The Yad LaKashish Solution
Israel has one of the highest life-expectancy rates in the developing world. This fact can be interpreted positively or negatively, depending on one's value for the old. At Yad LaKashish, the elderly are viewed as human beings with a potential for artistic creativity that is just waiting to be revealed. Our solution is an artistic community that encourages the elderly in their process of self-discovery and engages them in creative activity in order to develop their new found skills.
The programs and services offered at Yad LaKashish take into consideration the wide array of needs of the elderly poor, while building upon the strength of their abilities. This delicate balance between providing the old with much-needed financial aid, on the one hand, and empowering them to use their own natural abilities, on the other, is one of the unique aspects of our approach.
In line with the principle of the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides that the highest level of charity is to help people help themselves, the elderly artisans receive specific financial benefits in return for their work. As well as alleviating some of the stress of daily life with minimal income, these benefits also engender a feeling of being employed in a workplace, like other adults in society. Benefits include a monthly stipend, a monthly bus pass valid for all of Jerusalem, a snack and hot lunch on-site, subsidized eye and dental care and holiday bonuses.
The elderly, most of whom come with no prior artistic experience, are placed in one of our seven workshops: bookbindery, cartonage, metalwork, silk painting, ceramics, sewing and embroidery, or our special rehabilitation workshop for those with disabilities. They are trained by qualified workshop leaders who hail from schools of design such as the Bezalel Art Academy.
The time that the elderly spend with the workshop leader is often exhilarating, as they suddenly become aware of the creative abilities that have lain dormant for a lifetime. This process stimulates the feeling that the aged person is beginning a new stage of life, rather than simply waiting for the end to come.
The friendly, community atmosphere is no less important than the creative activity to the well-being of the elderly artisans. The majority of the participants are immigrants to Israel with little working knowledge of Hebrew and limited contact with family members outside of a spouse. Learning Hebrew at the age of 70 or 80 is an unrealistic expectation for most, but not being able to converse with others only increases the experience of isolation. At Yad LaKashish: Lifeline for the Old, the immigrant elderly can converse in their native tongue, whether it be Russian, Amharic, English, Spanish, French, Persian or (even) Hebrew. For many, the other participants as well as the workshop leaders, staff and volunteers, become their primary social network.
Finally, the elderly artisans feel the peak of their pride when visitors of all ages, from around the world, come wide-eyed to tour the workshops, to talk to them about their work and to purchase the beautiful handcrafted items made, with care, by the elderly at Yad LaKashish.