Whenever I visit the Home, I feel an aura of excitement
coursing through my veins. Arriving before the girls returned from school,
the cook anticipated my visit, and had already delivered a hot lunch to
Bracha's office for both of us just moments before my arrival. “Better than a
restaurant...” as my mother, a”h, used to say. I was served a tasty dish of
stewed chicken in a delicate tomato based sauce, accompanied by herbed rice
topped with a melange of vegetables including squash, carrots, onions, chick
peas, and beans. Not to forget, a North African favorite – a side of pickled
cabbage, colorful bell peppers and turnips. What a warm and comforting welcome
to the Rubin-Zeffren Children's Home!
As soon as I finished my lunch, I heard the hustle and
bustle of the girls arriving at the Home.
Grabbing my pad, pen
and trusty camera, I ran through the new corridor that connects the
administrative offices and the girls' activity lobby. Climbing one flight of
stairs to the dining room, I saw a few dozen girls sitting around tables
enjoying the same lunch I did and sharing in lively conversation and
spontaneous laughter. The girls I remembered from my previous visits greeted me
warmly – the new girls introduced themselves to me. Like old friends and new
ones, we all blended beautifully.
Soon after lunch, I noticed many of the housemates sitting
at the counters in the lobby doing their homework, some on their own while
others sat with counselors, tutors or older peers who helped those in need. The
atmosphere was quiet, studious, yet one got the sense of a harmonious ambience.
Bracha Runes, the Home's programs director, also told me
to visit Elinor Gabay, the activities director, since there's always so much
going on in her “Think Tank” office upstairs. Walking to Elinor's office, I
already envisioned bursts of color and ideas coming forth. And I was not
disappointed. Our greeting was the same as always, a big smile followed by a
genuine hug accompanied by kisses on both cheeks. And then the flow began –
descriptions of new and innovative contests and activities, all with these
goals in mind: teaching the girls to accept a new behavior pattern, to boost
their self-esteem, to learn about modesty, responsibility, accountability, and
appreciation of the world around them. All this and more is slowly but surely
taught to our precious housemates in a faith-based curriculum, on their own
individual pace, taking into consideration their personal plights and
Games That Teach
Elinor, who always displays great enthusiasm for her work and
the girls' future success, began to show me the multitude of projects, games,
and latest contests that she has devised, each with specific results in mind. I
noted that there was something for everyone, at every level of development –
early elementary, middle school and high school ages.
“Whoever is FULL of themselves, BURSTS!”
Elinor explained one
of the name games she uses to teach modesty to the girls. Of course, it
involves balloons and bursting them. Using colorful index cards that describe
one's character traits, these cards are pasted onto a fully blown balloon. When
too many cards are stuck to the balloon, finally one of them has a pin attached
to the back, and the balloon bursts. This game teaches the girls about
excessive self-absorption, and about keeping their modesty, not only in dress,
but also in behavior and sensitivity towards others, all without diminishing
Depending on the season and the holiday, or the weekly Torah
portion, testing the girls' basic knowledge of mitzvot, typical for an
observant girl, this particular game is a favorite. A mini-basketball set up is
used, questions are asked, the ball is thrown into an opening with the correct
answer, and points are scored and accumulated for eventual prizes given at the
end of a week. Every girl is a winner!
Hop Scotch Game Teaches Sharing/Caring
This game, typically played as an activity at the Home's
birthday parties, teaches the girls to not only focus on themselves, but to
think of their peers, and to share with them. Accumulating points at this game
garners them surprise gifts.
The Senses: Are they ALL working?
The counselors who play this game
with the girls, at different age levels, blindfold one girl at a time. The girl
then listens to the voice of one of the housemates and guesses who is talking.
Does she know her friend's voice? The peel of an orange and a tangerine are
held before the girls’ nose – can she discern the difference between the two
fruits? Are her olfactory senses keen? A piece of fabric is given to the
blindfolded girl – can she tell if it's burlap or velvet? This particular game
is one that the girls of all ages adore, and it is very beneficial to their
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activities such as these