Sunday, March 18, 2007



After ten years of suffering my Mother z"l died five years ago of the effects of Alzheimer's.

She suffered - we suffered - and while it was better for her when she no longer knew who my brother, David, and I were - that's when we suffered the most - when our Mother no longer knew who David and I were.

And there are thousands upon thousands of people in that position - both the people who are afflicted and their loved ones. And for the people who are able to keep their family members at home there is really no respite without groups like MELABEV. Alzheimer's is a twenty-four hour a day punishment - for everyone.

Some years ago I was invited to sit on the Board of the Friends of MELABEV - an organization which runs day-care centers in Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh - a suburb of Jerusalem - for those afflicted with Alzheimer's and other dementias. I wanted to refuse - to decline their request - but how could I? I didn't want to be reminded of the sad time of my Mother's life - of her descent into - well, nothingness is the best way to describe it. I didn't refuse.

Of course, every organization today needs financial help as the government has cut budgets drastically. Our task is to raise money and awareness of who we are. One of the ways we raise money (the good old-fashioned Yiddish word is schnorring) is to run a Virtual Dinner - or as our invitation says "Virtual for Us but Real for Them". We raise money for a "Dinner" - but not the usual Dinner where we get all farpitzed (dressed up), go to a hotel, have a festive meal, listen to speeches, listen to more speeches and go home feeling good about ourselves because we've contributed to a worthy cause.

We raise money and spend it all on the people we want to help. No - you don't go to a dinner. We use the money we raise to run our day-care centers - and to provide a festive meal for the men and women attending our centers. Once a year - just before Pesach - we provide a special lunch or brunch for each of our nine centers - complete with sing-alongs and visiting musicians.

Today was the day for Bet Shemesh. As we do each year - four of us from the Board drove to Bet Shemesh and helped to provide a morning of fun and good food. Shoshana - who runs the center - and her helpers - all volunteers - volunteers mind you - are angels. Saints. Women of Valor. I cannot begin to describe to you just how wonderful and loving and caring they are. They prepared the food - we all helped to serve - and afterwards the singing began.

I started to cry. I left the room. I could see my Mother in each woman's face. Beautiful, once active and vital women. Mothers. Sisters. Wives. Daughters. Grandmothers. I wept. I was so sad. But - I was also happy to be able to share something lovely with them. And not all of the people at the centers are old - that - for me - is an even greater tragedy. They never had the time to finish living their lives. But thanks to the incredible compassion and generosity of the volunteers they can live out their lives with grace and love.

A very sad/happy day, indeed. And on Tuesday we will go to the centers in Jerusalem - and laugh and cry all over again.

Stay Safe.


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