Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Senior Center in Kiryat Malachi

Many areas in Israel have adult day centers for seniors who need extra support. They are very similar to those in the U.S. The one in Kiryat Malachi services over many people, most of whom immigrated to Israel.

Since a chunk of money given toward the building of the center was donated from the US, the name of the center (The Harriet and Ben Teitel Day Care Center for the Aged) is featured prominently in front in English, though many of the elderly do not read English. Since the center is only two blocks from the volunteer apartment, it is easy to get to. The staff is so nice that I always make sure that I visit.

The director Herzl Morad is a miracle worker. He lives in Jerusalem, but his heart is at the center. The daily program is light most centers in the US, with 90 men and women coming Sunday through Thursday from 8 or 9 to early afternoon. They can participate in a crafts program that mostly women participate in, exercise, lectures on religion, health, and other topics of interest for those able to follow, dominos and other games, andthey enjoy a nutritious breakfast and lunch. The program is run by a non-governmental agency, butsSome of the funding comes from government pensions, but those who came to Israel late in life are not always covered. Somehow Herzl finds a way to get the funding for them to come. Because the seniors get limited services, some people do not come every day and opt for other services.

Yael, the director of the crafts program, is leaving in September after 5 years of service, beginning when she was pregnant with her last child. She is certified to teach arts and crafts as well as carpentry, and her dream was to build a modest carpentry shop at the center so that some of the more capable men would have something to keep them busy. To date, the center has not had the funds to fulfill her dream.

One lady, Madeline, with a patch over one eye loves to make baby booties. She is making a pair now with the multi-colored yarn that I just brought, donated
by a friend in Seattle.

Another woman loves to embroider and makes very nice challah covers.I had brought some of my mother’s costume jewelry for them to use in their crafts, but the ladies love them and Yael let them choose some to wear. I’ve also brought donated material remnants at least a foot square, and the women use them to make other projects including purses.

A new program in the center is a social group for Ethiopian women, which is funding through Portland, Oregon. Until recently it shared space in the WIZO center, but Herzl arranged to move them in with the other seniors. They range in age from 50 to 74. Over 25 participated at one time, but a few have died, and others cannot always make it. They meet Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9ish to around noon.

Yeshabik, ? , Eskiva, Rachel
Their crafts are for sale including small baskets with lids, hot plates, and fruit holder from palm fronds and ribbon. They also embroider matzah & challah covers as well as pictures of animals and hamsas that can be ironed, stretched and framed. It is all handiwork that they learned in Ethiopia. They also make baby dresses that they embroider. The women sell the items at reasonable prices. For example, I paid about $24 for a fruit plate, while a volunteer from Tucson paid $12 for a small basket and $5 for an embroidered hamsa. I took a picture of the woman who made the basket I had bought as she proudly held it.
Eskiva holding the basket I bought from her

Prices depend on the quality and size of the work. Each woman gets half the money directly, and the other half is used for snacks, parties, and short trips for them. Since many came to Israel late in life, they are not covered by social security but he feel strongly this group belongs in the center. Sara Sahalu, the wife of the Ethiopian Rabbi in town (trained in Jerusalem) directs the program. She just had their seventh child (a son) in mid July and will be on maternity leave for 3 months, but before that since school was out, she was often accompanied by one of her older daughters, ages 12 or 10. They too have learned to do embroidery.
Herzl will soon be getting them a refrigerator too. The one thing this room does not have that they did have in the WIZO center was a sink and small oven/stove, but they are delighted to have a place of their own. The women are so nice. Two are embroidering a shirt of the current volunteer, Terrie.

There are several other programs at the center. One is called A Supportive Community. Some of the same people participate but there are others that fall through the cracks and don't fit in other programs. For between $10 and $20 a month, these people can partiipate in a variety of activities, one to three times a week. For example, this week there will be a dance for them. There hafe been a lot of social activities, including a barbecue, exercise in the local pool, trips to hot springs and enjoyable local areas, and medical support and information/advice. It is a wonderful program, but only 100 have signed up. If he could get a half scholarship for a year for up to 100 more people, he thinks that he could get them to sign up, learn how great it is, and then continue after they no longer have the introductory "scholarship." So if anyone or any organization might want to contibute toward this, it would be quite a mitzvah for the elderly of this town and it would help keep this program running as with fewer than 200, it runs at a deficit.

The center also employs several young adults with special needs. I’ve seen a young man and a young woman sweep the dining room and help set the tables. I’ve also met three other interesting people. One is a woman around 40 named Osnat. She is the cook for the entire program, preparing breakfast and lunch for those who come and also for shut-ins. When the volunteer apartment needs cleaning, Herzl sends her. She did a great job for us on Monday. Ester is a woman about 84 who volunteers in the kitchen area. She peels vegetables and helps set and clean the tables. She usually comes from 10:30 to about 2. She immigrated from Morocco in 1964. There she had worked for the US Military, so she speaks English quite well. She was married, but her husband died young and they had no children. She has a brother in Jerusalem and a sister in Beersheva, and has lived independently in Israel for over 40 years. She knows the town well and will take Terrie, the other volunteer, to the market on Monday to look for bargains. The third person is Michael Saban. He is the driver who brings the seniors from home in the morning and then returns them after lunch. A career military man also born in Tunis, he started as driver a few years ago and loves it. His wife retired a few years ago from teaching, and my husband and I spent two pleasant evenings with them last summer. Unfortunately, just after we left, she found out that she had cancer, and she passed away very quickly. In spite of such sadness, he carries on with a smile at the center.

In February of 2006, youth from the High School of Jewish Studies spent two days in Kiryat Malachi and did several service projects together with Israeli peers. One project was to clean up an area and plant a garden there. In the next two pictures, you can see how it has flourished! BTW, several volunteers have enjoyed spending time at this center, helping in the crafts area, learning about Ethiopian weaving, helping the cook prepare meals, and chatting and playing dominoes with the people that come.

The seniors love the gardens and the grass and shrubs in front of the center too. Herzl has to spend over $200 a month for watering the plants and for someone to weed and feed them. Whenever he has to save money, he wonders how long he can continue to keep this lovely area green.

The center used to get some funding through our Partnership, but since we have focused our core funding on youth and young adults, we no longer direct funds to them. The Portland Federation, which is no longer a part of our group, has given money to the center for a number of projects, including a new refrigeration system when the old one died. It is still quite a juggling act for Herzl to cover the basics, however.

Herzl has just set up a tiny room with five used Pentium III computers for which he paid $250 each. He hopes to use them for seniors to play games to keep their minds active, to read newspapers online from their countries of origin, and to other activities that can be generated from the group. He will need about $1250 to get the computers networked and then $70 a month to keep the computers online. If you all know of any computer enthusiasts that would like to donate to this project, it is something that can be done through the TIPS Federation partners.

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