Youth groups and special groups visit Yad Sarah

Israel Experience Program

An energetic group of 35 university students on an Israel Experience Program during winter vacation chose Yad Sarah as their first stop. After disembarking at Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of December 27th, they traveled directly to Yad Sarah's Raanana Service Center.


 From all areas of the U.S., the enthusiastic group also included students from Russia, Venezuela and Colombia. The international group "had loads of energy and did a great job of cleaning inhalators," reported volunteer Deborah Baruch who guided them.


"They enjoyed watching our movie, talking about chesed, hearing how Yad Sarah started and what we have come to be.  They asked lots of questions about volunteers, and how we keep so many people interested in whatever they do. After a full morning they stepped across the street to Park Raanana to enjoyed a well-deserved picnic lunch."

Bnei Akiva of New York

By Maurice Eidelsberg

Yad Sarah has many groups of young people coming to visit our headquarters.  But this bunch of 18 Bnei Akivaniks (Bnei Akiva is a religious Zionist youth group) were not your usual bunch of high school seniors. They came from the U.S. to Israel during their winter break not to sightsee and hangout, but rather to do chessed. On their trip, they helped serve food in a soup kitchen, make candy party bags with a group of blind people, and help run a little carnival for newly arrived Ethiopian immigrants.  But besides being good, they were just great kids! Kind, curious, polite, enthusiastic, and fun, they even brought along speakers so they could boogie while putting together walkers.
Jonathan Weitzman of Woodmere, New York is a wonderful example of the kindness of these kids.   Back home, every Thursday, Jonathan helps to prepare and deliver Shabbat meals to poor people in his neighborhood.  Also, he volunteers for his town's emergency medical team, riding in an ambulance and helping out.  He loves Israel and hopes to come back next year to study torah.  About Yad Sarah, Jonathan was awed by the whole place, but especially by all the adaptive kitchen devices displayed in the exhibition center.  He says "All those kitchen aids, they were awesome.   My grandfather had Alzheimer's, and if he had these devices, it could have made his and my grandmas life a lot easier."
Eliezer Seidenfeld of Cedarhurst, New York, was another do-gooder. Like his pal Jonathan, he helps prepares and deliver Shabbat meals for poor people.  Asked about why he came on the mission, he expresses the feeling of many in the group, "I wanted a productive way to spend my vacation."  And about Yad Sarah, Eliezer couldn't believe how it grew "From being so small, like just in one guys house, to being so big and spreading all over Israel."
And the girls in the group were equally big hearted. Like Sarah Silvestri of Fairlawn, New Jersey.  Sarah loves working with disabled children. Twice a week she volunteers at a yeshiva after-school program for kids with disabilities. After finishing her schooling, she hopes to possibly work in a yeshiva's special education program. Sarah thought that Yad Sarah was a special place because "They help so many people while at the same time they bring so many different types people to work together."
If all young people where as terrific as these kids, we grown-ups could just let them take over, retire, and not have to worry about a thing.   Yad Sarah and the world would have a guaranteed wonderful future.

Ulpan Class for Summer Tourists

By Avi Eisenman Yad Sarah Intern


            "I've heard about Yad Sarah before, but I was blown away by the scope of its services," exclaimed Rivka Zahavy from Toronto. Cantor Risa Askin of Congregation Aliyah, in Coral Springs, Florida felt the same way. "All of their services are so needed. I had no idea how expansive Yad Sarah was!" Rivka and Cantor Askin were part of a small group of people who, at the urging of summer ulpan classmate Lorraine Skupsky, recently volunteered at Yad Sarah. Lorraine, who also helped coordinate a donation of medical equipment to Yad Sarah from Colorado, explained why she encourages her friends to come and see Yad Sarah. "It's the best hands on rehab set of facilities that I've ever seen throughout the world, giving hope and options for all types of people regardless of their background, income and level of care needed."

            After a brief tour of the facilities, the group had a chance to pitch in and assemble walkers to be lent out for free, to Yad Sarah clients throughout Israel. "Coming to volunteer makes me appreciate how important everyone's contribution is," said Sharon Liebhaber, of Berwin Pennsylvania as she put the finishing touches on her walker.

            As the group left, they were all highly impressed with what they had seen. "I have a sister-in-law who has MS and she doesn't have a place in Denver where she can borrow equipment. Maybe I'll bring her here on my next visit to Israel," said Tony Gottlieb of Denver, Colorado. Ryan Palecek, originally hailing from Minneapolis, and currently residing in Holland, was duly impressed. "Yad Sarah is a very interesting concept. I'm unaware of anything like it. It really empowers individuals to independently make informed decisions."    

B`nai B`rith Youth (BBYO) Volunteer Vacation Time to Yad Sarah[ 12/07/2006 ]

By Yad Sarah Intern Avi Eisenman


   "Volunteering at Yad Sarah really strengthens my Jewish pride. It makes me feel closer to the Jews here, and it makes me really happy," says Jason Berkowitz of Houston, Texas. After spending three weeks touring and learning about Israel on the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization's summer program, Passport to Israel, Jason and eight of his peers decided to give back, beginning a week of community service with a stint at Yad Sarah.

            Most of the participants, from ages 16 to 22, had never been to Israel before, and all were thoroughly enjoying their trip. For some, watching the sun rise from atop Masada was the highlight of their travels, and for others it was floating in the Dead Sea. Everyone agreed that Shabbat at the Western Wall was particularly inspiring.

            Upon arrival at Yad Sarah's Jerusalem headquarters, the teens split among different stations with tasks including scrapping unusable wheelchairs for their parts, sorting old wheelchair parts for reuse, and cleaning recently constructed wheelchairs. Since Yad Sarah's largest and most important service is its lending of wheelchairs and other medical equipment to the needy, the BBYO delegation really made a difference by contributing to that crucial effort.

            Many of the participants felt their volunteering was particularly meaningful coming on the heels of a trip around Israel. After seeing so much, the opportunity to assist Israeli society gave them a whole new perspective on the country. "This definitely affects my sense of Jewish identity," says Sam Wilson, 16, of Houston, Texas. "Back at home there's nothing like Yad Sarah. Here I have the chance to help Jews in Israel." Michael Himelstein, 18, who volunteers back home at the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, concurred. "Helping here makes me feel closer to my Judaism and to the Jewish people in Israel." Daniel Cohodes, from Houston, also enjoyed the chance to give back to the Jewish state. "I'm here to help Jews," he said, as he toiled to remove a tight screw from the wheelchair he was dismantling.

             As they worked, the volunteers displayed a visible sense of enthusiasm. Like Michael, many were not new to the idea of lending a hand and do so in their home communities. Laurie Bertanthal, 22, hailing from Pittsburgh, gives of her time participating in local food drives. "Just thinking about helping out the elderly population is beneficial to my Jewish identity," she said, referring to her work for Yad Sarah. Lindsey Phillips, 16, helps out at her Synagogue in Boca Raton where she works as a camp counselor and sets up the weekly Kiddush. This was Lindsey's second visit to Yad Sarah. "The last time I was here, I helped make walkers," Lindsey said. "I'm here to help the Jewish community, and this is for a really great cause."

            Another opportunity for some of the BBYOers was the chance to work alongside Israeli teenagers also spending part of their summer vacation volunteering at Yad Sarah. Shalom Mizrahi and Matan Bareket, both age 15, cleaned wheelchairs with some of the BBYO participants. The Jerusalem teens were very impressed with their American counterparts' sense of responsibility. "They care about Israel, they came to help just like we did," said Shalom. On the lighter side, both groups had a good time interacting with one another. "They're very nice kids," said Matan, "and I even had a chance to improve my English."  


B`nai Brith Youth Organization

BBYO's P2I in JM:

Lots of Letters, Lots of American Teens Building Walkers for the Elderly in Jerusalem

by Yad Sarah interns Yannai Kranzler and Avi Eisenman

"I never thought helping others would be this much fun!" exclaimed Evan Booksaff, putting some finishing touches on a walker he assembled. Evan, from Houston, Texas and friends were hard at work, volunteering at Yad Sarah. The teens came as part of BBYO's (B'nai B'rith Youth Organization) Passport to Israel program.

            The BBYO visitors began their day at Yad Sarah with a brief tour of the building, observing many of the services that Yad Sarah provides.

            "My favorite service is the emergency call center. It's so important to have help available at any time," said Laurie Bertenthal from Pittsburgh, referring to Yad Sarah's alarm center, where volunteers are on 24 hour-a-day standby, waiting to answer clients' emergency calls.

            "I was really impressed with the Children's Center.  The knowledge and organization that has to go in to make all that work is really impressive," said Kyle Giddens from Toronto, referring to Yad Sarah's Enrichment Center for Children which enrich the lives of special needs kids through the use of standard toys and games. Grant Wolloch from Rancho Cucamonga, California agreed. "The Imagination Room really shows kids that even though they have disabilities, there's still hope. I really enjoy that."

            "Yad Sarah's an amazing place where people from all over the world can volunteer," explained Courtney Chanon from Dallas. Eric Ahlzadeh from Atlanta added, "It's a beautiful thing. They're really helping the people in need and I appreciate that."

The BBYO-ers then transformed from tourists into volunteers, and proceeded to Yad Sarah's Hands-on room. There, they assembled walkers, to be distributed by Yad Sarah from over 100 branches around Israel. "It feels really good to come and actually accomplish something" said Jackie Dainow, from Long Island, New York.

            A day's work behind them, Justin Freiman and Lauren Lanster already had their eyes on the future. Justin, from Hollywood, FL, said, "I wish there were places like this in the U.S. where we could volunteer." "I want to come back when I'm older and work here," decided Lauren, from Miami.

BBYO packed in an exciting day at Yad Sarah, providing much aid to Israel and one of its leading volunteer organizations. "This visit got me really excited for community service week!" said Dana Schneider of Livingston, New Jersey. Dana was referring to BBYO's week long program touring Israel and helping out different social causes. Summing up his trip was David Feldman from Memphis, saying, "It has been a very uplifting experience."  Louis Frichtman from Atlanta concluded, "Yad Sarah is amazing, and I love it a lot!"

A big thank you to BBYO, for the visit and the volunteer work, from the entire Yad Sarah family.