Meled School, Jerusalem
When you’re sixteen and you have changed schools almost as many
times as you have had a birthday, it is nearly impossible to imagine that
you could stick it out to graduate high school.
For so many teens who get
discouraged because they fall through the cracks in the system and their parents
just do not know where to turn, getting through those last years called high
school is more than frustrating, it becomes an insurmountable obstacle.
Dr. Menachem Gottesman saw
those kids out on the streets of Jerusalem, and one day he did not walk past,
but stopped to talk to them. Instead of telling them to finish high school,
he asked if they wanted to finish high school.
The teens responded yes and
they were clearly willing to get off the streets and into a place where they
could learn and succeed.
Now Gottesman was in the hot seat, and had to figure how was
he going to help these kids and others get what they deserved: the chance
to succeed in life.
Put up to the challenge,
Gottesman knew he had no choice but to pave the way for these teens to return
to school, complete their degrees and graduate. He founded the Meled School.
Located in downtown Jerusalem,
this semi-private upper high school is recognized as an official high school
by the Ministry of Education and is designated as a mercaz hinuch special
learning center. Since it opened in 1997, the school has graduated over 100
students with between 85 and 90 students completing the academic calendar
After working with an initial
group of religious Jewish teens in the first year, Gottesman understood that
there was no turning back. These kids who were at risk and were going to become
a burden to society were now able to turn their lives around and were on
the right track to leading productive ones.
How does Gottesman know
when the boys and girls who come to his school will have the inner strength
to succeed? “Whenever I meet a kid, I have to project where the kid will
be in ten years. I think that I know what is inside,” says Gottesman.
Gottesman only accepts kids
who cannot make it in the regular education system and want to improve their
lot. “These kids need a place where they can come to heal and during that
process they are educated. They come in as wounded birds,” he continued.
Trust is a major issue for
these kids, according to Gottesman, “Kids trust me but I trust them too. The
more you trust them the stronger the bonds. Kids are strong to begin with
and help them to re-claim their strength.”
As everyone in the country
is affected by these very trying times, the problems go deeper than what is
on the surface. According to Gottesman, “Structures are breaking down. Everything
that kept society together is now in some kind of process. Everything happens
so rapidly: the creation of the State [Israel], the wars, the klitah (the
absorption of immigrants into the society), high-tech, low-tech, we are in
a process… nothing is holy anymore. Everything is open now. We are seeing
the result which is that it is much more more difficult to help kids find
Meled’s staff consists of
a team of true educators. From the classroom, to the hallway to the world
outside the school gates, Meled staffers teach mutual respect and educate
in a way that enables teens to build their self-esteem and strive to be their
The ball is in your hands,
is the school’s unwritten motto. At the Meled School, kids learn how to succeed.
Text by M. Kaplan-Green.