History of Yad LaKashish
In 1962, the State of Israel was only 14 years old. Jerusalem was divided, besieged with social issues larger than the city could handle. Work was scarce, infrastructure poor and each passing month forced more and more of Jerusalem's elderly onto the streets as beggars. The country was focused on defense, expansion, progress and survival. There was no interest and no time to think about how to help the elderly, let alone to think about how the elderly could contribute to the young State.
A former school teacher named Myriam Mendilow was disturbed by this phenomenon in many ways. The sheer human suffering was of great concern to her, as well as the loss of self-respect suffered by the elderly. Ms. Mendilow was also upset by the negative way in which her students viewed the elderly: dependent on others, useless, irrelevant.
She decided to take matters into her own hands and open a tiny book-binding workshop for eight elderly men from the local slums. She encouraged local schools to bring tattered books from their libraries to the workshop, and for a small fee, the elderly would rebind the books. The children started to bond with the elderly and, in only a short period, the group of beggars rediscovered their dignity and pride and the 'experiment' took root. Nearly 50 years later, Yad LaKashish: Lifeline for the Old is still giving the needy elderly dignity and pride.
Located at our original site in the Musrara neighborhood of Old Jerusalem, the small shack which was originally used as the bookbindery has grown into an impressive complex. The original group of 8 elderly men has grown to more than 300 elderly men and women who come daily to its many workshops. Bookbinding has expanded into ceramics, metalwork, embroidery, silk painting, woodwork, paper mache and much more, but Yad LaKashish: Lifeline for the Old has remained true to the original vision of Myriam Mendilow. It is as it always was: a place for the elderly in need to work and contribute to society in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.
Related our 50th anniversary article and slideshow: To Be is To Do - Since 1962