These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Faces of Jerusalem

Posted on November 18, 2011 by Leah Stern

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Hello fellow Pardesians and world,

I am thrilled to be starting my first blog post on these and those. I am so excited to be sharing my thoughts with you!!

I have decided that each week, I am going to talk about a different person or people that live in Jerusalem and how they make up and contribute to the unique and beautiful city that is Jerusalem. One of the things I love most about this city is how the different faces contribute to my never -ending experience of my growing relationship with Jerusalem and with Israel.

This week, I decided to try something new for my social action project. I decided to go to Beit Reuven to sing with the Alzheimer’s patients. I have had previous experience working with the elderly at Yad L’Kashish almost 2 years ago in the Rehabilitation workshop, where elderly who had either physical or mental handicaps would go to and create beautiful tapestries, baby blankets, and children’s toys. I gained 3 Savtaot (Grandmas) that I grew to love very much.

The group of elderly patients that are in this hospital are not nearly as functional as the elderly I worked with at Yad L’Kashish. Many of them don’t smile, can barely talk, and some are barely functional. They are strapped into their chairs so they don’t fall over or wander away and some of them are barely coherent. Nevertheless, when we sang along with them to the tune my friend Sam’s guitar, their faces lighted up. I would walk over to patients that were not necessarily smiling, and take their hand and sing with them. They would begin to smile at me and to sing along. They took my hand and kissed it while looking at me with the happiest expression in their eyes. One woman took her hand and drew my face to hers and kissed my cheek. I cannot even begin to describe how touched and honored I felt bringing rays of happiness to lives of these patients.

I have always worked with children, but I have always had a incredibly close relationship with my grandparents. My Grandma and Grandpa (my mom’s parents) are amazing people. I spent half my time in their house growing up as a child. My Grandpa teaches me yiddish songs and curses and always knows how to make me laugh and smile. When I am around him, it’s hard to be sad because he is such an uplifted person. He is 83, but you would never guess that because he is so young at heart, always laughing with a smile on his face.  My Grandma has given me her love of Zionism, Israel and Hebrew, and always is there to fill my empty stomach. But most of all, my grandparents have given me a lifetime of love filled with happy memories. I know that no matter how old I get, I am never too old to sit on my Grandma and Grandpa’s lap.

There is a verse in Tehillim 71:18 that says, “So now that I’m old, and my hair is gray, don’t abandon me, God, till I have proclaimed your strength to the next generation, your power to all who will come.” The elderly make up a significant population of Jerusalem. Their faces have seen the growth of a nation built up from the ground. They hold the lessons that only the young can carry forward. They have defended the state of Israel and have built families and homes. By coming to sing to these elderly patients, I am honoring the legacy of my grandparents and the legacy of the state of Israel. They are giving me strength to transmit the values that we all hold dear to my generation in order that we can go out into the world and make a difference. I hope that when you walk the streets of wherever you are, you look at the elderly in a new way. They are the foundation of this city and of this state and of our people. My wish is that the light in their eyes will illuminate a path to a life of happiness and peace for us all.

Shabbat Shalom!