Established in Great Britain in 1920, the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) is a nonprofit organization of members in over 50 countries working together to improve the lives of women, children and the elderly living in Israel. Next to the Israeli government, WIZO is the largest provider of social welfare services in the country.
As a powerful voice for all Jewish women, in 1959 WIZO was recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization (NGO) and was the first Zionist organization granted consultative status at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
WIZO operates over 800 social welfare projects including child care centers, schools, shelters for battered women, homes for girls in distress and programs providing services for the elderly. As a non-political international movement, WIZO is dedicated to the advancement of the status of women, the betterment of family and community welfare and the encouragement of Jewish education around the world. At every age, WIZO nourishes the body, comforts the soul, educates the mind and empowers the individual.
WIZO California, established in 1985, is a membership organization whose primary focus is working to support and fund its WIZO projects in Israel.
For some, the Youth Village is their first taste of a normal life in safe surroundings.
Yaffa, the house-mother at WIZO Hadassim Youth Village recalls meeting Vadim when he first came at the age of 12, especially his “wild hair and sad eyes.” “But,” she says, “nothing prepared me for the shock of our first home visit and seeing the place he had called home.” The tiny one-room apartment, off a back alley in a commercial district, accommodated two parents and five children. Dark and bare of any nutritious food, “It was completely chaotic.”
Vadim had great trouble adjusting to life in WIZO Hadassim. He suffered from overpowering guilt: his constant companion was a suitcase in which he hoarded anything he could find, including food, to bring home to his family. It took a long time before he felt worthy of the life WIZO provided for him at the village. Clean, orderly, loved and safe for the first time, Vadim did not know how to react to it all. His behavior was exactly like that of a refugee, withdrawn, sad, few verbal skills, unable to focus at school or to trust anyone at all.
Now, four years later, Vadim is a different person. With the help of intensive tutoring with his studies, Vadim has many academic accomplishments to his credit in which he takes pride. He no longer hoards and is very well adjusted.
WIZO’s therapeutic daycare centers provide the physical, emotional and therapeutic support that each child and their family need to overcome their challenges.
Thanks to the loving support that Rina and her mother received at the Multipurpose Day Care Center, Rina is no longer consumed with grief but is being transformed into a happy loving little girl.
Rina is one of 8 children in an Ethiopian family. She came to the DCC a year ago, after her mother abandoned her family due to being violently abused by Rina’s father who was subsequently incarcerated. The grandparents care for the younger children and the 5 older children have been placed in foster care.
From the first day, Rina stood out from the other children. She never smiled or laughed and always looked sad. Rina, who was at the time only 3 years old was diagnosed with severe grief. She began meeting with the psychologist weekly to help her overcome the loss of her mother and deal with the family violence. Slowly, Rina began to improve and participate in activities with the other children. Rina’s mother recently contacted the welfare authorities and requested to see her child. Counseling for both the mother and Rina is provided by the psychologist and social worker and the slow process of rebuilding their relationship and overcoming the violence has begun.
WIZO’s battered women’s shelters give women a clean break from the violence and a fresh start at a better life.
Ranit, from a wealthy suburb of Tel Aviv never thought she would find herself in a battered women’s shelter. As her home life deteriorated rapidly, it became clear that her life was in danger. In one swift movement, she and her daughters were clandestinely taken to a shelter for battered women and their children. Here, she began to rebuild. WIZO counselors and staff helped her and her daughters to feel safe and secure, while Ranit prepared for an independent and self-sufficient life. “I came to the WIZO shelter afraid for my life. But now, I feel like I was born anew. WIZO protected me and my daughters and I left stronger than ever.”
Ranit has since written a book on domestic violence and shelters to help other families and children to understand and deal with the issue. She and her children are safe and violence-free thanks to WIZO.
Thousands of teens find a loving home in WIZO’s youth villages and are given an opportunity to succeed and realize their potential.
WIZO’s youth villages take in youth who are lost and on the path to destruction. With love and support, they turn their lives around.
Opinionated, pretty, bright and resourceful, Maritu sought to escape a dead-end life in Beit She’an. Arriving at WIZO Nachlat Yehudah in the 7th grade, she recalls, “I was really out of control, wreaking havoc. I made my counselors’ lives miserable.”
Five years later, Maritu is the model of a conscientious citizen and a social leader – serving on the school’s Students Council and active in the performing arts troupe. She even coordinates volunteer activities which involve Youth Village peers in the community – helping seniors, the homeless or children of foreign workers.
Looking ahead to her service in the IDF with the hope of becoming an officer, Maritu seeks to serve as a role model for the Ethiopian community and for kids who seek to break away from a dead end.
WIZO Day Care provides children with everything they need in enabling their mothers to work to support them.
At age 11, Adi’s mother sent her off to boarding school saying that she was a troublemaker. At 17, she met a man who offered her a home and love. He was 43. After their first daughter was born, he began to physically abuse her. The money she made cleaning houses, he used for drugs.
With no support and no money, Adi had few options to care for her two daughters when she finally left him. Adi sent the girls to WIZO’s daycare center. Here, her daughters were safe, cared for, received three hot meals a day. Knowing her children had the basics they needed and the love and care they deserved, Adi could focus on rebuilding her life.
WIZO California Leadership
Chairperson, WIZO California
Executive Board Member
Dianna Mannheim Sternberg
California General Advisory Board
Miriam Scharf Cherner
Ruth Shamir Popkin
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WIZO USA, The Women’s International Zionist Organization, is a worldwide non-profit organization that operates over 800 social welfare projects in Israel.
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