Our Story

Youth Centers of Israel is the North American chapter of Karen Yaldenu. Founded in 1953 by a dedicated and concerned group of established immigrants, Keren Yaldenu set up after-school, informal educational programs for the many immigrant children living in poverty-stricken conditions in the early state years. Under the inspection and patronage of the Ministry of Education, Keren Yaldenu has worked continuously and successfully in helping to settle and integrate young new immigrants into Israeli society for 63 years!

Today, Keren Yaldenu operates an extensive net- work of community centers across Israel. These YCOI Centers are situated in various towns across the country. Over 6,000 young people participate in the programs offered weekly. These programs are specifically designed to enable children, irrespective of their social, ethnic or religious back- grounds, to learn and play together.

Working towards safeguarding and improving the spiritual, social and cultural development of Israel’s underprivileged children, Keren Yaldenu’s Tikvatenu Centers across the country serve as havens for children who would otherwise be out on the streets by providing them with workshops and facilities which enrich their lives and expose them to a world of opportunities. Keren Yaldenu educates Israeli children in basic Jewish values and develops their sense of civic responsibility, thereby ensuring their future contribution to society.

The Tikvatenu Centers & YCOI also work to encourage adults to develop grass roots activities to im- prove their community. By educating both youngsters and adults towards a love of Israel while promoting tolerance and mutual respect towards their neighbors, Keren Yaldenu believes we can help create a healthier society and a better future for the people of Israel!

Our Founders

Mrs. Malka Fraenkel

Founder (1953)

Mrs. Malka Fraenkel was a true woman of valor. As a resident of Jerusalem in the first years of the State, Mrs. Fraenkel was witness to severe poverty and unsupervised children roaming the streets. She understood the dangers and was determined to prevent the children’s deterioration to street culture.
Commitment. Compassion. Continuity. Courage.

Mrs. Fraenkel‘s commitment to, and compassion for her People gave her the courage to ensure Jewish continuity. She established Keren Yaldenu and began providing destitute children in Israel’s most poverty stricken neighborhoods, their basic needs – food, clothing and a safe place to play. Over the years as the country’s socio-economic situation improved, children required more than the basics to level the playing field.

Keren Yaldenu, in its efforts to ensure that that every child is provided with the opportunity to fulfill his or her potential, expanded its scope of activities and began implementing a variety of educational, cultural and social activities to empower children of the periphery.

Following Mrs. Fraenkel‘s lead Keren Yaldenu continues to keep up with the times. Ongoing evaluation of society’s needs and the quality of Keren Yaldenu programs has expanded the organizations repertoire of activities that now include many special projects implemented with acclaimed partners. The Keren Yaldenu motto today is closing gaps – opening horizons.

Rabbi Eli Toren

Founder (1953)

Born in Switzerland, Rabbi Toren began his career in empowerment of Jewish youth in the European D.P. Camps after WWII.

His reputation as an expert in the rehabilitation of youth in the aftermath of trauma preceded him so that upon arrival in Israel he was commissioned into action to deal with one of the country‘s most pressing social problems – Israel’s youngsters were falling prey to the strongly deleterious influences of the streets.

Rabbi Toren joined forces with Mrs. Fraenkel to fortify Keren Yaldenu Youth clubs that were newly established. Rabbi Toren’s outreach skills were monumental. He succeeded in persuading teams of youth to leave the streets and enter the Centers. The rest is history.

Coupled with his skill as an informal educator, Rabbi Toren was a great leader whose charisma inspired many to join forces with Keren Yaldenu and ensure its ability to function. His establishment of Friends of Keren Yaldenu committees throughout Europe and groups of dedicated friends, are the foundation upon which Keren Yaldenu now stands.