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God’s Blessing Comes with Caring for Widows and Orphans

We share an identity of being Jewish and of wanting to help orphans in some way
[additional-authors]
February 19, 2021
Photo by baona/Getty Images

I am an orphan. On a rainy day in January 1979, when I was 13 years old, I was in a car accident with my mother. She died. My father was still alive and took care of my siblings and me, but his parenting was paltry compared to the nurturing of mother. My poor father was himself an orphan when he lost his mother at the age of two. At 14, he lost his father and was raised by next of kin.

As I consider the place of the orphan in society, I have decided to join a program called YATOM: The Jewish Foster and Adoption Network, which helps Jewish people fulfill a desire to become involved with vulnerable children.

YATOM has brought together a group of people interested in the orphans and vulnerable children of life, offering them support and preparing them to consider the deep responsibility of bringing a vulnerable child into their lives. I am participating in this Yatom Fellowship Cohort, a group full of people who are considering fostering or adopting vulnerable children either temporarily or fully. Alongside my fellows, I am listening to experts in the foster care and adoptions systems and learning about developmental pediatrics and peer support.

Our peer support network discusses regularly the thoughts we have about parenting, our reasons for considering bringing a non-biological child into our homes and how to involve the legal system or medical profession to help support the child and the family. One of our discussions was with Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, the founder of the YATOM program and he asks, who are the orphans? He reminds us that it is a biblical verse to protect the orphan, the widow and the stranger. He also explains that an orphan could be a person growing up without a mother, without a father or without both.

We have also been walked through the foster care system proceedings, the medical issues of these children, the legal concerns and the rabbinic questions of how to help a vulnerable child while still allowing them to be themselves with whatever cultural and personal background that has been raised in them.

Some of the group have children, some have none, some want to adopt, some have fertility issues, some have already had contact with the foster care system. We come from all over the country and we meet on Zoom. We share an identity of being Jewish and of wanting to help and be involved with some of these youth in some way.

We share an identity of being Jewish and of wanting to help orphans in some way

The questions of how and when engage us, while we doubt and feel vulnerable ourselves. We can see how big of an undertaking we are discussing. For example, some are realizing the impact that fostering can have on their other children. I myself came to the conclusion that I did not want to adopt but rather offer a temporal safe haven.

Even though I was an orphan, I had some kind of support in life, and I have been educated and hold a professional degree. I also have three children of my own. In my heart I know the fear, the terror, the panic of not having a mother. As I have nurtured my own mothering style, I feel the power of it and the gift of it. This is what I have to offer in this life, and I feel compelled to give it.

If I am able to offer support to even one child to make the fearful voice in their heads a little quieter or to let them believe that there is one more person out there who cares about them, it seems a noble goal. Someone in our last meeting said that what they are trying to offer the foster kids in their home is a chance to enjoy a boring day. To think that nothing exciting and some mundane movements in a quiet house could be medicine for a child’s soul draws us all to this program.

I think YATOM is offering a wonderful service to the most vulnerable members of our society: its children. We must protect the orphan, and I hope society’s resources can be directed and adjusted to support this kind of program more and more. As YATOM proves, somehow God helped people see the most vulnerable in society and directed them to protect the widows and the orphans.

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