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Unique therapy program offers troubled Jewish youth a distinctly Israeli alternative

KIBBUTZ HAZOREA, Israel — Throughout high school, Ben rarely did his homework, struggled to complete school assignments and used marijuana on a daily basis.

Frustrated with his situation, Ben, 18, decided in early September to leave his U.S. home and enroll in Free Spirit Experience — an in-residence therapy program in Israel’s Carmel Mountains. Three months on, it has ended up changing his approach to life.

“I went there to work on my studies, but I ended up figuring out who I was independent of my parents and learning how to prioritize,” said Ben, whose last name is being withheld to preserve his privacy. “Just being able to separate myself from my family was really important.”

The program at Free Spirit caters to Jews from the Diaspora in their teens and early 20s struggling with emotional, social or family issues including anxiety, social isolation or depression. Some lack motivation or the executive function skills necessary to succeed in college.

What they have in common is a need for a different kind of help, and they’ve all turned to the program at Kibbutz Hazorea — not far from Haifa — that takes advantage of Israel’s unique location, environment and culture.

“Nobody else is doing what we’re doing,” said educator Tzahi Billet, who ran a boarding school for delinquent Israeli teens near Akko before founding Free Spirit with psychologist Dr. Tamir Rotman. “There are yeshivot for Orthodox kids, and they have the Torah, but they don’t have therapy, and they usually don’t work through deeper issues. For us, the fact that we’re Israelis is very important. The participants here realize we’re very straightforward with what we have to say.”

Some of the teens who come to Free Spirit are experiencing personal or interpersonal challenges, such as isolation or low self-image. Others are in emotional turmoil or crises of various kinds, including relationship issues, failure to launch and other mental health challenges.

Billet and Rotman founded Free Spirit in 2015 to meet the urgent needs of youth from abroad in crisis or serious emotional turmoil. The organization’s programs — which include gap-year offerings, summer sessions and rolling admissions for youth in crisis — combine treatment and emotional and social coaching with outdoor education and therapy. The goal is to instill in Jewish youths greater stability, self-regulation, confidence, sense of purpose, self-reliance and independence.

The location, in the bucolic Jezreel Valley on a kibbutz founded in 1936 by German immigrants, is meant to be an ideal setting to help young people from any kind of Jewish background tackle the underlying conditions that lead to anxiety, depression, anti-social behavior and other issues troubling so many teenagers today.

The organization’s mission is “to bring people from all over the world for a meaningful empowering experience based on a challenge by choice.”

“For a lot of these kids, this is the first time they’re being seen by mental health professionals on a 24/7 basis, so we have a much better understanding of their issues,” said Rotman, the psychologist. “In the U.S., you have programs like ours that force participants to attend. Here, the kids have to want to come. We don’t accept anyone if they don’t want to be here.”

Fundamental to Free Spirit’s philosophy, said program therapist Yuval Gofer, is using social and emotional coaching to give young people the inner strength and flexibility to make their own decisions, rather than merely respond to the promise of reward or threat of punishment.

“In many other programs, you learn to live inside the system and not do things because you’ll get punished, but when you leave that place, there’s no reason to continue that specific behavior,” Gofer said. “We don’t work with punishments. We want this growth to be sustainable after they leave us.”

Keren Shema, Yuval Goffer and Tzahi Billet, left to right, form part of the 12-member staff at Free Spirit, a program for at-risk youth at Kibbutz Hazorea in northern Israel. (Larry Luxner)

The gap-year program Free Spirit runs is tailored to Jewish youths ages 18 to 23 from overseas. Some already have struggled through a semester or more in college; others are graduating from residential programs and need help managing the transition from a structured environment into independent life. During the year, participants experience community life on the kibbutz, spend four weeks traveling in Italy, sail to Cyprus on a yacht and do a semester-long internship in Israel.

The summer program — which is designed for teens ages 14-18 who are experiencing challenges but who get by during the school year — includes kibbutz living, excursions, and therapeutic programming designed to encourage social engagement, boost self-confidence and help teens navigate the transition into adulthood.

The rolling programs for youths in crisis usually last eight to 10 weeks and are also for teens and young adults.

So far, over 150 youths have attended Free Spirit programs, about 85% from the United States and Canada and the rest from Europe. The cost is roughly $2,000 per week; partial subsidies are available to those who can’t afford the cost. Aside from tuition fees, Free Spirit is funded by an American Friends of Free Spirit organization largely supported by families of alumni.

A typical day at Free Spirit starts at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast and a group meeting to discuss the day’s plan. Participants then work on projects from building tables and decks for the kibbutz to creating their own art. After that is lunch, rest time and a variety of afternoon and evening activities like forest hikes and campfires. There are weekly field trips to points of interest throughout Israel.

Interest in the program is increasing as a consequence of what managing director Rami Bader described as the post-Covid “mental health crisis” sweeping North America.

“You name it, we see it: anxiety, depression, lack of social skills,” Bader said. “A lot of this has to do with the Internet and lack of face-to-face meetings, and Covid only made things worse.”

Some of the youths who come to Free Spirit are grappling with gender dysphoria.

“Part of the natural process of adolescence is figuring out who you are, but in recent years, things that were obvious are no longer so obvious,” Rotman said. “Your gender is not something you assume anymore.”

The unique value proposition in an Israel-based therapy program isn’t just the location and Jewish environment, but the benefits of Israel’s culture of structure and responsibility as well as in-your-face directness, according to Bader.

“We are not a rehab program, but we do accept people after they complete rehab,” he said. “Although we don’t allow drugs or alcohol, we don’t have a zero-tolerance policy, which allows us to work through some of these issues if possible.”

Ben said that when he started the Free Spirit program in September, he felt he no longer needed the marijuana he had relied upon for so long. “At Free Spirit, we spent a lot of time outdoors, hiking and also sailing to Cyprus,” he said. “I was able to take time to reflect and think without a phone or other distractions.”

Now in the United States for a brief visit, Ben plans to return to Free Spirit for another four months and then attend American University in Washington, D.C., to study communications, economics and government.

Josh arrived at Free Spirit from London in 2015 as a troubled 16-year-old having been kicked out of two previous therapeutic programs.

“Growing up, I had a difficult childhood and I always struggled to fit in,” said Josh, whose last name is being withheld to preserve his privacy. “I had a toxic relationship with my father, with screaming matches on a daily basis.”

He spent three weeks at Free Spirit. But when he returned to England, so did all his emotional problems. Realizing he had left too soon, Josh convinced his parents to send him back to Hazorea, where he ended up staying for eight months.

Josh eventually joined the Israel Defense Forces, spending two and a half years in an elite paratroopers’ brigade — an experience he says “helped me grow into a man.” Now 23, he works at a high-tech firm in suburban Tel Aviv and visits his friends at Hazorea whenever he has time.

“Free Spirit embraces people’s personality traits. They help you find the correct path in life in a way that society will be more accepting of you,” said Josh. These days, he added, he has an “infinitely better relationship” with his father. “We’ve put the past behind us.”


The post Unique therapy program offers troubled Jewish youth a distinctly Israeli alternative appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Comparing European, American, and French Roulette at Canadian online casinos

Roulette is the most popular table game at online and land-based casinos alike. You can easily find a seat at the table, place your bets, and hope that the wheel turns in your favour. But you have surely noticed that the roulette section is quite rich, featuring at least a dozen different tables. Most of them come with a different design and different rules. The most popular roulette variants are American Roulette, European, and French Roulette. In this article, we will try to explain the main differences between each one.

French VS European Roulette

We’ll first compare the French versus the European version of roulette since they are the most similar. The layout of the bets and the wheel is basically the same. Even the table layout is pretty much the same at most online casinos. Depending on the provider some differences can be found, like the layout of the table or the order of the numbers of the wheel. But as far as the odds and gameplay are concerned, European and French Roulette are basically the same. 

Both roulette variants have a single 0 on the board and the same number of slots on the wheel and numbers on the table. There are 36 additional numbers you can bet on, along with the standard Red or Black and Odd or Even bets. This means both games come with a house edge of 2.7%. So, the only difference comes from the introduction of two basic rules in French Roulette. 

  • La Partage
  • En Prison

La Partage

This rule applies to even money bets, and in case the ball lands on the 0 slot. The term comes from the French word which means to divide. All even money bets are divided into half, and the player gets one half, while the other half goes to the house. This rule works greatly in your favour, especially if you’re playing on higher bets. 

En Prison

The En Prison bet is also applied to even money bets and only when the ball lands on 0. Instead of counting as a loss, the bets are held on the table for the following spin, and if you win, you get your bet back. Even though you don’t actually win anything extra, the En Prison rule gives you a chance to get your money back without a loss. 

The introduction of these rules lowers the house edge on French Roulette down to 1.35%. This is why many players prefer the French version, as the odds are better for the player. 

French VS American Roulette

The main and pretty much only crucial difference between American and French roulette is the 00 and the layout of the slots on the wheel. The added 00 on the American version means that the house edge is higher. It climbs up to 5.26%, which is almost double the house edge on European Roulette and a massive difference from the 1.35% on the French version. 

Since there is an added 00 number, the layout of the slots on the wheel is different. On the table, the 00 is next to the 0, so it doesn’t make a big difference to the layout of the table. But the rules in American roulette are quite simple. If your number doesn’t come up, you lose the bet. There are no extra rules like in the French version. 

Conclusion 

If you go by the odds alone, it turns out that the best roulette variant to play at Canadian online casinos is French roulette. But this doesn’t mean you will lose more when you play American or European Roulette. Many players prefer to play the American wheel as it’s faster and more exciting. With the right strategy and some luck on your side, you can easily make a profit on any type of roulette game. 

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Universities Must Be Forced to Address Antisemitism

niversity of California, Santa Barbara student body president Tessa Veksler on Feb. 26, 2024. Photo: Instagram

University of California, Santa Barbara student body president Tessa Veksler on Feb. 26, 2024. Photo: Instagram

JNS.org – “Never would I have imagined that I’d need to fight for my right to exist on campus,” laments Shabbos Kestenbaum, a student at Harvard University who is suing the school because “antisemitism is out of control.”

Jewish students have suffered an unrelenting explosion of hate on American higher education campuses—so far with little relief. They have endured antisemitic rhetoric, intimidation, cancellation and violence. But those charged with keeping campuses safe—whether administrators who govern student and faculty behavior or federal agencies responsible for ensuring that schools adhere to civil rights protections—are failing in their jobs.

Many Jewish students have complained to their colleges’ administrators about the injustices. But instead of responding with measures to ensure Jewish students’ safety—like stopping pro-Hamas protestors from hijacking campuses or expelling militants who incite Jew-hatred— administrators have largely shown indifference. In some cases, college authorities have made things worse for Jewish students by appeasing the riotous, pro-Hamas mobs who have been primary perpetrators of Jew-hatred on campus.

Snubbed by college administrators, Jewish students and their supporters have appealed for federal protection, filing Title VI complaints with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the body tasked with enforcing protections under the Civil Rights Act. Unfortunately, the OCR, which has the power to levy severe financial punishments against colleges that neglect students’ Title VI rights, has so far rewarded negligent universities with little more than slaps on the wrist.

Until college and university boards of trustees begin hiring administrators committed to Jewish students’ safety—and until the OCR begins seriously punishing antisemitic perpetrators—we can expect no respite. Safe to say, colleges and universities run by arrogant, apathetic administrators will not change until their jobs and schools’ survival are threatened.

College/university administrators don’t take antisemitism seriously. Their reactions to Jewish students raising concerns about Jew-hatred range from indifference to outright hostility. For example, when Mohammed Al-Kurd, who the Anti-Defamation League says has a record of “unvarnished, vicious antisemitism,” came to speak at Harvard, Shabbos Kestenbaum and other Jewish students complained to administrators.

Rather than cancel Al-Kurd’s appearance, which would have been the appropriate action, the administrators ignored the students’ complaints. “Harvard’s silence was deafening,” Kestenbaum wrote in Newsweek. Kestenbaum said he “repeatedly” expressed concerns to administrators about the antisemitism he experienced, but as his lawsuit alleges, “evidence of uncontrolled discrimination and harassment fell on deaf ears.”

Administrators at Columbia University reacted to Jewish students’ complaints about antisemitism even more cynically. In fact, during an alumni event, several administrators exchanged text messages mocking Jewish students, calling them “privileged” and “difficult to listen to.”

When Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania if calling for genocide against Jews violated their schools’ codes of conduct, none could say “yes.” The presidents of Harvard and UPenn have since resigned. Good riddance.

Some college/university administrators have outrageously granted concessions to pro-Hamas students. For instance, Northwestern University agreed to contact potential employers of students who caused campus disruptions to insist they be hired, create a segregated dormitory hall exclusively for Middle Eastern, North African and Muslim students, and form a new investment committee in which anti-Zionists could wield undue influence. Brown University agreed to hold a referendum on divestment from Israel in October.

Similar appeasements were announced at other colleges and universities, including Rutgers, Johns Hopkins, the University of Minnesota and the University of California Riverside.

So far, OCR has failed to take concrete action against antisemitism on campus. This is evident in recent decisions involving the City University of New York (CUNY) and the University of Michigan. CUNY was ordered to conduct more investigations into Title VI complaints and report further developments to Washington, provide more employee and campus security officer training, and issue “climate surveys” to students.

The University of Michigan also committed to a “climate survey,” as well as to reviewing its case files for each report of discrimination covered by Title VI during the 2023-2024 school year and reporting to the OCR on its responses to reports of discrimination for the next two school years.

Neither institution was penalized financially, even though the Department of Education has the power to withhold federal funds, which most colleges and universities depend on. There are now 149 pending investigations into campus antisemitism at OCR. If these investigations yield toothless results similar to those of CUNY and Michigan, it is highly unlikely that colleges and universities will improve how they deal with antisemitism.

Putting an end to skyrocketing antisemitism on campus involves three things.

First, donors and governments at every level should withhold funds from colleges that fail to hire administrators who will take antisemitism as seriously as they take pronoun offenses or racism directed at people of color.

Second, the OCR must mete out serious consequences to Title VI violators in the form of funding cuts. This may require legislation that specifically mandates withdrawing funding from offending parties. A bill recently introduced by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.)—the University Accountability Act—may be ideal, as it is designed to financially penalize institutions that don’t crack down on antisemitism.

Third, if OCR won’t act, Jewish students and their supporters should turn to the courts. Lori Lowenthal Marcus, the legal director of the Deborah Project, a public-interest Jewish law firm, argues that the CUNY settlement demonstrates the futility of going to OCR and that going to court is more likely to produce “a clearly delineated and productive result,” such as punitive and compensatory fines. As of late May, at least 14 colleges and universities are facing lawsuits over their handling of antisemitism on campus since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

As long as college administrators are allowed to ignore antisemitism on campus and as long as OCR and other government institutions fall short in punishing Jew-hatred, antisemitism will continue to plague Jewish students.

The post Universities Must Be Forced to Address Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Candace Owens Claims US ‘Being Held Hostage by Israel,’ Suggests Zionists Killed JFK

Candace Owens speaks at CPAC on March 2, 2023. Photo: Lev Radin via Reuters Connect

Political commentator Candace Owens claimed on Friday that the US is being held “hostage” by Israel and suggested that AIPAC, the foremost pro-Israel lobbying organization in the US, was behind the assassination of former US President John F. Kennedy.
“It seems like our country is being held hostage by Israel,” Owens, a right-wing provocateur, said during the opening segment of her YouTube show, where she interviewed far-left commentator Briahna Joy Gray.
“I’m going to get in so much trouble for that. I don’t care,” Owens lamented.
Gray, who was the guest for this episode, was recently fired from The Hill‘s TV show, Rising, after aggressively cutting off and rolling her eyes at the sister of an Israeli hostage who said that Hamas sexually assaulted women during the terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel and that people should believe those women. Gray, who claimed her firing was politically motivated, had repeatedly cast doubt on the sexual violence perpetrated against Israeli women during the Hamas-led onslaught.
However, Owens said that part of the reasons she was addressing the subject was that people were being fired because they were “not happy … when an innocent Palestinian kid dies” or for “critiquing a foreign nation.”
Also on Friday’s show, Owens claimed US Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) was “wading into some dangerous waters” when, during an interview with host Tucker Carlson, he spoke about how effective the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is at lobbying members of Congress and suggested the group should have to register as a foreign agent that is acting on behalf of Israel.
The reason it was dangerous, Owens said, was because “we know there was once a president that wanted to make AIPAC register, and he ended up shot … so Thomas Massie better be careful.”
Owens was referencing the fact that Kennedy wanted the American Zionist Council, a lobby group, to register as a foreign agent. However, there is no evidence the group had anything to do with Kennedy’s assassination.
Owens and The Daily Wire, which was co-founded by conservative and Jewish political commentator Ben Shapiro, parted ways after Owens flirted with antisemitic conspiracy theories for a number of months, especially following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.
“In all communities there are gangs. In the black community we’ve got the Bloods, we’ve got the Crips. Well, imagine if the Bloods and the Crips were doing horrific things, murdering people, controlling people with blackmail, and then every time a person spoke out about it, the Bloods and the Crips would call those people racist,” Owens said while still at The Daily Wire. “What if that is what is happening right now in Hollywood if there is just a very small ring of specific people who are using the fact that they are Jewish to shield themselves from any criticism. It’s food for thought, right? … this appears to be something that is quite sinister.”
Additionally, after getting into a spat with an outspoken and controversial rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, she said, “Are you going to kill me? Are you going to kill me, because I refuse to kowtow to you, and I think it’s weird that you and your daughter are promoting and selling sex toys, that’s why I deem you an ‘unholy rabbi?’”
“You gross me out. You disgust me. I am a better person than you, and I do not fear you,” Owens continued.
The list of controversial incidents involving Owens continued to grow longer with time. In one case, she “liked” an X/Twitter post that promoted the antisemitic “blood libel.” The post read, in response to Boteach, “Rabbi, are you drunk on Christian blood again?”
The “blood libel” is a medieval anti-Jewish slur which falsely claims that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children in their religious rituals.

The post Candace Owens Claims US ‘Being Held Hostage by Israel,’ Suggests Zionists Killed JFK first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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