The Bnai Zion Foundation works hard to help Israeli children in need. But the New York-based organization needs some help to fulfill its chosen mission.

Last week, the foundation reached out to the Baltimore metropolitan area and honored three members of the community, including Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, at a fund-raising event to benefit its Hope at Ahava project. The gathering, which attracted around 60, was held at the Woodholme Country Club in Pikesville

Bnai Zion is a national non-profit that supports different humanitarian efforts in Israel. Proceeds from last week’s event will fund the construction of a new therapy center at the Ahava Village for Children and Youth in Kiryat Bialik in Israel.

This was the first time the organization held an event in the Baltimore area, and Bnai Zion’s leaders said were pleased with the results.

Dinner officials said they raised about $90,000 that night and plan on holding a similar event next year in Baltimore

“In the subject we are dealing with, you need a lot of support and money, all the time,” said Yoav Apelboim, executive director for the Ahava Village for Children and Youth.

Ahava is a residential center for abused and at-risk children and youth from the ages of 6 to 18 who were removed from their homes through a court order and have needs which the Israeli foster care system is not able to take care of.

The Ahava Village takes care of more than 250 children in that age range. They receive a variety of specialized support services from a team which includes a psychiatrist, psychologists, social workers, therapists, caregivers and special education teachers. There is a variety of therapies offered including horseback riding, animal care, movement therapy, drama therapy and more.

Once the therapy center is completed, all therapies that the children at Ahava receive will be in one place.

That’s one reason why Apelboim was so happy that Baltimore was able to offer financial help when called upon. His project needs fiscal support in myriad ways.

“I hope they will do a lot of things,” he said about the Baltimore community. “We try to make this as successful as we can.”

Besides Meltzer, also honored at the gala were Guy E. Flynn, a partner at DLA Piper Global Law Firm, and Brian J. Gibbons, chairman and CEO of Greenberg Gibbons.

Meltzer said he was honored to be recognized by Bnai Zion.

“I’m very humbled by this award,” he said. “When you take a look at the circumstances that these children have come from and what they’re faced with, and this organization’s ability to embrace them and really make them feel special and part of a normal family, it goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. There’s so few organizations around the world that take kids like this and create a purpose for them and a sense of normalcy.”

That’s why Meltzer said he feels it’s important to help in whatever way that LifeBridge can.

“What I try to do every day with my team is sort of embrace our local community and try to do what we can to support the folks who reside around us,” Meltzer said. “So any time we have an opportunity, and we have a little bit of extra that we can give to an organization that’s so needy and is doing such great work, you can’t say no. And I couldn’t say no.”

Baltimore Mayor-elect Catherine Pugh also attended the event and pledge her support for Bnai Zion’s efforts. “You are doing God’s work in terms of how you take care of our children,” Pugh said.

 

For information about Bnai Zion, visit http://www.bnaizion.org/ .

 

Jeff Seidel is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.

Shown above in photo are (left to right) Brian J. Gibbons, CEO of Greenberg Gibbons, Neil Meltzer, CEO and president of LifeBridge Health, and Guy E. Flynn,  a partner at DLA Piper Global Law Firm.

 Photo by Mary E. Miles

 

 

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