In the early days of the conflict in Ukraine, the children from the Alumim Orphanage in Zhitomir were forced to flee their home. After temporarily relocating to the mountains near the border, missile strikes at a nearby military base convinced Rabbi Wilhelm and his wife that they had to leave the country to keep the children safe.
Thanks to tremendous support from the Israeli Government, more than 150 people, including 100 children aged 6 months to 17 years old, were flown to Israel, where they were welcomed at the Nes Harem Field and Forest Education Center in the hills of Jerusalem. Several months later, when it became apparent the orphanage would not be able to return to Ukraine anytime soon, the children moved again, this time to the seaside town of Ashkelon, where more permanent accommodations were available.
Just after the attacks on October 7 in Southern Israel, the children of Zhitomir were again forced to flee to safety, just before the missile attacks began in Ashkelon. For now they are being hosted at Kfar Chabad, in the central part of Israel:
"We decided that we cannot wait until the missile attacks begin. These children have gone through so much hardship, and in the last year we have done everything to help them cope with the trauma and surround them with love and attention," Rabbi Wilhelm explained.
In Kfar Chabad, the orphanage has returned to a normal routine, with classes and various activities to keep the kids busy. The children are making the best of it: while the older ones are aware of the crises in Israel and Ukraine, they also know that "in comparison to what people have experienced, we left in time, from Ashkelon and also from Ukraine," reports a staff member.
Shimon, 14, confirms this assessment. He likes it in Kfar Chabad, despite the poor wi-fi service: "When there are alarms here, I am not afraid...I taught myself to not become hysterical anymore."
We are grateful for the dedication and bravery of the leaders and staff at the Zhitomir orphanage, and we are thankful for the resilience of the children, who have endured so much. With your help we continue our support of the Zhitomir community, including the orphanage, saving lives and restoring hope.