Sweet Dreams at ALEH Jerusalem
Every child deserves a good night hug.
This is the underlying theme of ALEH Jerusalem’s beautiful and touching Sweet Dreams Program.
The program is the brainchild of Perry Klein, who initiated it during her year in seminary in Israel in 2008, when she came to volunteer at ALEH.
Perry saw for herself the intensive therapy program that the children practice throughout the day so that they can develop their potential and learn new skills. “I was impressed with the dedication of the staff, and saw how much ALEH was a loving home,” says Perry. “I thought each day should also end on a meaningful note, so I came up with the idea of volunteering to help put the kids to sleep. What a beautiful way to end the day for them, allowing them to close their eyes and drift off to sleep, happily.”
Since then, the program has expanded tremendously and now includes about 100 participants annually from five American girls’ seminaries: Hadar, BJJ, Nachlas, Masores Rachel and Tiferes. Each night, 20 seminary girls arrive at the ALEH Jerusalem Residence. Going from bed to bed, they recite the Shema with each ALEH child, and then sing sweet, gentle bedtime songs. The ALEH children await the girls eagerly for this beloved bedtime ritual. Thanks to these wonderful girls, they go to bed every night with a big smile on their faces.
ALEH Jerusalem recently held an Evening of Recognition to honor the girls’ dedication. After watching a touching movie about the challenges faced by one ALEH family, the girls listened to an especially moving address by one mother of an ALEH child — who described what the Sweet Dreams program means to her.
“Until Sweet Dreams began, night after night I would search for a family member who was willing to go to ALEH to say Shema with my son…You cannot imagine the feeling it gives a Jewish mother to know that her child at ALEH goes to bed every night reciting the Shema just like any other Jewish child – and with a warm hug, just like all children everywhere.”
She recounted the moving story of Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, who had rescued Jewish children hidden in monasteries during the Holocaust. To reveal the concealed identity of the Jewish children, the Rabbi called out the words of the Shema prayer. All the Jewish children burst into tears and cried, “Mama!” each in his or her native language.
“The soul feels, the heart knows, and everything leaves its lasting imprint…” she concluded emotionally.
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