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Yad Lakashish “Tzedakah In Action”

June 12, 2007
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That is what Yad LaKashish (Lifeline for the Old) does best. For over 40 years, this Jerusalem-based, nonprofit Jewish organization has been extending their hands to the elderly, enabling them to remain an integral part of society. They are a short 10-minute walk around the corner from our Bridges for Peace International Headquarters in the center of town. We made a visit there during our Woman to Woman event in May.

  Five days a week, around 250 elderly people, including many immigrants, come to work in a variety of handicraft workshops: bookbinding, ceramics, needlework, silk-painting, handmade paper, and metal work. They produce a colorful variety of products such as high-quality Judaica, wall hangings, children’s toys, knitted booties and sweaters, silk scarves, candlesticks, and jewelry. These “artisans” are trained by experts and given a small stipend for their work.

Yad LaKashish is often invited to sell their products at fairs and conferences. Jewish families purchase their items as gifts for their guests at bar and bat mitzvahs (religious coming-of-age). Their Jerusalem gift shop is open to the public. But only 40% of their income comes from product sales; the rest comes from donations. Tour groups often visit and meet the elderly, tour the workshops, and watch “tzedakah in action.” Youth visits, during which the two generations work side by side, are encouraged in order to “help break down stereotypes of how the elderly are viewed by the younger generation and reinforce their worth and dignity.”

Caring for the Whole Person

Besides providing a way to keep the hands and minds of the elderly active and give them a way to maintain their dignity, Yad LaKashish is a place for social interaction. A hot meal is served every day, and holiday parties are organized during the Jewish festivals. In caring for the whole person, the program provides special benefits such as hearing-aid subsidies, a thrift shop, transportation assistance, dental aid, and an annual allowance for eyeglasses. It’s no wonder that some “artisans” have participated for over 20 years.

Sarah was married to Rafael when she was 12 and he was 16. They made aliyah (immigration to Israel) from Morocco in 1950. After raising seven children, Sarah and Rafael have been enjoying their work at Yad LaKashish for 20 years. Sarah knits, and Rafael works in the bookbindery. Arkadi from Belarus is 91 years old and still active at Yad LaKashish. He is known for his meticulous attention to detail in making picture frames, mezuzahs (Scripture boxes), groggers (Purim noisemakers), and more. Eliezer came from Kurdistan, where he was a student of Torah (Gen.–Deut.) and Talmud (collection of Jewish traditions and commentaries). He immigrated to Israel when he was 16 and served Israel as a soldier in the Egyptian War in 1956, the Six Day War of 1967, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

What a wealth of history, experience, and memories these wonderful men and women of Yad LaKashish have to share with their visitors, especially the youth. I’m sure many of their stories encourage the new generation of Israelis, who face so many fearsome obstacles today. “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praise of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (Psalm 78:2–4).

May God bless the work of Yad LaKashish! “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands” (Ps. 90:17). For more information: www.lifeline.org.il; [email protected]; 972-2-628-7829; P.O. Box 28, 91000 Jerusalem, Israel.

By Charleeda Sprinkle
Assistant Editor

Photo Credit: Photo by Shawn Kindrat

Photo Credit: Photo by Shawn Kindrat

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