Ariela Schwartz-Zur, Executive Director of Yad LaKashish
Read our interview below with Executive Director Ariela Schwartz-Zur.
What is the mission of Yad LaKashish?
Our mission is to empower needy elderly through creative work opportunities and comprehensive social and financial benefits in a warm, community environment, and to advance positive attitudes in the community about the elderly and their place in society.
How did you first get involved in Yad LaKashish?
From the moment I first visited Yad LaKashish seven years ago, I was captivated by the charm of the place. Yad LaKashish is lively, creative, optimistic, and expands the soul. The combination of creative professional work and the joy that the elderly artisans gain from their successful mastering of new skills creates a unique valuable community. I feel lucky to be part of a place that promotes good.
How would you connect your organization to a Jewish value?
Yad LaKashish is deeply rooted in many Jewish values. We were founded on the first of Rambam's eight levels of charitable giving: that the best way to help someone is to teach them to help themselves. The passage from Psalm 71 - “Do not forsake me when I grow old. When my strength fails do not abandon me,” is a guiding light for us.
Jewish holidays are also an opportunity for us to break from our everyday routine and we enjoy getting the opportunity to celebrate them as a community. We are proud to be involved in many of our friends simchas including creating the chuppah for weddings and being a part of B'nei Mitzvah tzedakah projects.
Who has inspired you in the work that you are doing?
I am inspired by our elderly artisans. Everyday 270 men and women, many over the age of 80, come to work full of determination and enthusiasm. Despite the challenges they have lived through, they share positive attitudes towards life. Their desire to be active, learn, meet new friends and help themselves is inspiring. They are able to create beautiful artwork, despite poor eyesight, lack of dexterity, and other physical challenges. For me they are an example of true strength.
What’s a story about your organization that is meaningful to you?
One of our elderly artisans, David, was recently hit by a car crossing the street. He suffered from a leg injury due to the accident and was unable to come to work. After a few months at home, David missed his work and his community at Yad LaKashish and asked to return even though he was not fully healed. Stories like this, which illustrate the strengths of people who face difficult challenges and their ability to continue to do and reach every day are meaningful to me.
What has surprised you about working with your organization?
Yad LaKashish has a large community of people around the world who want to be involved and support our mission in different ways. I am still surprised and excited to discover the generosity and kindness of our thousands of partners, which range from individuals and families to large organizations. The devotion and loyalty of such a wide circle of friends continues to warm my heart.
What's the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to make a real difference at the lives of so many deserving people. Many of our elderly are Holocaust survivors and have little or no family in Israel. Being able to play a part in creating a supportive environment for these wonderful individuals is my favorite thing about my job.
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved in your organization or cause?
Come for a tour! Visitors to our campus truly play a role in empowering our artisans by connecting and giving them the opportunity to show off their hard work. Also, we are very grateful for our many volunteers and would love for anyone spending significant time in Israel to contact us about volunteer opportunities.
To learn more about Yad LaKashish visit www.lifeline.org.il.