Meet Some of Our Elderly Artisans!

 

Lev was born in a small village in Belarus in 1923. At the start of World War II, he was drafted into the Russian army. His village was wiped out early on by the Nazis, including all of his immediate and extended family. He served as a combat soldier throughout the war, earning several medals. After the war he stayed in Berlin with the army for another six years, working in communications for the army. To this day he still knows Morse code. After that he went back to Belarus and became a mechanical engineer. For many years he worked in a factory making combines for agricultural work. He came to Israel in 1990 with his second wife and his daughter and her son. Six months later he found Yad LaKashish. His father used to paint wall hangings in their village so he felt an immediate affinity for painting. At that time they had just started a silk studio, and he was one of the first three elderly artisans to work there. 25 years later he still paints silk and is the first one in every day, eager to get started. Lev is good friends with everyone in the silk workshop and his paintings are very optimistic, using strong, bright colors. He has 3 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren in Israel.
 

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 Mana was born in Ethiopia in 1932. She married Daniel  after mutual acquaintances from his village recommended  her to his parents, and the wedding took place when she  was 13 years old and Daniel was 19. The newlyweds  moved in with Daniel’s parents, which meant that Mana  hardly ever got to see her own family because of the great  distance between the villages. Their area had both Jewish  and Christian families living together.

 Mana kept house, cleaning, cooking, doing the laundry and caring for their expanding family, while Daniel worked on the farm, growing potatoes, onions, peppers and other crops. They cooked some of the vegetables for their daily meals, and the rest were sold to support the family. Mana and Daniel had eight children, although to their great sorrow, one passed away.

After deciding to head for Israel, Mana, Daniel and their family journeyed for many days by foot, heading for Sudan. It took them two months to reach Israel. Their first stop upon arrival in 1985 was Kiryat Arba (near Hebron), and they later moved to Jerusalem, eventually settling in the Neve Ya’acov neighborhood where they live today. Four of their children married in Ethiopia, and three in Israel, and so far they have 32 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. One of their grandchildren married an immigrant from the Former Soviet Union, testament to the ‘ingathering of the exiles’ in modern Israel.

Daniel began working at Yad LaKashish at the age of 71, working with paper in the cartonage workshop, and sometimes tying the tzitzit (ritual fringes) of the tallitot (prayer shawls) made in the embroidery and silk workshops. Mana joined him at Yad LaKashish a few years later, in 1999, and after a stint in the ceramics workshop expressed an interest in learning how to embroider. She moved to the textiles workshop and has been embroidering exquisite challah and matza covers, mezuzot and more ever since.

Mana says of their life at Yad LaKashish ‘Here we feel we are part of a family, and we are doing something we like. Sometimes I am away because he is sick, or he is away because I am sick. We don't like to be away, we miss the people here - the young and the old people.”

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 Marina was born in Russia in 1945 in a city called Chelyabinsk. Marina was born with a physical disability, making it difficult for her to work.  She lived with her mother after getting divorced from her husband. She never had any children. 10 years after her mother died, at the age of 47, Marina moved to Israel. She worked for a while as an assistant kindergarten teacher before coming to work at Yad LaKashish in 1999. At Yad LaKashish she found her home. Having graduated from art school in Russia, she loved the work, painting ceramics. 26 years later, Marina is still painting in the ceramics studio. Her friends in the ceramics studio see her as a professional, and ask for her advice with their own projects. They say she helps everyone with a smile. When asked whether she likes her job, she gives a huge smile and nods vigorously. 

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 Moshe was born in 1935 in Morocco. He is married  and the father of five children, three of whom are  married and two divorced, and he made aliyah in  1954.

 Moshe worked in construction for 28 years, and on  his retirement, used the money he received in his  retirement package to set up a garage to repair  vehicles. However the business failed and he was left  penniless.

Today, except for minimal national insurance benefits, the economic situation of Moshe and his wife is difficult, and they rely entirely on the money that he receives from Yad LaKashish. Moshe is also not in good health; he receives treatment for diabetes and has undergone heart surgery and knee surgeries.

Moshe arrived at Yad LaKashish in 2007 on the recommendation of his social worker, and was trained to work in the paper workshop. Moshe works in the bookbindery. Thanks to his organizational talents and high motivation, he was trained in many different roles in the department, ranging from preparing the bookbinding materials to binding the books themselves, and became the ‘right hand man’ of the workshop manager. In addition, he came up with many ideas about how to increase productivity and conserve raw materials.

The work is important to me both economically and mentally. When I work, I forget all the problems.”

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Yosef came to Yad LaKashish in December 2009 after a relative who had previously worked with us recommended it to him. Having worked as a farmer growing vegetables throughout his adult life, he had no previous experience in handicrafts. 

At Yad LaKashish, he was given clay and started to produce the exquisite black clay sculpture that is a hallmark of Ethiopian art. After a short time, he developed independent
creative designs, sculpting animal figurines decorated with Ethiopian motifs.

Yosef has now learned some Hebrew and is always happy to share what he is working on with those around him. He shows a real appreciation for the work done by his colleagues too.

We are very excited that our Ethiopian artisans are having the chance to connect to their heritage through making these very special ethnic products. 

"I had never sculpted before and now I discovered a new talent."

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Every day, more than 300 elderly and disabled Jerusalem residents depend on Yad LaKashish to make their Golden Years shine.

 

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