Hayim Cohen is a single Hasidic Jew in his 20’s who adopted nine (yes, nine!) Jewish sons from foster care. The boys range in age from 5 to 18.
The language of the home is Yiddish. Seven of the nine boys speak Yiddish as their native tongue.
Hayim is the sole financial provider. He explains how he makes it work, “We make all the right [financial] choices. We have to. For example, the kids belong to a Jewish Boy Scout troop in Houston. It’s a kosher patrol. They’ve made many accommodations. It’s interesting, because one of their mottos is: A Scout is thrifty. We find ways to be thrifty. We cook at home. We don’t have television in our home, but we invested in a computer. YouTube and Facebook have been phenomenal for us.”
Hayim speaks at synagogues and Jewish events to promote fostering and adoption.
“Our community is nervous when it comes to adoption, because they feel like there are no Jewish children in foster care. Jewish children in foster care doesn’t mean we’re an imperfect people. It means there are issues that are out of our control. For example, the parents of one of my kids became deceased in a car wreck.”
“People have been blinded by the old idea that kids in foster care are ‘damaged goods.’ These are normal kids, who have gone through an abnormal situation. They deserve the same love, respect and dignity that we give to every other person in our daily life.”
The Cohen family was featured in Houston Family Magazine, after 16 year old Avshalom wrote to tell them that his father is “the most amazing person on this planet.”
It all started a few years ago, when Hayim was in his early 20’s. He started volunteering in shelters serving children and families in West Texas. One day he received a phone call about two Jewish brothers, Avshalom and Avichai, who were in a non-Jewish foster care home. Hayim started sending the boys Jewish books and kosher food. The Child Protective Service caseworker asked if Hayim would become licensed to foster the boys, and he immediately agreed.
Hayim is a Chabad Hassid, and follows the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He is raising the children in a home filled with Jewish learning, ritual practice, and holiday celebrations. His oldest son Avshalom wrote, “I remember being in foster care – the only Jewish kid in the house. I thought it was the end of my culture.”
Some of the kids had lived as many as 8 different foster homes, and adoption did not seem to be in the cards for them. They were failing in school and apathetic about life. Now, these children are earning straight A’s, they all play an instrument, and they read and speak three languages: English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.
The Cohen family includes Hayim, Avshalom, Avichai, Yehuda, Shmariyahu, Simcha, Yissachar, Nahman, Elimelech and Pasach. Thanks to their loving father Hayim, the boys’ future looks bright.
For adopting nine troubled children and transforming their lives with love and Jewish values, we honor Hayim Cohen as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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