November 23, 2009

Centers for Young Adults: Helping Young Immigrants Forge Succesful Adulthoods in Israel

The transition from youth to adulthood can be traumatic. Decisions made during this time – army, family, work, studies, vocational training – are extremely significant and usually determine an individual's future path. For some 260,000 immigrant young adults ages 18-30 who live in Israel this period can be even more difficult. Their families, who are often still not well integrated into Israeli society and face their own social, economic and cultural challenges, are unable to provide them with the support and guidance enjoyed by their veteran Israeli peers.

Lack of support services for immigrant young adults during this life-shaping period has led to a high rate of chronic unemployment – over 30% – among this group. As a result, instead of succeeding these potentially contributing Israeli citizens are falling to the margins of Israeli society.

In response to this service gap, JDC established Centers for Young Adults in cities which are home to large immigrant populations and have low socioeconomic levels. Open to adults aged 18-34, centers serve as a platform for launching projects to help young immigrants. Centers bring together all the services required by young adults seeking to be independent and self-reliant. They provide a wide range of counseling and orientation services under one roof, including guidance regarding higher education and vocational training, job readiness and search skills as well as workplace advancement, and life skills, such as money management and housing advice. Social involvement and volunteer projects encourage participants to enhance their growth by giving to, and taking leadership roles in, their local communities.

Client Profile: Boris
Boris immigrated to Israel as a teenager while his parents stayed behind in Ukraine. He enlisted in the army and served as a cook. Upon completing his army service, Boris felt confused and isolated. He didn't know what to do next. He had difficulty finding work and a place to live. Although he thought he wanted to study, he couldn’t decide which academic subjects to pursue.

On a visit home to see his parents, his confusion was so great that he almost decided to return to Ukraine permanently. However, during his visit, he met with a local representative from JDC who told him about JDC's Center for Young Adults. Upon returning to Israel he visited his local Center in Jerusalem where he received guidance from the Center's immigrant coordinator and met other people his age. In Boris's own words, "I found a home at the Center – a place where I belong.”

In addition to filling the social gap in Boris’s life, the Center helped Boris to define his career goals and take the necessary steps toward achieving them. Today, Boris is enrolled in Machon Lev, an academic college, studying toward a BA in accounting. He works as a security guard to finance his studies while also volunteering at the Center to help others like himself.

With the help of the Center for Young Adults, Boris is now able to envision his long-term future in Israel.

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