A shidduch for the children

There are many reasons for it, but 20% of Jewish Montreal children are referred for some form of mental health support or counselling. Whether it’s to help the child deal with their parents’ divorce, a death or illness in the family, or whether it’s to help parents understand their child’s behaviour – these are children who are struggling and who need help.


The potential number of families the Ometz Family Play program could accommodate with the new Family Counselling Centre, up from 115 this past year.

With this high number, and an average of 20 families waiting at least six months for support from Ometz, it became apparent that something had to be done. Enter YAD Campaign, which was looking for a hands-on, concrete project to help make a difference, and a shidduch was made.

“In 2008, it was decided that YAD Campaign would take on a special, tangible project in addition to contributing to Combined Jewish Appeal – something that people could see so that they would know exactly what they were buying. That first year, we raised sufficient funds to build two playgrounds in Beer Sheva, Israel in areas where children didn’t have a safe place to play,” said Marc Kimmel, Chair of the 2009 YAD Campaign, which is the division of Combined Jewish Appeal for 25-40 year olds. Under Kimmel’s leadership, it was decided that the 2009 Campaign project would be to fund the creation of a new counselling centre for families receiving help from Ometz through their Family Play Therapy program. “We realized that there is a tremendous need within our own community and even within the Federation CJA building and throughout its agencies. We felt that there was no better place to lend our support than in our own backyard.”

Marc Kimmel and his children, Ethan, Jamie and Olivia, start construction on the new Ometz Family Counselling Centre, largely funded through a $75,000 contribution by YAD Campaign. (Photo: Melanie Schwam)

With its inauguration this past month, the Ometz Family Counselling Centre features two therapy playrooms, one interview room and a private waiting room, and is outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment. It will allow Ometz to offer counselling services in a dignified and confidential manner, and will increase the available number of client hours leading to the elimination of the current wait list.

There are eight therapists who focus on family therapy, play therapy, drama and art therapy, couples therapy and individual counselling. The use of art, drama, puppets, games and storytelling allows families to gain a better understanding of each other and to try out new behaviours and strategies in a non-threatening environment. This has proven to be particularly helpful for children or adolescents who benefit from less-verbal therapeutic intervention. Some of the issues that are dealt with include the after-effects of divorce, aggression and violence, and bullying.

“We have a close relationship with all our agencies, but with Ometz in particular. As this project had to with children and many of us at YAD Montreal are at the age of having children, it was a perfect match,” said Neil Uditsky, current Chair of YAD Montreal, which contributed $75,000 through the YAD Campaign for the completion of the project, with Ometz and Federation CJA sharing the additional expenses. The funds were raised through auctions at events, selling the mezuzahs that grace the doors of the centre and asking parents to donate $100 to have their child honoured by listing their name on a plaque displayed outside the playroom. “It was at the height of the 2009 economic crisis, but our constituents pulled through and were able to make it a success. It was a complete partnership between YAD Montreal, Ometz and Federation CJA – a shining example of how our community works.”


For more information on the Ometz Family Counselling Centre, please contact Ometz at 514.342.0000 or email info@ometz.ca.

Get involved with YAD Campaign. Visit www.yadmontreal.org or call 514.345.2645 ext. 3216.

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