About eight years ago I learned about Orr Shalom, a non-profit organization that cares for at-risk children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to severe abuse and neglect.
A friend told us about his experience adopting an Orr Shalom group home with his employees.
The family group home is run by couples who usually live in the home together with their biological children and care for about a dozen kids, aged 8 to 18 and supported by a team of professionals.
I was intrigued by his story of a world so unfamiliar and different from my own, and I wanted to see it in person to learn more about it.
I remember that even before my visit to the group home, I was captivated by this story, as if it was calling to me. Accompanied by Orr Shalom’s then CEO, my partner and I visited one of the organizations boarding schools. It was an emotionally disquieting visit, which raised many questions. Coincidentally, it was also the scheduled visiting day for parents.
I remember feeling very emotional as I witnessed the interactions of
parents whose children were removed from their home either as a result of
neglect, abuse, or other reasons that impeded their ability to raise them. Many
of the parents arrived with younger children that were born to them.
Notwithstanding the expected struggles, we witnessed the parents’ sense of
pride in their children’s achievements, and their gratitude to the people raising
While I watched, my thoughts drifted to my own three children. I thought about
how well-protected, pampered and overindulged they were` how we give them
so much care and love as we strive to be the best parents we can be, and how
with all that I sometimes feel that may not be enough. As someone who needs a
lot of “me time”, I admire mothers who are patient and find it easy to give up
their free time.
To be perfectly honest, I always find it hard to connect with children, and it
occasionally makes me feel guilty. I rarely meet babies or young children who I
find irresistible. Before my own children were born, I worried that I may have a
hard time bonding with them. Luckily, as it turns out, I had no reason to worry.
When my eldest son was born, I felt the joy and connection from the minute I
held him in my arms. Much to my surprise, I wholeheartedly enjoyed my
children’s infancy. I loved breastfeeding, and I loved holding them close
wherever I went.
From the boarding school, we went on to visit a family group home, one of the
21 Orr Shalom homes throughout Israel. It was a large and spacious home in the heart of a quiet and pleasant neighborhood, and it looked no different than
any other house on the street. By the end of that day, we decided we wanted to
contribute to the work carried out by this wonderful organization.
At one of Orr Shalom fundraising events, the ‘Home Mother’ (a title given to the role of the female figure caring for the children as a parent) of one of the
group homes in the center of Israel got up on stage with some of ‘her’ kids.
They touched my soul, each sharing incredible stories and one amazing little
boy sang like a nightingale. When they went off stage, I got up and hugged
them, and asked if anyone was “adopting” them.
To my surprise, they responded ‘no’. Our family immediately connected with the group home: the home parents (who unlike other home parents, were not a couple and had no children of their own), the National Service girls, the team of counselors, the professional therapeutic team, and especially the children - all have a loving place in our hearts and have been part of our lives ever since.
As time passed, my gratitude and joy was growing with the knowledge that my
family was taking part in this meaningful endeavor. Nevertheless, I felt that
something was still left undone, a way to connect and contribute that is mine
I searched for that ‘something’ which would make me feel like I was
giving my all, that would resonate within multiple social circles, allow me to
contribute, and even gain something in return. I eventually realized that my
missing ‘something’ must be connected to my personal expression, sending me
into my studio, the place I love and where I spend my time designing and
creating glass beads and jewelry.
I gave this a lot of thought. I knew I wanted my project to focus on women, just
like the jewelry I create that adorns women and inspires joy. I considered
various ideas that were previously already played out repeatedly, and therefore
In addition to the family group homes, Orr Shalom supports about 550 foster
families. Unlike adoptive families, foster families can provide a temporary
solution, which often ends up being permanent, to children and youth that were
removed from their homes.
While I was contemplating which project to delve into, I heard multiple stories about different foster families. Each of these stories brought shivers down my spine and tears to my eyes, and motivated my decision to dedicate the project to foster mothers. These angel-like women, who I knew do what I could never have done, who make no demands and don’t receive society’s appreciation and the recognition they deserve. I’m grateful to have found a way to pay tribute to them, to express my deep appreciation for what they do, and give them something in the most authentic way I know how - through creating my art.
In collaboration with Orr Shalom, we chose eight women from various
backgrounds, each with a fascinating story to share.
Over the course of two years, I met with each of them for an interview in their home. I had the privilege to meet truly remarkable women. They shared their emotional world with me, and the drive behind their choice to live in this unique way of life. I listened to their personal stories and the stories of the kids they foster, in most cases in addition to their biological children. I then transcribed and edited the recorded interviews in the first person. Sometimes, I reached out with follow-up questions.
It was only once I completed the writing process that I used the stories as
inspiration for the jewelry design, capturing the essence of the foster mother’s
story and the story of her family in a unique fashion. Each piece of jewelry
evolved from concept to color choices and execution. Throughout this journey
of creation, I saw the foster mother before my eyes.
The exhibition curator, Oshri Cohen-Nader, supported this project from its
conception. She helped me to broaden my perspective and see the full picture.
This encouraged me to turn the project into a tribute exhibition.
The exhibition features eight women - while still maintaining their
confidentiality- and the one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry that I created for each
Eight female photographers were selected to take photographs for this
exhibition. Each photographer met one woman, heard one story, and saw one
piece of jewelry. Together we developed a photographic concept.
During the search for a venue to host the exhibition, I went through some
personal changes. As a result, I moved my studio from my backyard
to a new location in Jaffa. I knew immediately that this was the perfect space to
host the exhibition, and others in the future.