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Helping Parents Heal, the Koby Mandell Way

A special program by the Koby Mandell Foundation helps parents deal with loss.
By David Lev
First Publish: 7/24/2011, 8:32 PM

Healing Tour
Healing Tour
Courtesy of Koby Mandell Foundation

For nearly a decade, since the cruel terrorist murder of 13-year-old Koby near his Tekoa home, the Koby Mandell Foundation has provided programs to help children, youths and adults who have lost a parent, child or sibling to terrorism or to illness to deal with their loss and “create meaning out of suffering,” as the organization says.

The Foundation runs summer camps, after school programs, and special events to help families who have lost a loved one to deal with their feelings and rebuild their lives after a devastating loss. 

A look at its work shows the vast gulf in terms of human worth separating the barbaric perpetrators of terror from their innocent victims.

We don't know what Koby would have become had he grown into an adult, but seeing what his family has done to transform their ever-present loss into ways to help others lead meaningful lives, gives us a good idea of how much the world has lost with his murder.

And, of course, the Foundation is best known for its Comedy for Koby fundraising program, which brings top American comedians to Israel, honoring Koby's memory by showing how the power of laughter helps cope with adversity, while raising money for programs like the yearly Camp Koby, for children who have experienced loss of a parent or sibling to terror or tragedy

Comedy for Koby is a fun-filled evening, beginning with a few jokes told by the Mandell's that, although funny, somehow bring tears to the audience's eyes, but the show also does something special for Israel's image. Arutz Sheva talked to visiting comedians Ian Edwards, Judy Gold and Ted Alexandro and to comedian-arranger Avi Liberman. They first three had not been to Israel previously and said how strongly pro-Israel the trip had made them and how they intend to go back to the USA with that message. 
One theme that runs throughout all of the Foundation's programs is helping family members deal with their feelings about loss, a process all those who have faced loss must undergo before they can learn to cope successfully.

That principle holds true for parents who have lost children to terror attacks or illness, says Rabbi Seth Mandell, who along with his wife Sherri, as the parents of Koby, created the Foundation.

And in order to help parents who have faced loss better cope with that loss, the Foundation sponsored last week its first Israel Healing Tour for Bereaved Parents, said Rabbi Mandell. “It was geared for English speaking parents who have lost a child to terrorism or other tragedy,” he told Arutz Sheva. “We had participants from Israel and the United States, learning to acknowledge their pain and deal with it so they could move on constructively.”
The five day program was directed by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb of the OU, who is also a clinical psychologist, and featured a number of programs that helped parents build their coping skills. “Research shows that structured, thoughtful programs that emphasize group activities, affirmative experiences and resilience have positive and lasting effects on the bereaved, and that's what we emphasized in the Healing Tour,” said Rabbi Mandell.
On the program were visits to the holy places and workshops – including a psychodrama session with Tsippy Cedar, mother of film director Yosef Cedar and a psychodrama expert. “That was a very moving session, giving participants an opportunity to really act out their feelings,” said Rabbi Mandell.

And, the program included a visit to Tekoa – specifically to the area of the caves where young Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran were killed, a personal journey for the Mandells to the site where their tragedy began.
While last week's program was the first Healing Tour, it most certainly won't be the last, said Rabbi Mandell. “Participants said that the program was extremely helpful, unlike anything they had gone through before,” he said. “During the normal course of their lives, people have a hard time expressing their grief. It may come up in conversation, but in truth you try to avoid it.

"But here, in a supportive atmosphere with people who know what you are going through, you have a much easier time expressing that grief – and having it acknowledged. It's nice to know you can be understood and accepted,” he added. “That's an important part of therapy.”