Last month, I volunteered for 3 weeks at the Hebrew language Melabev center in the Givat Masua neighborhood of Jerusalem, not too far from the Jerusalem Zoo. It was a challenge to me in many ways but also a very rewarding and educational experience.
There I saw not only a safe and stimulating environment for the memory challenged, mostly older adults but also consistent dedication, hard work, innovation, care and humanity by a staff who was certainly not overpaid.
Melabev is also an ongoing laboratory for how to help and care for memory challenged adults and has developed innovative programs such as the adult day care Memory Clubs which I was aware of, having an old friend who participates in one of those clubs.
I will close by telling you about Sasha, a Russian immigrant to Israel, who lives in Pisgat Ze’ev and who works at that Melabev center near the zoo. If you know your Jerusalem geography, you will understand why she has a 1 1/2 hours, 2 bus daily commute each way, personally chaperoning the chartered van transporting club members from their home to the center. Sasha was in charge of the Activity Room to which I was assigned and had 2 aides and sometimes 1 or 2 National Service young religious women working with her.
Each day, full, healthy and tasty breakfasts and lunches would be served and, on Thursdays, there would be fresh challot. Every day, I saw Sasha, ably assisted by her staff, involve their charges nonstop in conversation, song, dance, other exercise, games and other activities designed to stimulate them and keep them mentally engaged. Believe me, it was tiring to just to watch her!
Sasha was always running back and forth between the kitchen and the Activity Room and baked the fresh mini-challot on Thursdays. She was a very caring and innovative dynamo who inspired all of those around her to do their best for the people that they were serving. While at Melabev, I observed many others exhibiting similar qualities.
Approaching Rosh Hashanah I raise my glass in appreciation of my heroine Sasha and all of the great and important work that Melabev does.