“Partnering with the Orphan Shabbat (OS) initiative is quite new for us,” Chad Holland, leader of KKCJ, told KNI. “We had been talking with the OS leadership for a while and this year we fully participated in holding our own Orphan Shabbat for the first time.”
As part of the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), the Orphan Sunday project calls believers to stand for the orphan and answer God’s call to help them. One Sunday in November is set aside every year for participant congregations everywhere to hold events and presentations drawing attention to the word wide need for believing adoptive and foster parents. Because most Israeli congregations have services on the Sabbath, this special day was coined “Orphan Shabbat” in the land.
When Jodi Tucker, the international director of Orphan Sunday, contacted Holland about a partnering with KKCJ, she found someone for whom the issue of adoption was deeply personal and important.
“Although we had three children of our own at the time, my wife and I always had a heart to adopt as well,” Holland explained. “When we had trouble getting pregnant in the last few years we did some heavy research on adoption. We also registered with two different agencies, including a worldwide organization that oversees adoption between countries.”
However, adoption in Israel can be a difficult and drawn out process involving rabbinic influence and with no guarantee of success.
As they did their research the Hollands understood they would be unable to adopt a Jewish baby as they are not orthodox. They therefore looked into adopting internationally.
“We did all the classes to adopt children and then narrowed down the countries that were available to Israelis. At that time (18 months ago) Israel only allowed adoption from Russia and Serbia,” Holland said. “We thought we would love to have a Russian or Serbian child and we pressed on.”
The Hollands hired a lawyer, met with an inspector and did everything necessary. However, they ran into one final barrier.
“Our lawyer said there was a problem as we have dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship,” Holland said. “We had to check with the American government to see which countries they would allow us to adopt from. Unfortunately, the 13 countries from which the U.S. allowed adoption did not include Russia and Serbia — the only countries that were allowed by Israel.”
Having reached this impasse Holland learned that local ministry leaders Evan Levine and Rebecca Rikhi of the HaTikva Project had been independently considering how to encourage adoption and fostering among the believing community.
When Holland introduced Levine and Rikhi to the Orphan Shabbat initiative, the triangle of partnership between KKCJ, Orphan Sunday/Shabbat and HaTikva Project was complete.
“At HaTikva we are working to actively encourage, recruit and equip families to adopt and foster,” Rikhi told KNI. “The ‘equipping’ entails a six-week training course that are we putting together to prepare families to receive a new child into their home, providing tools and methods to deal with both the joys and challenges that will come.”
“Once a child is placed with a ‘HaTikva Family,’ we will provide ongoing support of an on-staff social worker, a network of support families, congregational support and financial support as deemed necessary,” Rikhi said.
Holland adds: “The system is broken as we have found. So when Evan and Rebbeca told me HaTikva Project was researching how to streamline the process and find a better path for families to adopt, I told them that we at KKCJ would be on board with them.”
At the KKCJ Orphan Shabbat Service on Nov. 12, Rikhi gave a presentation on the situation regarding orphans in Israel. Presenting an infographic video, she explained that there are some 367,000 at risk children in the land. Hundreds of children are removed from their homes every year, but there are only 20 emergency shelters in the country. Nevertheless, couples can wait up to five years to adopt a child.
Even though it may be difficult for believers to adopt rabbinically Jewish babies because of religious considerations, orphaned refugees and children with special needs are also not easily placed in Israeli families. There is a need: Several babies with Down syndrome are reportedly abandoned in Israeli hospitals each year — some of this encouraged by the hospital staff, according to an investigation done by Yedioth Ahronoth.
“This is where believers may truly be able to help,” Rikhi encouraged.
With this in mind, HaTikva Project has been meeting with national adoption and fostering agencies to discuss the issue.
“We have been upfront with them that we are Messianic, and have received a very positive and encouraging response to our offer of help,” Rikhi said.
For the immediate future, families that are interested in adoption and fostering in Israel are invited to attend the HaTikva Families Launch Conference hosted by King of Kings on Feb. 1 in Jerusalem. The discussions will aim to provide information, assistance and encouragement for those considering taking a vulnerable child into their family.
“There are millions of children all over the world that are in need of families,” Holland said. “As a community we want to be able to do something toward meeting that need. We are therefore a champion of this vision.”
You may register here for the February conference.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”