Established in 2005, The Ruth Center (Mercaz Ruth) proves that given opportunities, support and a sense of belonging and purpose, “at risk” youth will redefine who they are, what they want from life and will strive to achieve new goals. Located in the Kiryat Sprinzak neighborhood in Western Haifa, this Center offers numerous programs for underprivileged new immigrant Ethiopian, FSU, and native Israeli youth from 1st through the 12th grades.
The Ruth Center is run by a professional and experienced team that works together with the youth division of the main Leo Baeck Education and Community Center. We also have a team of volunteers that includes five recent high school graduates who are doing a year of community service before joining the IDF.
Ruth Center program content focuses on social-values with an emphasis on community service, and leadership skills and entrepreneurship. The Center’s wide variety of activities include:
An Afterschool Program for 1st through 6th graders which runs from from 3:30 to 6:00 pm, and includes sports, arts & crafts and other indoor activities, as well as homework assistance and mentoring by Leo Baeck High School students. These activities are sponsored by Beit Ligdol Tov, a nearby Leo Baeck early childhood enrichment center that is expanding its programs to support its recent graduates.
The “Dreaming in Color” art program which introduces elementary school children to working with colors, plaster, wall painting and a variety of other artistic media.
A Big Brother program which also includes doing social action projects together, such as meeting with Holocaust survivors, visiting senior centers and battered women’s shelters, and working with children and adults who have special needs.
A Study Center, which provides homework, school support and computer skills classes for Middle and High School students on a daily basis throughout the year.
Youth leadership training for 7th through 12th graders which includes programs with a community development focus (the “Good Neighbor” project), pre-army motivational workshops (“Acharai”) and national youth leadership training (“Madatzim”). Our “Mitzvah Maker” program is a leadership program for at-risk youngsters during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah year.
A Music Center with music classes (including DJ training) and rehearsal space for the Playing Cultures Music Troupe. A variety of music ensembles perform for local organizations and community-wide events. Instrumental lessons are offered by students and soldiers through our “youth teaches youth” program for children who cannot afford professional music instructor.
A new Theater Program where acting, games and puppets teach participants to express the difficulties that they deal with on a regular basis in an empowering way.
A new Photography Program, initiated by students interested in learning photography skills, computer photo editing software and other tools.
A Girls’ Room, an inviting and safe space for girls to engage in private conversation and find a sympathetic ear. Leadership programming for women takes place in this space.
Other Ruth Center events include (but are not limited to) visits to neighborhood festivals and events, supervised parties, field trips, sports activities, self-defense classes and indoor recreational activities such as pool and table tennis.
It’s All About YOU
It’s All About YOU (Youth Overcoming Underachievement) is a unique art therapy counseling and support project sponsored by the Ruth Center for high risk troubled teenagers and young adults that requires participants to identify problems, define goals and commit to a remedial program.
- Art therapy (painting, sketching, clay work, and creative writing) is utilized to treat youth who demonstrate a high tendency to be drawn to crime. A tailor-made program is designed for each participant, who defines their own difficulties and sets their goals with the guidance and support of an experienced art therapist. In one-on-one weekly sessions, the art therapist connects with the youngsters’ inner turmoil, distress and confusion and gives them the professional insight to re-channel negative impulses into constructive and socially acceptable behavior.
- Participants are assigned a series of projects that contribute to the community, such as working with Haifa Holocaust survivors (home visits and holiday food parcels), initiating and undertaking community art projects in the Ruth Center (such as redecorating the center’s music room), and participating in neighborhood beautification and renewal activities.
- Participants are also encouraged to enroll in vocational training programs partly funded by the Ruth Center. Current offerings include the culinary arts, car mechanics, hairdressing and computers. School dropouts are prepared for returning to school. In addition, the “Strive Israel” social program is designed to foster financial independence and rewarding career choices.
Participants are rewarded for achieving goals and exhibiting positive change by being taken on field trips which build physical and emotional strength and a sense of belonging. They also attend behavior modification workshops, lectures on anger management and those with substance abuse issues receive addiction intervention.