December 2021

?What's in the newsletter

Director - Avraham Kopp

Dear friends!

I'd like to tell you about Elia, an adorable 11 year old boy, who joined our after school program less than a year ago. He is sweet and friendly, but he had a hard time getting used to it at first. 

He only agreed to come if his parents promised to take him out early. But all this changed as soon as Elia was chosen to be in charge of the van. 

He makes sure the kids are all on the correct vans, is in charge of reminding them not to  bother the driver and behave nicely.

And since Elia has such an important role (at the end of the day!), he would never be willing to go home early- even if his parents offered!
It was not by chance that Elia got the "job" he did. A lot of thought goes into which child is given which task.
The needs of each child are addressed- what will make him happy, what will make him feel important, what can he do and so that he will feel that he has an impact on others, and that he is valued for his special skills.
This is the way it is at Ezrat Achim, every boy and girl is given individualized attention.
We often receive requests for advice from a child's school. They ask us, "What's your secret? how do you deal with this child … we simply can't manage with him."
The answer is that at Ezrat Achim every boy and girl is seen as a whole world and we invest in building a personal plan for each one.

And most importantly, they feel our love!

Home Away From Home

by G. Gundle

18 years ago, our 3rd child was born 5 days before Rosh Hashana. Our daughter, Chaviva, had difficulty eating and sleeping and cried continuously. My husband and I barely slept as she required care all night long. At 6 months old, she stopped breathing and was rushed to the hospital.

2 months later, after a long-awaited MRI, we got her diagnosis and were thrust into the unfamiliar world of Special Needs. Up until that point, my only exposure to special needs was on Simchas Torah, when the young adults from the Jewish residential facility in Cape Town, would arrive at Shul, collect their chocolates, and promptly disappear for a year.

I did some research on my own (always a risky thing to do!) and was met with the worst case scenario. The situation seemed dire and I wondered how could I allow myself to become attached to a child who could leave us at any moment.

At that time, there were few special needs educational frameworks in Bet Shemesh and certainly no after-school services. At age 1, Chaviva started to attend Gan Meshi in Jerusalem where it took a staff of 8 to manage her. 

Each morning, after yet another sleepless night, I would count down the minutes as I waited outside for her school van to arrive, and would literally dread the return of the van at 3 PM, due to the overwhelming stress of taking care  a child who could not be pacified, while trying to care for my other children simultaneously. With no respite at all, Shabbos was always the hardest day of the week.

It was a very lonely time for us. My husband and I are by nature very private people who were reared to be self- sufficient and were used to putting our best foot forward. It was difficult to be faced  with a challenge that set us apart from the rest of our community.  

While we knew that everyone has struggles behind closed doors, our challenges with Chaviva were fully visible and I felt extremely exposed and vulnerable.

Chaviva defied her prognosis. The two year mark came and went and we made plans to move to a home with a ground level entrance as we were told that Chaviva might not ever walk. 

However, by the age of 5 1/2 Chavi started to walk and at age 7, she started to eat regular food. By the time she was 10, in the absence of speech, Chaviva began to learn alternative ways of communicating.

Yet when Chaviva was around, home life was still stressful. It was difficult to do homework with my other children, spend time with my husband, attend a Kiddush or simcha and plan family outings, let alone a vacation. 

Chaviva needed help with all “activities of daily living” in addition to constant supervision.

All of this changed 8 years ago, when a friend told me about a local organization, Ezrat Achim, which was running a Special Needs summer camp. For the first time, Chaviva went to camp   like our other children. She loved it!

Today Chaviva attends Ezrat Achim programs literally every single day of the year.

   We are awed by the all-encompassing service and the staff and volunteers who provide daily after school programs as well as programs on Erev Shabbos, Shabbos and Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, even on Rosh  Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Thanks to Ezrat Achim, we are no longer in a state of hypervigilance and have BH been able to transition out of survival mode, into a place where we  can enjoy and nurture our family.  

We now have enough breathing space to acknowledge and appreciate the multiple blessings that Chaviva brings to our family.

Chaviva has turned into a beautiful and fun loving, young adult and an integral part of our family, while we feel blessed to have become part of the greater Ezrat Achim Family led by Rav Kop.

Ezrat Achim provides a service which is unique and more comprehensive than any other program of its kind nationally and internationally. 

In fact, people are moving to Bet Shemesh from other cities just so that their child can benefit from a service which offers thousands of hours of relief and respite to families challenged by special needs and is like a second home to so many children like Chaviva.

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A Message from our Director of Special Needs Department, Yudit Eytan

Caring for a child with Special Needs is a 24/7 mission.
The need for constant supervision and one-on-one care, can leave parents physically and emotionally drained.

Ezrat Achim is here for these families.
We have programs in four separate locations in different neighborhoods, servicing children and young adults with Special Needs (ages 3-21).

Every afternoon, starting at 2:00 PM, after school hours, children are provided with hours of guided play and therapeutic activities, designed to meet the needs of each child.  
These hours are the most challenging of the day:
homework, errands, dinner, baths and more…
But by the time the Ezrat Achim van arrives at 7:00 PM, the parents are able to focus their love and attention on their child with Special Needs.

Our professionally trained staff and dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to create a haven for children with Special Needs literally 365 days a year.

 Fast Days- On Yom Kippur our volunteers wake up at Neitz to daven and spend the rest of the fast with the children.  
 Our centers are open on Tisha b'Av and minor fast days as well.
 On Shabbos and Chagim – the volunteers pick up the children and bring them to the nearest center, sometimes pushing a wheelchair for twenty minutes or more!
 After havdala, the children are driven home in the special Ezrat Achim vans.
 On Fridays and Erev Yom Tov – (even on erev Pesach!) when tensions rise- the children come to the centers after school and are brought home by van, an hour before shkiyah, giving the families time to prepare so that they can welcome their child and light candles with a calm heart.
 Bein Hazmanim – during summer vacation, close to 100 children attend our fun-filled day camps.

Certain days require more challenging logistics; all days require dedication.
Our message to parents is that they are not alone!

Please join us…
Together, we can continue providing gifts 365 days a year!

Yudit Eytan

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In the words of Esti's Mom:

"When Esti, my fourteen year old daughter who has Down's Syndrome, started coming off the Ezrat Achim van every evening with a huge smile on her face, I had to find out why!
When I asked her what was making her so happy, she told me that she had a special job at the after-school center: taking care of a little girl named Shoshi.
She told me how much fun it was to be in charge of her and help her!"
At Ezrat Achim's after-school centers, the teenage kids are each given a "job" to do every day.
This helps them to learn responsibilty, gain confidence and above all, feel great about themselves!
Esti's Mom says"You can't imagine what this has done for Esti's self esteem! 
There is such a change in her since she started seeing herself as a "giver."
We see the effects at home- her behavior and mood have improved tremendously.
I'm so grateful to the staff and volunteers for putting in so much effort, they go way above and beyond!" 


By Rivka Ester Rothstein

I had been accumulating things our family no longer needed for years, and an entire corner of my bedroom was dedicated to the ever-expanding pile.  My intention had been to hold a yard sale, offering these items at bargain prices while getting some payback for my purchase – one person’s junk being another’s treasure, as the saying goes.
And then the most liberating thought occurred to me – I would have the yard sale, but I wouldn’t put a price tag on anything.  Instead, I would invite people to come and bring their ma’aser money, pay what they could, and I would contribute the earnings to Ezrat Achim’s Centers for special needs children!*
Books, small housewares, small appliances, kitchen items, games, toys, dolls, music CDs, tchachkes – you name it!  I organized the paraphernalia in piles throughout my yard, advertised everywhere I could think of, and 2000 NIS later, I was grateful to be poorer in possessions, but richer in funds!  What remained was packed up and delivered to a wonderful gemach in Beit Shemesh that services needy people in the community.
As for me, I was delighted to deliver the money to Ezrat Achim, where it was gratefully accepted by the inimitable Rav Kop, enthusiastic that they would have the means to make a Chanuka party for the children who attend the Ezrat Achim programs.
Now, how feel-good was that?!  I accomplished ridding my home of years of amassed belongings as well as acquiring the mitzva of tzedakah to one of the most worthwhile programs in the world!
Win-win all around!
Perhaps you’d consider doing the same?
Good luck!

Rivka Ester Rothstein

*Full disclosure:  I have dear friends whose daughter I love madly attends Ezrat Achim's programs every day after school as well as on Fridays and Shabbos, which thereby benefits the entire family.


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