Lawyer Peter Rabinowitz originally heard of us after his son visited Yad LaKashish, but he himself had never ventured beyond the gift shop. Yet this didn’t stop him from volunteering to spend countless hours during his sabbatical year in Israel helping us. Peter worked in the carpentry, the gift shop and with the groups, and brought many friends to see our program in action.
"Volunteering at Yad LaKashish was a thoroughly enjoyable and transformative experience, not only in being able to support and assist one of the most wonderful human services organizations in the world, with a 50+ year track record of success improving the lives of the poor elderly of Jerusalem, but especially because of the terrific people I got to know.
Yad LaKashish's professional staff is so talented and committed to the mission and values of the organization and took special efforts to ensure that I was warmly welcomed, made to feel part of the family, and always busy with meaningful work.
The other volunteers with whom I worked ranged in age from their 20's to their 90's and each had a unique and compelling story of what brought them to Israel and to Yad LaKashish. One day over tea and cookies at break, four of my volunteer colleagues shared with me how they escaped from Europe just before the Holocaust. Their stories resonated since these survivors were now my friends and colleagues and they entrusted me with preserving their memories. The volunteers and staff truly cared about each other, helped each other (I got so many nice invitations for Passover seder!) and took pride and pleasure in their meaningful volunteer work, plus everyone so nicely tried to help me improve my Hebrew!
The visitors to Yad LaKashish to whom I gave tours or who I assisted in the gift shop all came with a purpose and their eyes lit up when they met the talented senior artisans and saw the beautiful artworks in the shop. I will always remember the laughter, hugs and tears of joy when members of a Birthright Group from Russia spoke in Russian with many of the senior artisans and they exchanged stories about the old country, It was as if these young folks were visiting their proud grandparents who they hadn't seen in a while.
While volunteering at Yad LaKashish there was always a chance for playing "Jewish geography" when I would ask our visitors where they were from and we'd invariably know people in common -- one couple from Denver turned out to be close friends of my cousins and we had all been at a family Bat Mitzvah together! The visiting church groups were also a pleasure to host and asked such good questions. And the visiting camp groups were much fun too -- one day there was both a group from the Philadelphia where I lived and one from the city where I went to college -- the kids were thrilled that I knew their favorite pizza places back home and was able to help them pick-out beautiful souvenirs of Israel for their parents and siblings. That's just how our family got hooked on Yad LaKashish when my son's NFTY Israel Trip group visited about 8 years ago and he came back home with the most beautiful and meaningful souvenirs - true works of art - which we still cherish! And our Yad LaKashish challah cover is now ever more sentimental for me since I sold similar ones when I volunteered in the shop and also was responsible for doing their inventory!
Two purchases I assisted with in the gift shop will always stand-out: a man who bought a beautifully crafted Torah breastplate, hand-cut by the senior men in the metal shop, to adorn a sefer Torah that his elderly father had commissioned for their synagogue. The son was about to leave for a flight home to the U.S. to say goodbye to his father who in the hospital and he wanted him to see the breast plate on the Torah before he passed away. The other was a young girl who came into the shop just before closing time with her parents to buy a Talit for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah: she was a violinist and within five minutes we found for her a a gorgeous silk talit hand-painted with musical instruments including a violin: beshert! She was so happy and I know she will always cherish the Talit not just because of its beauty and its association with her Bat mitzvah but also because buying it was an act of Tikun Olam, helping to support the poor elderly of Jerusalem and to give added purpose and joy to their lives through their work at Yad LaKashish."