A recent meeting between Daphna Weinstock, a Bat Mitzvah girl from Riverdale, NY, and the Mayor of Jerusalem was set in motion by a car accident. Ms. Weinstock and Mr. Lupolianski were not directly involved in the car accident but it will result in a gift of medical equipment for children with special needs.
Uri Lupolianski, mayor of Jerusalem and founder of Yad Sarah, met with Daphna Weinstock and her family of Riverdale, New York on his first official visit to the USA. Ms. Weinstock celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on December 21, 2003. Yad Sarah will benefit from the generosity of some of the Weinstock family’s guests as Daphna completes a Chesed project in conjunction with her bat mitzvah.
One family’s heartfelt connection with an Israeli service organization
Returning from a volunteer trip to Israel with his wife, Judy, in 1990, a tragic car accident left Shlomo Feder of Brooklyn a quadriplegic. According to his nephew, Dov Weinstock, “his family and friends made every effort to enable him to live as full a life as possible, as difficult as it was. Unquestionably the high point of his life since the accident was a trip to Israel that he and my aunt took several years ago. There is no possible way that this could have been done without the assistance of Yad Sarah. It made a world of difference to my uncle and aunt and, by extension, to the whole family.” Daphna’s mother, Dr. Susan Gross, echoed these thoughts. “It is that trip, and now that memory, that sustained not only Judy and our cousins, but an entire community.”
Yad Sarah, well known to Israelis, is the largest volunteer staffed organization in the State of Israel. With over 6,000 volunteers in 100 locations, Yad Sarah is able to provide caring assistance to over 370,000 people annually. With free or low cost services Yad Sarah addresses the home care needs of the frail and the disabled as well as victims of terror, children with special needs and homebound older adults.
Many people do not know that Yad Sarah and its volunteers extend these support services to tourists, enabling the Feders to make a 1996 trip to Israel despite Rabbi Feder’s physical limitations.
“Yad Sarah certainly made it a lot easier and more pleasant, more doable,” Judith Feder said recently. “They picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel. It would’ve been extremely difficult to get him from the airport to Jerusalem otherwise. They drove us from Jerusalem to a kibbutz over an hour away for our nephew’s wedding, waited and then drove us back. The wedding was the reason we went to Israel at that time. And they provided us with equipment that made everything more workable for us.” Mrs. Feder recalled that Yad Sarah provided a hospital bed in their hotel room and lent them a transformer for his power wheelchair. “It wasn’t just that they provided the service,” she said, “it was their attitude – we never felt that we were a burden. It didn’t matter that we were tourists. They didn’t ask us any questions or ask anything of us. It was total “chesed” in the best sense.”
Rabbi Feder passed away in October 2003. His electric wheelchair and other items will be donated to Yad Sarah, put to use again and again by Yad Sarah volunteers to people in need.
Becoming a Bat Mitzvah
The Weinstock family has a tradition of including chesed in the planning for a Bat Mitzvah. “My brother and my sister did a chesed project [before their B’nai mitzvah], so did my dad,” Daphna Weinstock said recently. Daphna and her father explored several different charities and settled on Yad Sarah, largely due to Rabbi and Mrs. Feder’s experience. “Going to Israel made him so happy,” Daphna recalled of Rabbi Feder.
Like many teens, Daphna enjoyed her Bat Mitzvah: the challenge of the scholarly obligations and the joyous dancing that followed all with the support of her friends and family. Daphna seemed to revel in the accomplishments of her Bat Mitzvah, expressing delight and surprise at the response of her friends and family to her campaign. Her project gave her a sense of giving to people less fortunate.
The purpose of linking Bat Mitzvah with chesed certainly has not been lost on Daphna Weinstock. She wanted to “help people in Israel, disabled people” and she hopes that her efforts will ultimately benefit disabled children at Yad Sarah’s Play Center for Special Needs Children and their Families.
Daphna and her family were very excited to meet Uri Lupolianski, mayor of Jerusalem and Yad Sarah’s founder. So, what did she talk about with Uri Lupolianski? “He told me about how Yad Sarah is set up” with its many branches designed to bring services to people where they live.
Daphna said that talking about Yad Sarah with her friends and family was simple. “It is a really worthwhile cause,” the Riverdale teen said, “even if you do not do a chesed project, this is something to look into.” Working on behalf of Yad Sarah, she said, “helped me to become a Bat Mitzvah.” A Bat Mitzvah, indeed, in the truest sense of the words.