Lifetime Achievement Award: Yossi Saragossi


Out of more than 6,000 employees across Israel, WIZO chose to award the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to one man. Who is Yossi Saragossi?

Yossi Saragossi has a quiet, humble demeanor and a warmth and wisdom that are felt immediately by anyone he meets. It’s quite obvious why the students at WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim boarding school adore him, why the staff follow his lead with such trust and devotion, and why WIZO’s federations, particularly WIZO Australia, have invested so much funding over the years to support the institution he manages with such great skill.

At this year’s Outstanding Employee Awards, WIZO bestowed upon Yossi the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his 43 years of service to WIZO. 43 years in one organization is impressive, and nearly unheard of in this day and age. But here’s an even more impressive fact: Yossi has worked at the same WIZO institution for those 43 years: Ahuzat Yeladim. He started his career there in 1982 as a teaching assistant while completing a college degree and over the years, steadily and studiously worked his way up to the very top.

יוסי סרגוסי2. קרדיט צילום כפיר סיון scaled

Yossi Saragossi:
“It is a great privilege working in such a place.“

WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim is a very unique boarding school: it houses 30 girls and 50 boys on average, ages 8 to 18 from Kiryat Shmona and the Golan Heights in the north to Be’er Sheva in the south. These children have severe emotional and psychological problems, as well as past traumas. About 50% of them come to Ahuzat Yeladim with court mandated orders, and all of the children come with referrals from Israel’s Ministry of Welfare. Most have been hospitalized, are medicated, and require intensive therapy and support.

Yossi said in his acceptance speech: “To manage such a unique place, you have to do so with a great sense of commitment and responsibility because you are determining the future of these children. Each child has their own complexities and difficulties, and it is up to us to provide them with the most appropriate treatment to help them function in society and change their destiny.”

Yossi Saragosi

“The secret to my success is that I am not alone; I have a highly committed and skilled team who work around the clock — on weekends and holidays, in times of peace and in times of war, during wildfires and pandemics, and put the children first and foremost and then themselves and their families. The children inspire and fulfill us every day. It is a great privilege working in such a place. You feel that you are succeeding in making a positive change in the lives of children that is something priceless.”

One of Yossi’s favorite stories to share with visitors is about a traumatized and violent young girl who showed up at the school and without regard to anyone’s safety, threw chairs and tables around the room in a fit of rage. Yossi cleared the classroom, locked the door, and said to the girl: “You can act as crazy as you want, but I’m not giving up on you. I will be by your side until we change your life. And I will dance at your wedding, I promise you that.”

And he did just that.

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