A Purpose for Every Day
The first time I visited Israel, I was twelve years old, and my family came for the summer in honor of my upcoming bat-mitzvah. We spent the first two weeks on a tour bus, with two other families, and one of our stops was at Yad LaKashish.
Earlier that year, just before Passover, my great-grandmother, Etta Goodman, had passed away at 96. She was an amazing woman in many ways, notably the fact that she completed the New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle every week until her death, and the fact that she was a needle-worker of unsurpassed mastery. Though my Grandma Etta’s mind was sharp until the day she died, her body reflected its age, and she was mostly homebound, with the exception of the time she spent, each week, at our local Jewish Community Center, kibitzing and doing craft projects with other elders. Not surprisingly, when we arrived at Yad LaKashish in July, with the memory of Grandma Etta fresh in our minds, my family was blown away with what we saw. My mother was so touched, in fact, that we returned to Yad LaKashish later in the summer to volunteer, and when my bat-mitzvah came around that October, I chose Yad LaKashish to be my “mitzvah project,” donating a portion of my gifts to the organization.
Fast forward seventeen years. This September, I arrived in Jerusalem with my husband, Hillel Greene, who is studying to be a rabbi at Hebrew College in Boston. I was on a leave of absence from my job teaching English and directing the Writing Center at Gann Academy, and was looking for meaningful ways to spend my time while in Israel. I knew that I wanted to volunteer, but I wasn’t sure where or in what capacity. By chance, one evening, Hillel and I went downtown to meet some friends for dinner. Our bus stop was the one just in front of Yad LaKashish, on Shivtei Israel. All of a sudden, something clicked. “Oh!” I said to my husband. “I’m going to see if I can volunteer there!” Limor, the Social Coordinator, was kind enough to place me in the knitting and crochet workshop, where the skills my Grandma Etta taught me as an eight year old could come in handy.
For the past three months, I’ve spent two mornings a week there. There are so many things I’ve loved about working at Yad LaKashish. First among them, of course, is the opportunity to speak with Irina, Bertha, Avraham, Shoshana, and the other elders in the knitting and crochet workshop. Though I don’t speak Russian, the native tongue of most of the elders, we get by with a combination of Hebrew, English, and even a little bit of Spanish! I love hearing their stories about when and why they made Aliyah, and the news they share about their families, who are all over the world. It’s a pleasure to hear the chit-chat and laughter of the elders as they work, but it is genuinely inspiring to see their pride as they show off the stuffed animals and dolls they make. Maybe my favorite time of the day, though, is participating in morning exercises, led by Ada, who was once a gym teacher in the U.S.S.R. and is now an "artist."
As an adult, I am able to appreciate Yad LaKashish in a different, deeper way than I did as an adolescent. Because I, too, am a kind of temporary immigrant to Israel, I know how lonely being in a foreign country can be and how vital the kind of companionship the elders have at Yad LaKashish is. And because I am now a professional, who loves and takes pride in my work, I can relate to the importance of having work to do – a purpose for every day.
It has been a pleasure to be part of the Yad LaKashish family and community this fall – it will be one of the parts of Jerusalem I will miss most when I return to Boston in January. I’m so glad to have been able to have lent a hand, even for a short while, to such an effective, meaningful institution, and I hope to be able to maintain my connection with Yad LaKashish for many years to come.
- Lily Rabinoff-Goldman, November 30, 2011