often tearful phone calls have made it clear that we have recognized a real need.
After our first tentative steps, we set up a network of representatives in every area of concentration of South Africans. This grassroots level connection has allowed us to become aware of the needs of the community. One of the issues that came up was that of marrying children. It is accepted in most circles here that both families go 50/50 in paying for the wedding i.e. the hall, catering, band etc. as well as furniture and basic appliances. For families barely making the month this can cause great distress at a time which should be one of happiness and nachas. These people are not looking for charity but are genuinely stuck. (It is one of the great challenges in being involved in community work – to assist people as much as humanly possible, while preserving their honour and at the same time ensuring that it doesn’t cause dependency.) We made an investigation into the market and settled on a sum with which it is possible to manage a modest wedding. We then approached a very large free loan fund (with capital of over $70million) and negotiated with them the opening of a KYSA account with our funds which they lend out to our people and collect according to our terms. We gain from this arrangement in that it gives the borrowers a variety of repayment options as well as allowing us to tailor the terms according to their means. Furthermore, the fund guarantees the return of all deposits giving those who help peace of mind. We have had to date part in 15 weddings including a number of single parent families.
The 3rd significant project is probably the most groundbreaking is our dental campaign. In Israel insurance for dentistry is almost unheard of and the high costs put dental treatment beyond the reach of large segments of the population. After a few attempts at solutions we made contact with a leading dental clinic headed by a South African dentist. They agreed to our request to be paid by an hourly rate that would cover their costs in order that their charities not cause them a loss. In exchange for this they carry out all dental work for patients referred by us. Our patients get good quality work and are treated like any patient paying the full price.
Furthermore, we charge our patients 10% of our costs to give them the feeling of being paying customers. The clinic has made a revolution and ended the suffering of many and has changed their lives.
The newest project currently in formation is a partnership with an Israeli organization which helps rehabilitate people who have fallen into serious debt and whose lives are generally in a shambles. They guide the families and help them take control of their lives. After they have a clear picture of the future and have learnt to live within their means, the organization helps them reorganize their loans. The main reason we chose this organization over others in the field is their commitment to helping. They don’t leave a case until all is sorted out, sometimes staying with the family for years until they are back on their feet.
We also distribute quality winter coats for children, monthly staple foodstuffs to the utterly destitute and have made numerous attempts to set up job databases.
Perhaps the most time consuming aspect of our work is dealing with the various crises that are brought to our attention on almost a daily basis.