ABOUT - Founder's Story
Rena Orlowek is as discreet as she is matter-of-fact. In her line of work, both traits are essential. In thinking back over her time working with families in crisis, one case stood out in her mind from many years ago as particularly poignant:
“A 14-year old teenage girl had been hanging out with the wrong crowd, doing drugs and drinking, not coming home at night, and generally getting into trouble. The family was at their wits' end, and called us. We mobilized another organization whose caseworkers were out on the streets. They succeeded in finding her and got her into a temporary safe hostel. We paired her with a mentor ‘big sister’ who became a trusted confidant and friend. With Tvunot’s guidance, she was instrumental in gently connecting her with a specialized therapist. Over time, the therapist gained her trust, uncovered that there had been a past abuse. When the time was right, she helped her renew her relationship with her parents (who also now had to deal with the information about abuse that her daughter had experienced). Simultaneous to working with the girl, Tvunot counseled the parents on how to understand her needs and promote healing back at home. After the situation stabilized, she went back to school. Today, thank G-d, she’s married with kids.”
"The family was at their wits' end, and called us."
The trajectories of Rena’s career and family life have converged upon helping those in crisis. She came to Israel in 1969 as a student, and at the time, the English-speaking community was growing. She started a family while pursuing her teaching career. After her 7th child, she went back to school and earned her degrees; a Bachelor’s in counseling, and a Master’s in family therapy. Her family grew, and while raising a large family, she began working as a family therapist. It was in this role that she first began to understand some of the community’s very real and difficult struggles. Together with her husband, who is an educator, author and advisor of a yeshiva, the couple began acting as a de facto resource for the English-speaking community struggling with the many challenges of aliyah, insufficient support systems, and the growing problems of kids at risk.
"At that time it became clear that these were prevalent challenges for the expat community, and she was moved to action."
At that time it became clear that these were prevalent challenges for the expat community, and she was moved to action. She understood that parents needed education in the form of preventative information, raising awareness of the issues, guidance on spotting signs of abuse, help to overcome the language barriers to better connect and work with Israeli systems, and more. As such, and together with her trusted advisor and and partner Mrs. Friedlander, she officially established Tvunot in 2001.
The organization has since grown to meet the varied needs of the community: safety awareness classes, all over Jerusalem and also outside the city, also expanding to non-english speakers, as well as well as an increase in crisis management capacity.
Throughout it all, Rena, with Mrs. Friedlander at her side, is the driving force behind an organization one would be lucky never to have to know about. But for those that do and must, she is a calming, strong presence, and the community is blessed to have her at the helm during its darkest hours.