(Miami, FL) March 23, 2010 – Alarmingly large numbers of non-Haredi families with small children are leaving Jerusalem – this population has the highest rate of emigration from the city, yet it’s in the city’s best interest to retain its young families, according to Rachel Azaria, a city council member and founder of the social change organization Yerushalmim (Jerusalemites).
Targum Shlishi is supporting Yerushalmim’s initiative Young Parents in Jerusalem: Growing with the City. The pioneering initiative, established in August 2009, seeks to increase public awareness of the issue of raising children in the city and upgrade that issue in the city’s agenda. Yerushalmim is the only organization in Israel that deals with empowering and promoting the rights of young parents.
“Raising children in Jerusalem can be very challenging for young parents,” explains Azaria. “The physical and social infrastructure is not conducive to the needs of young children. For example, there are few sidewalks, in many neighborhoods the public parks are neglected, and there is a lack of information about and accessibility to nursery schools, family health centers, and other services. Yet, young families are extremely important to the city – they are the city’s spinal cord, one of its most valuable demographic groups – what would the future of the city look like without young families? This is a real risk for Jerusalem.”
This grass roots effort was established because “there was no organization that could tell the city what’s needed for these young families,” Azaria says. The Young Parents in Jerusalem initiative, led by volunteers, has already raised the profile for this interest group among city officials. The initiative has achieved four major accomplishments to date:
- the formation of an extremely active group of volunteers working to foster an awareness among young parents that they can become advocates for their families and to communicate the needs of this population to the municipality
- taking part in the Jerusalem Conference for Young Adults on January 27, 2010 and making such an impact that the conference became largely oriented towards the concerns of young families
- holding a “stroller rally” on February 12, 2010 in which a large group of young families marched down a major street in Jerusalem, calling for the city to become more family-friendly, which attracted significant press coverage
- hosting a conference in City Hall on February 24, 2010 attended by members of the City Council and directors of several different municipal departments
“When the Young Families group started working on this issue, several municipal departments, such as the department responsible for the parks, wouldn’t even talk with them. Now those departments have realized that this group is not giving up, and a dialogue is taking place,” Azaria says. “We’re creating relationships with different departments in the city and with different cultural organizations. We’re hearing now from the mayor and from different municipal departments who are saying how important the young families are to the city. We’ve seen how the city’s recent commitment to students very quickly has made a difference in the quality of life for the student population, and we feel that it’s time for a similar commitment to young families. Parents are now feeling that they have an opportunity to make a difference and that things will change.”
Future plans for the Young Parents initiative include publishing a field survey of public parks in the city, establishing a website that serves as a resource of services for young families in Jerusalem, and formulating recommendations to the municipality and promoting those recommendations through lobbying and public campaigning.
“We’re having more success with this issue, more quickly, than we ever expected,” Azaria says.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.