Submitted by Bina Raskin
My first time in Israel has been amazing. I have been in Jerusalem now for almost 2 months. During the first part of the summer I was engaged in studying at an Ulpan and touring sites. I had been feeling a deep desire to contribute to the Jewish community in a personal way and feel fortunate to have met with Judy Gray and Marla Gamaron with Skilled Volunteers of Israel. They found a wonderful volunteer opportunity for me to contribute my time at Melabev, a senior day center/memory club for folks with varying degrees of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. There are three memory club groups at the English speaking center in Talpiot based on the degree of the severity of their memory loss and their ability to participate.
I worked 3 days a week from about 9am-2:30pm, mostly with the highest functioning individuals. The group is busy all day engaging in a variety of enriching activities such as music therapy, bibliotherapy, dance, exercise, and playing challenging word games. On one occasion there was a guest lecturer from the University presenting on the complexities of the work and personality of Josephus Flavius.
Bina Raskin and Dr. Connie Mindell volunteer at Melabev, Jerusalem
Some of the club members asked great questions and were quite engaged. I have met some wonderful and interesting people. I am getting to know many of the people in this group as we share stories about our lives. Several folks have also lived in New York so we have this in common which I think helped us to build bonds. There is a wonderful uplifting energy at the day center as all the staff and volunteers seem so kind, patient, and caring.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Melabev. I am leaving my first trip to Israel with a priceless gift that I feel the club members have given me. This gift is simply embracing the power and beauty of the present moment: the times that we are exchanging smiles; singing spontaneous Broadway show tunes; dancing together; learning about each other; sitting quietly together; serving meals; or merely preparing for the next activity. All of these are precious moments. I feel privileged to have worked with some incredible people including both the hardworking staff and the club members. I only hope that I have been able to give to them as much as I have received through my volunteer experience.