“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
– Carnegie Mellon University Professor Randy Pausch, from The Last Lecture
Marley Kate Brem wasn’t dealt a winning hand when she started out her life. Growing up in New York, she never knew her father and, at age 9, was uprooted by her mother to live in Israel.
Only five years later, her mother was dead, and Brem, then 15, faced the twin challenges of life as an immigrant and orphan.
Instead of drifting off in a sea of confusion, anger and fear, she began attending school at AMIT Kfar Blatt Youth Village in Petach Tikvah, where she lived on campus with loving surrogate parents who gave her the attention and the need for communication that she would not have had elsewhere.
She developed a close relationship with her original surrogate parents and then a different couple who came and took their place.
“AMIT isn’t just like a regular school that you go to. It’s much more than that,” said Brem. “They really push you to believe in yourself first because, if you don’t believe in yourself, nothing will really help. They push you to fulfill your potential and really succeed at anything.”
“It was not a place where she was just being fed and given a roof over her head. She was treated like a member of a family,” said Ethan Segal, national director of marketing communications at AMIT, who said she also took advantage of counseling, tutoring and other services that help AMIT children “express their emotions in a healthy way as an outlet from all the challenges that they came from.”
Brem made lots of friends and excelled at school – she was selected by her classmates as their student council representative and finished her bagrut (Israeli equivalent of AP testing) exams at the top of her class.
The 19-year-old Kfar Blatt graduate recently visited the Washington, D.C., area to share her story of overcoming adversity to a group of middle-school girls from the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville.
“It was an emotional experience for everyone there,” said Robbie Pearlstein, regional director at AMIT for the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions.
AMIT has been educating young people in Jewish values and Zionist ideals since its founding in 1925 and today the organization operates 110 schools with the goal of teaching students to become “productive members of Israeli society with the skills necessary to build a successful future.”
After touring the U.S., Brem will return to Israel where she is in the middle of the six-month Alma pre-army preparatory program, and then she will be drafted into the IDF in March.
Brem said AMIT prepared her for the army and to give back to her country: “For every student they found the right path for them that fit their personality – in the army, in school, in everything they push us to do the best we can.”