A recent celebratory event at Kfar Chabad marked the launch of the GET Chessed program, designed to bring company and support to senior citizens in Israel by Chabad youth.
The initiative’s program will see Chabad teens and college student volunteers visit with thousands of Israeli seniors, most of them Holocaust survivors, on a weekly basis, helping to distribute food packages and run errands as well as spend time to help ease loneliness, with the goal of making Get Chessed into Israel’s largest volunteer network.
The thousands of volunteers will make their visits on Fridays, typically their day off from school and other obligations, to deliver the hot, nutritious meals for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath - ed.).
The program will be overseen Rabbi Mendy Blau and Rabbi Shai Vizel of Colel Chabad, and by a team of professionals to ensure that the initiative is being recognized by universities for accreditation purposes as well as by local municipalities for young people required to accrue volunteer hours.
Aliya Goldner, a university student volunteer from Nes Tziona describes her first visit with a survivor as an experience she will never forget.
“She was so excited that I was coming to visit, that she prepared popcorn for us,” Goldner recalled. “We sat at the table and started talking – she told me about her life and experiences and what she went through and I shared about my life. I asked her if she wanted to dance, and when she agreed and really got into it, she said it’s been ages since she has danced like that and how wonderful it was. She asked me to sing for her and then we sang together.”
“I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day, from something seemingly so small and simple. We keep in touch and meet regularly and I’m so thankful to have met her.”
The launch event held recently at Kfar Chabad was attended by many of the Chabad emissaries working on Israeli university campuses and among the youth groups. Rabbi Moshe Shilat addressed the group about the importance of this initiative, particularly with the Lubavicher Rebbe’s ethos of reaching out to Israel’s youth. He also presented the working agreement for the program which was agreed upon by the Chabad leadership, Colel Chabad, Chabad Youth, and Chabad on Campus.
He was followed by Rabbi Mendy Blau, Israel Director of Colel Chabad, who was joined by Rabbi Shalom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad, who participated by video from New York.
“The visits of these young men and women become so meaningful and fulfilling when we see the gratitude and relief on the faces of our treasured seniors,” said Rabbi Shalom Duchman. “The reality is that while this is an experience for young people to help serve their community, they also have so much to learn from the elderly who welcome the chance to teach and inspire the younger generations.”
Individual emissaries will manage the volunteer efforts in their locations in order to ensure that the local senior community is being visited, provided warm meals, and assisted regularly. A “volunteers conference” will take place twice a year to encourage the continued volunteering efforts by the youth.