Mrs. Rosie Bleich - Mother of A Hundred Children
They take notice immediately, as she enters the billiards hall way after midnight amid sounds of shrill screams and the smell of cheap perfume. "They" are a dozen of so lost Jewish children who feel rejected by an uncaring world...except for her.
"Mom!" they scream as they scurry from their tables and their friends to greet her at the door. For to over one hundred children disenfranchised from their own homes, thrown out by their own parents, and rejected by their own community, Rosie Bleich is "mom".
Mrs. Bleich is Director of Outreach for Project ReJewvenation, and, when she is not caring for her own three children, spends time befriending, assisting, and drawing back into the fold the wayward Jewish youth of New York City.
Mrs. Bleich's childhood as a Bobover Chosid and experience as a Registered Nurse, come in handy when dealing with crisis situations in Orthodox homes. But although she may be able to relate to both American and European parents, and possess medical training, her most effective tool in dealing with Project ReJewvenations' clientele is her warm and caring personality. "If you want to deal with these kids, you have to care about them like your own children," advises Mrs. Bleich. "These kids are very bright. They can tell if you're sincere or just putting on an act."
Yes they can. And that is why Mrs. Bleich is so successful in providing a feeling of acceptance for youths who have in the past experienced only rejection. "I know that if I get into trouble with the law or if I get sick, or whatever, I can beep Rosie in the middle of the night, and she'll be there," says Miriam, 15, about her surrogate "mom". It is a position that has not been filled for a while. "My real mother said two years ago she never wants to see me again."
Mrs. Bleich's task of making kids feel wanted is often entangled by other, less glamorous responsibilities. Calling local politicians to help an arrested teenager a speedy arraignment; inducing vomiting in a girl who "couldn't take it anymore" and swallowed a bottle of pills; negotiating tuition fees for a Yeshiva drop-out who finally wants to return to school - all this and more comes with the territory. But it is territory that Mrs. Bleich navigates proudly. "These are Jewish children," is her reasoning.
To date, Mrs. Bleich has come in contact with over one hundred teenagers, of all shapes, sizes and genders, and from all types of backgrounds and experiences, with the only thing in common being their affection for their surrogate mother. Whether it be a young boy with a drug problem, a runaway girl, or a homeless Jewish teen, they know they can find the warmth to fill that gap in their soul, that encouragement that they so desperately crave, and the true care and affection they so rarely feel, in Mrs. Bleich. It is that feeling of acceptance, more than anything else, that brings lost youth back to the fold.