RJCF - Russian Jewish Community Foundation
Russian Jewish Community Foundation (RJCF) is a grassroots all-volunteer charitable organization.
The RJCF mission is to preserve and enhance Jewish identity among Russian Jews and to support Israel.

Svetlana Shitrit - Director of the Children of Sderot program

Introducing: Svetlana Shitrit

Dear community,

At this point many of you know about the situation of the last three days. Sderot has faced the worst barrage of missiles it’s seen in 11 years. Since the start of Operation Pillar of defense 1,113 rockets have been fired at Israel. People have been stranded in their homes, terrified to take a step out of their bomb shelters. In this environment, Svetlana Shitrit, our Israeli director of the Children of Sderot program, managed to evacuate 50 children. Given the situation, and your miraculous response to it, we at RJCF felt that it was important for you to finally get to know Sveta.

We met Sveta five years ago, in 2007, as the frequency of missile attacks on Sderot was starting to increase. At that point, the situation in Sderot was barely known to the international community. The Israeli government had just installed the “Tseva Adom” warning siren, some independent organizations were giving money, but the people of Sderot were essentially left to their own devices. Sveta and her mother Natasha had already begun to build a small community around themselves, attempting to offer the children of Sderot, many of whom had never known a time without missile attacks, some form of comfort through community.

Sveta was initially skeptical of our intentions. She had formed close bonds with the children and the community she had built, and until that point her only experience with international organizations was in their desire to provide temporary relief. A weekend at a resort here, a day trip to an amusement park there.

Sveta knew that the children were seriously affected. Many suffered from very real anxiety, and others were years behind their age in school as classes had to be so frequently cancelled. She feared that her children, as she called them, were doomed to never advance intellectually or professionally, and would thus be forced to stay in Sderot for lack of opportunities elsewhere.

Thanks to many of you, the warmth and energy you bestowed on the program, Sveta trusted us. After meeting us personally she believed that we came to Sderot to stay, and quickly became a valuable leader and partner. She directed and grew the afterschool program as well as the summer camp. When missiles fell, and there were many days when they did, she personally drove her car to each child’s house to drive him or her to the after school. She was fearless.

That is, until several days ago, when the situation in Sderot became unbearable. Thanks to her husband’s family, Sveta managed to escape to the north with her mother, husband, and five-year-old daughter in tow. While her job included no responsibilities to do so, immediately after reaching safety Sveta spent six hours desperately calling every organization she could to attempt to find a safety facility to house her children and a means to get them there. She found one, and immediately called us. When Sveta actually admitted that she was terrified to drive back, we knew that the situation must be beyond comprehension.

Nevertheless, Sveta and her husband left their five-year-old daughter, and drove the bus she had found back into the line of fire, back from the safety of the north into the terror of the south. She picked up as many children as she could from an agreed-upon location, then proceeded to drive from house to house until the bus was full.

This is the leader we as a community are fortunate enough to have in Sderot. A woman who, at risk to her own safety and that of her daughter’s, went above and beyond her assigned responsibilities and managed to evacuate dozens of children. Her work is not yet finished, and she is continuing to find other children and parents to evacuate, but we felt that it was important for our community to know on whose shoulders they are placing their trust.

Thank you all for your overwhelming response to the situation in Sderot. We know of no other community that would respond so quickly and energetically. Unfortunately, as Sveta said, the story is not yet over. Even if a cease-fire is reached, and once the missiles stop, we will still have dozens of children who will require treatment and support due to the perils they witnessed and experienced.

We will keep you updated as soon as we receive new information.

On behalf of Sveta, the children and families of Sderot,

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

RJCF Board
Nov 19 2012 - 15:50 RJCF News Archive
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