I have volunteered for the past four summers at ENOSH, a social club for English-speaking mental health club members. Some of the people have been there throughout all four summers, but every summer, there have been new club members and staff. What doesn’t change is the culture of the place — the warm welcome everyone receives when they arrive as well as the space they are given if that’s what they ask for and need.
Friends and family ask me why I choose to return to the same place, year after year. After all, they point out, I’m retired and on vacation — why don’t I try something new? I understand the question. I have volunteered at other places through Skilled Volunteers for Israel — working with people with dementia at Melabev and tutoring high schoolers at Merkaz Klass — as well as other places on my own. And I’ve enjoyed each of those places and opportunities.
But just like being in Jerusalem for the summer feels like being home, so, too, being at ENOSH now feels like home. I know the daily routine — “check-in”; a game or activity or perhaps a field trip; then food shopping, meal preparation and eating a wonderful meal together; and always lots of conversation. It is a social club, not a therapy group, and my role as a volunteer is simply to join in the activities and facilitate conversation as needed. The club members range in age from twenties to the seventies. They are secular and religious men and women. Some live alone, but some live with spouses or with parents or with roommates. What is particularly moving is how people from such varied backgrounds can be so kind and caring to each other; perhaps that’s what really attracted me to them that first year and draws me back, year after year. When it’s time to say farewell at the end of the summer, after four years, we all know it’s really “l’hitraot” (“see you again”) and not good-bye.