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eva bracha.jpgWhenever 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.

lunch.jpgGrabbing 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.

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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 backgrounds.

Games That Teach

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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 their self-esteem.

Mitzvah Games

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

game2.jpgThis 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 development.

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