New Artisans Join Yad LaKashish
The needy elderly who apply to Yad LaKashish are often struggling with very difficult circumstances. One of the newest artisans at Yad LaKashish, Michal, is a widow who joined Yad LaKashish a week after her husband passed away. Her husband had himself been a Yad LaKashish artisan before he became too sick to carry on. Newly alone, with her role as a caregiver to her husband gone, Michal saw Yad LaKashish as a refuge where she could once again find fulfilment in her life. We were only too happy that a place was available for her and, with it, a new sense of purpose and community.
Like Michal, 33 additional senior citizens in the lowest socio-economic sector of Israeli society have joined the Yad LaKashish family this year - thanks in part to the renovation and expansion of the textiles workshop. Four are originally from Ethiopia, and the remainder are from the Former Soviet Union, although two lived in the United States for many years before immigrating to Israel.
Most of the new artisans applied to Yad LaKashish on the recommendation of their friends, but several are the spouses or siblings of artisans already in the program. The newest member of the Bookbindery, Avrah, worked as a supermarket security guard until retiring at the age of 70. Avrah now enjoys talking about his new role with his wife Yelfin, a member of the textiles workshop.
It is always a little intimidating to begin at a new place, but we try to make every new artisan feel welcome from the moment they arrive. On their first day, they are assigned to their new workshop based on where there is room and where the Social Coordinator thinks they will feel most comfortable. The workshop leaders kindly and gently ease the seniors into their new roles, and veteran artisans eagerly show them the ropes. The Social Coordinator is always on call and checks frequently that they are settling in without problems.
The workshop leaders usually give new artisans simple tasks to begin with, depending on what needs doing at any one time. Sometimes however, the arrival of new artisans coincides with the development of new jobs. One new artisan for example, Michael, who is a former mechanic, has been tasked with glazing the ceramic items. This job is technically quite difficult and also requires someone in good health. Happily, Michael has taken well to this job and is pleased that he can make such a helpful contribution to the workshop so early on.
Meanwhile, the Embroidery workshop has recently developed a new line of products featuring colorful Ethiopian designs. The new Ethiopian artisans in the Embroidery workshop appreciate the chance to share their ethnic heritage through creating these beautiful new items. One artisan in this group, Yohannes, had worked as an English teacher in Ethiopia, which is very unusual in a society where most jobs are based on agriculture. Using English, Hebrew and Amharic, Yohannes is able to act as a translator between the staff and the Ethiopian artisans with weaker Hebrew skills.
Already, after just a few weeks in some cases, we can see the difference that Yad LaKashish is making to the new artisans. As their confidence grows, many of the new artisans enthusiastically take on more advanced tasks. For others, we see a new side to their personality, as people who seemed chronically shy and quiet on arrival begin to open up, to smile more, to talk more, and to feel more at home at Yad LaKashish. Restoring the sense of self-respect, pride, purpose and confidence of the needy elderly is, of course, the essential mission of Yad LaKashish. It is inspiring to watch the process take place before our eyes with the new arrivals. We hope that they will be with us for many years, and wish them every success.