“It’s a miracle. We definitely had ‘help’ from Above,” says Shlomo Cohen, Learn and Return’s field investigator, who supervised the rescues. “Thank G-d, all the girls are safe and are either in shelters or receiving counseling with their parents.” The girls were rescued from abusive Arab relationships by Learn and Return (formerly known as Learn and Live). This organization reaches out to Jewish girls involved with Arabs and provides shelter and counseling to help them get their lives back on track. Many girls who are off the derech become prey to this new form of terrorism. “The Arabs don’t come with suicide belts, they come with flowers and kind words that are like water to a dying plant for vulnerable teenagers, and our girls are falling like flies,” says Shlomo Cohen.
There’s a war going on – a war for our girls, for Kedushas Yisrael. Since Sharia law was announced throughout the Arab world in 2010, there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of Jewish girls falling into relationships with Arab men and getting trapped. Sharia law states: “There is no doubt that taking the women of the combatant infidels captive – wheth er they are from Ahl al-Kitab (i.e., Christians and Jews) or pagans – is permitted according to the Sharia… That being said, it must be done…” (Sheikh Abu Humam Al-Athari) More than ten thousand Jewish girls are either trapped in Arab villages or are involved in dangerous relationships with Arab men before they are “escorted” to a village.Sara, a Beis Yaakov girl had a critical mother and an absentee father.
She was lonely, depressed and walked around with an empty feeling. Mousef met her on the bus and every day told her how beautiful she was. He would bring her presents and shower her with attention. She knew better but eventually allowed herself to spend time with him because of the attention she craved. A friend saw her speaking to him one day and called Learn and Return. We contacted Sara and met with her. She said, “I’m frum, I’m going to marry a frum guy. He just likes to buy me presents and talk to me. Nothing is going to happen!”
We counseled her, offered to buy her a new phone and tried to get her away before it was too late. Nothing worked until we got her parents involved. We sent the family to therapy, worked with Sara to build her self-esteem and help her feel fulfilled. She was moments away from being taken to a village.The problem has become a tsunami. Learn and Return has rescued hundreds of Jewish girls from abusive relationships before they were taken to Arab villages. Once in a village, it takes an army of people to risk their lives to get them out.“If we can reach them before they are trapped, we can prevent them from being ‘escorted’ to a village and a lifetime of abuse,” says Mrs. Kupfer. “The ideal time to intervene is not after a girl ends up in an Arab village. It’s now, before she gets sucked into a dangerous relationship. We must warn the girls that they are being targeted. We must show them the quicksand before they step into it.” Learn and Return’s field investigators currently have a list of 600 Jewish girls who have called for help or whose parents have called for them to be rescued from potentially abusive relationships with Arab men.
Many are regular, frum teenagers who are falling off the derech or are in need of some love and attention. The Arabs often wear kippot and pretend to be Jewish. Learn and Return empowers vulnerable Jewish teens before they enter such relationships. “We try to give these girls what they are missing,” says Mrs. Kupfer. “If it is love, acceptance, friends, or a place to call home, we are there for them. Learn and Return operates a shelter for girls who can’t return home or who have been rescued from a village. With a shoestring budget, we try to help prevent these girls from living a life of abuse. We send the girls who have fallen into this trap to a shelter to help them get their lives back on track.”
Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, a friend of the organization explained, “We have to deal with the root of the problem: our kids need more love.”“Let’s learn from the Arabs,” suggests Mrs. Kupfer. “Tell your daughter you love her. Take her out and buy her a present. Tell her you are just so happy she is in your life. Let’s be there for our girls. If we don’t do this for our daughters, the Arabs will.” Rabbi Berel Wein, a supporter of Learn and Return says, “We can save these girls. Everyone has an obligation to try and do something to save the lives of these young women. A life is a world.”