These and Those

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

Color My World With Hope

Posted on January 1, 2013 by Lauren Schuchart

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From my blog:

“The best way to fight evil is to do good…
and to improve as best as we can, a small corner of our world”

Video about the annual Yom Iyyun Shel Chessed

Yesterday was our school’s annual Yom Iyyun Shel Chessed (Day of Loving-Kindness). The day is in loving memory of two Pardes students, Marla Bennett and Ben Blutstein, z”l, who were killed in the terrorist attack on Hebrew University in 2002. Last year, I wrote about Marla & Ben, and this special day.

As the above video suggests, the best way to fight evil is to add more light to the world. It is in this spirit that the Yom Iyyun Shel Chessed was created.

Yesterday we visited different places around Jerusalem that represent chessed (loving-kindness). I had the privilege of going to Shalva, the Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel.

I didn’t know much about Shalva before going, but I quickly learned that it is a very unique place, overflowing with kindness, love and warmth. I was inspired to write about it, and tell of the tremendous light that it’s bringing to our world.

The beginnings of Shalva are truly remarkable, and like so many good causes, was created as a response to pain and suffering:

Shalva, translated as “peace of mind,” was founded in 1990 by Kalman and Malki Samuels. The couple’s son, Yossi, was rendered blind, deaf, and acutely hyperactive in 1977 after a routine DPT vaccination that went terribly wrong.

For eight years, Yossi lived in darkness, as the family desperately sought help. They visited many specialists who simply could not help him, and many well-intentioned friends and family suggested institutionalizing Yossi. Kalman and Malki refused, and continued searching and praying.

When Yossi was eight years old, his family met a deaf special education teacher who was able to break down his walls of silence. Slowly, but surely, Yossi was reintegrated into the world. He is now in his thirties, and lives a happy and meaning-filled life.

Kalman and Malki created Shalva, so that no family will ever have to feel alone in raising a child with special needs.

Shalva offers a wide variety of services. In the afternoon program, hundreds of children and teens with disabilities come and participate in a variety of therapeutic activities including hydrotherapy, dance therapy, music therapy and pet therapy. They also have the opportunity to sleep-over at Shalva once a week, offering a fun experience for them, and a much-needed break for their parents.

We were at the center during Shalva’s “Me & My Mommy” program, where mothers and their child with special needs participate together in therapy, creating a strong bond between them. There was so much laughter in the room!

The Yom Iyyun Shel Chessed continued with text-study, more service projects, and a memorial for Ben and Marla.

Similar to last year, I walked away from this day feeling incredibly hopeful. For me, it served as a reminder of what the human spirit is capable of when confronted with unfathomable circumstances, and as an inspiration to use evil, suffering, and darkness as an impetus for good.

The group outside of Shalva

The group outside of Shalva