“They raised the children with their own and with endless giving”
The history of Bet Sabah Elazraki Children’s Home.
It all began in 1969…
When Alfonso and Gladys Sabah immigrated to Israel from Tangiers and lived in the Pardess HaGdud neighborhood in Netanya. This was where they first encountered the deserted children who lived at the “Sinai” religious institution near their home. The term “children at risk” did not exist in those days. The institution’s children, who lived in three homes, were then labeled as “deserted and neglected children”. The institution was managed by an adult named Sinai, of course. Alfonso and Gladys Sabah saw what was happening and were eager to help. They very quickly grew attached to the children and they opened up their home to them.
A dear and rare Jew, Eliezer Kugler, joined the effort in those years along with his wife, Rachel. Mr. Kugler helped Sinai manage the institution. Approximately 30 boys remained at the homes in Pardess HaGdud – it was their only home and the Kuglers rapidly became their loving parents.
Strengthening the Bond between the Sabah Family and the Children
The Sabah family took it upon themselves to continue raising and fostering the children. They worried mainly that the children might be left homeless, as the houses that they lived in were owned by Belgian Jews who might demand the homes for themselves. Alfonso Sabah established a special fund for the children, aiming to purchase the houses or build others. The Sabah Family established a synagogue in the area and even obtained approval from the rabbis, enabling the children to participate in art and music activities there. The bond between the Sabah Family and the children deepened. They took care of the children’s welfare and happiness on a daily basis. The children would enter the Sabah Family home freely every day.
We Have a Home!
After the effort to purchase the houses had failed, the Netanya Municipality helped the Sabah Family and allocated it a lot for building a home for the children. In the late 1960’s, the home was built by many members of the extended Sabah Family and their friends, who pitched in to fulfill this incredible goal. A great deal of thinking and resources was invested in its planning. The new structure also included an apartment for the director and his family. When the home was completed in 1969, it took in the “Sinai” children and new arrivals. The house was initially intended for 50 children, but donations enabled it to grow on all levels – the number of children, personnel, accessories and related services. Concurrently, the Sabah Family signed a contract with the National Religious Women’s Organization (precursor of “Emunah”), which adopted the house. The Sabah Family remained intensely involved, and of course, Mr. Kugler and his wife ran the institution with love and never-ending dedication. They raised the children together with their own, they all ate together and their giving knew no bounds. Eliezer Kugler was always seen with his arms spread to the side and two children embraced within them.
Sinai, Sabah, Kugler… So why Elazraki?
Several years after the house was built, a distant relative and his wife came for a visit from England and stayed with the Sabah Family. The elderly guest, also from Tangiers, was Victor Elazraki. He had no special connection to Israel, but something happened during this visit. While walking through the neighborhood with their hosts, the Elazrakis visited the children’s home and were deeply moved. Mr. Elazraki passed away shortly after their return to England. His widow contacted the Sabah Family and informed them that her late husband, who was “greatly moved by the visit to the children’s home”, left the children part of his estate. The Sabah Family accepted the donation and, in gratitude, named the children’s home – The Elazraki Children’s Home, named for the late Mr. Victor Elazraki.
Sabah was added to the name many years later. Alfonso refused to add it until after he had passed away. After his passing, Yehuda Kohn asked Gladys Sabah to add the name, but she too wanted to wait until she had passed away as well. It was then that their name was added to our home.
A New Age
The children’s home was registered as an independent association in 1982. Over the years, it received more and more children who were referred by the Welfare Services. Eliezer and Rachel Kugler handed management over to Mr. Yehuda Kohn in 1990, and he continues to manage the children’s home with his wife Rikki until today. Rachel and Eliezer Kugler recently passed away, but their spirit of charity is imbued in the home and their efforts are evident in every corner.