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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Jimmy's Memorial Service

We are saddened by the loss of long-time member of the Flatbush Family, Sadettiin Yesilbayrak, known to all of us as "Jimmy." Below is video footage of the memorial service held shortly after his passing. We will always remember his love for and dedication to Flatbush. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 8

On the 8th and final day of Chesed Mission 2017 our group went to Special in Uniform, Assaf Harofeh Hospital, a last visit to the Kotel and Ben Yehuda Street. Through Special in Uniform Israelis with different disabilities are able to join the army and perform different jobs. People with disabilities have traditionally been rejected from the army, but Special in Uniform aims to change that. They believe that even with disabilities, these individuals are able to help defend their nation and thereby feeling like everyone else their age. The director of the program, Tiran Attia, spoke to us about his inspiration for starting this program. We then gave out gifts to all the soldiers. We spoke to them about what they do and how they enjoy being in the IDF. Just by looking at their smilies, it was very clear that these individuals are so proud and happy to be in the army.
After Special in Uniform we went to Assaf Harofeh Hospital, our last chesed stop of the trip. The staff greeted us with warm smiles and some baked goods. We then split up into groups, grabbed presents and headed into the hospital. We walked through the halls giving gifts to every child we saw. Hugging an Olaf doll one child beamed a huge smile saying thank you so much. The parents also expressed their gratitude, and really appreciated how we came all the way from NY to come visit their child. Some of us went to a different area where the children there were dealing with eating disorders. We sat and talked with them about what they like to do, about school, and about our every day lives. It was a great way to end our fun filled days of chesed. With our finals farewells to the children we headed to the Kotel where we would end the trip the way it began. 
When we arrived at the Kotel we were surprised to see a group a soldiers practicing for a ceremony they would have later that night. It was great to be by the Kotel with soldiers, the very people who enable us to be there, praying to G-D. Standing by the wall everyone felt the spirituality and reflected on our past week of chesed. As Rabbi Besser so eloquently explained our prayers were that much more meaningful, because now we could all connect the berachot to what we did the past week. For example while saying refaenu we all had the sick children, and people we encountered throughout the week in mind. It was an amazing way to cap off the week. We then headed to Ben Yehuda street for our last meal in Israel and some last minute souvenir shopping. During the bus rides many people got up to speak about their experiences and it was a great way to reflect on the week and connect on a greater level with each other. 

Finally, we headed back to the hotel for a final goodbye. We watched a great slideshow made by Victor Dweck, and sang our final kumzitz on Rabbi Besser's porch. Singing Hatikvah overlooking the beautiful view of Jerusalem was a great way to say goodbye to Israel and our unforgettable trip. We also want to thank Debbie Siman-Tov of Emunah or all her help, Shlomo the bus driver for taking us everywhere we needed to be safely, Zalman for always being there to give us some great insights during our bus rides, Victor Dweck for always being there to snap a pictures, Señora Shterenzer for helping chaperone the trip, Mr. Galpert for all his hard work and endless nights, Susan Franco for her tireless effort and work she puts into the Chesed Mission and finally we need to thank Rabbi Besser - Chesed Mission would not be Chesed Mission with out him. His never ending energy, love, and care he puts into this trip truly is inspiring to all of us. From the bottom of our hearts thank you! Goodbye from Israel! It's been an amazing and unforgettable trip! Till next year! 
~Suzy Mosseri and Sarah Sasson, Class of 2017

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Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 8

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 7

Today we started off the seventh day of chesed by going to the Emunah Day Care Center in Mevaseret Zion. The purpose of this center is to help absorb the Ethiopian children into Israeli society. We played with the children and blew bubbles with them. The children were so cute. I love that I didn't even need to go to one of the toddlers first, but rather this gorgeous girl came up to me with a smile, making me return the beautiful gesture. Playing, blowing bubbles, and laughing was just really nice. It was the perfect way to start off a day of happiness, blessings, and more appreciation.
After that we headed to Keren Or, a facility for special children who are physically disabled, mentally challenged, and also visually impaired. We had the opportunity to interact and dance with the children. This experience spoke out to me when I was leaving and went over to tell one of the individuals goodbye. He felt my hands and then gave me a hug. It was during those seconds of unconditional love that made me appreciate what I have. It's a feeling that feels so special inside my soul, where someone with disabilities just becomes a person with a heart so pure, and inspiring. 
We then went to package boxes of food for the needy. Packing hundreds of boxes was exhausting, but also fulfilling after seeing how many boxes we packaged. We packed dry goods, produce, dairy items, and even laundry supplies.
Following lunch we went to Tel Hashomer hospital to give out toys to sick children. It was a truly incredible experience. At first we gave children presents, and then went into a unit for teens who are undergoing treatment for eating disorders. I really enjoyed it and learned that what we do could have a tremendous impact. Specifically, there was one 18 year old girl whom I was talking to, and I asked if anyone explained why we're here- she said no. And so I explained to her in Rabbi Besser's words- that we're a group which came from America to Israel, during vacation, not with our families, to visit places. I expanded by talking about how we also want to come make people happy and wish everyone a refuah shelemah because we care. She looked at me in such awe, got up, and gave me a hug. It was seriously something else. I can't get over how happy it made her, what a smile she gave me, and how genuinely thankful she was. It was really an above and beyond experience. 
Our last stop was Emunah's Bet Elazraki Children's Home. This is a home for children who had to be removed from their homes for various reasons. We witnessed a performance by the choir and dancers of Bet Elazraki. We then enjoyed dinner and a dance party with all the children. Yehuda Kohn, the director of the home, explained how they define having parents as meaning that there is someone who cares for them and that's what this home provides for all the children. It was amazing to hear how children are held by the hand through everything. Yehuda explained that he salutes his "kids" in the army, he walks them down the aisle, and is a grandfather to their children. I found that to be so special and just loved dancing and singing together.
We ended the night with a kumzitz on the roof of the Inbal overlooking Jerusalem. Singing "Im Eshkachech Yerushalim" had so much more meaning while looking at the old city walls.
 ~Jacqueline Mizrachi, Class of 2018

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Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 7

Monday, January 23, 2017

Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 6

Today was the sixth day of Chesed Mission. A day that showed us that we should be thankful for those who do the most difficult jobs of all.
Our first stop on our quest for chesed was Aleh. Aleh is an organization that cares for children with severe mental and physical disabilities. Aleh helps these children overcome their challenges and achieve the highest quality of life as possible. They give them the opportunity to be like regular children by giving them the ability to climb on a jungle gym, splash in a pool, finger paint, dance, sing, and more.
What was incredible was that we were able to communicate with these children through our hearts. We learned that words and verbal expression aren't the only means of communication. The devotion and enthusiasm of Aleh's staff towards the children amazed us all. We were divided into groups of 10 and sent to separate classes. Each group was able to participate in the children's morning routine. Afterwards we all gathered in one room and danced and sang, it was truly beautiful.
Our next stop, was an army base. There we were able to learn more about their K-9 unit. We were fortunate to witness a black labrador's search for weaponry and a german shepard attack the arm of his trainer. This was of course all just a demonstration. They led us through the cages - some of us were frightened and some were in awe. Afterwards we had the opportunity to meet soldiers who were on the base and hear about their experiences. We are so thankful for these soldiers' bravery. The fact that they risk their lives everyday so that we can practice our religion freely and continue the legacy of our forefathers through the State of Israel.
Meshi was the next stop on our quest. Meshi is a rehabilition and educational center for children with disabilities. We adored the children's excitement and all around cuteness. We planted flowers with them for the next holiday which is Tu B'Shvat. We had an amazing time and their teachers were all helpful with translations and made the kids even happier.
After having a nice lunch at an outdoor mall nearby, we went to Susan's House (not Susan Franco like one might've thought). Susan's House is an organization that takes in troubled teens and gives them an alternate use of their time: to harvest their emotions into something positive like artwork and build up their self esteem. We were fortunate to witness the process in which the teens created glass and ceramic keychains, jewelry, bowls, and plates. Afterwards, we bought the beautiful crafts that these teens have created before our very eyes.
After a quick ice cream break and a well enjoyed nap-filled bus ride, we took our hearts and ourselves to support the largest fire house in Israel, located in Beit Shemesh. We learned more about the firefighters who protect Israel and about their essential role in preventing the recent fires nicknamed by the firefighters, "The Six Day War" from harming any lives. They gave us a tour of the station and we even tried on some of the very heavy gear. We were able to have a kumzits with the firemen and all sang our hearts out with a guitar player provided by Rivka from "״.תודה לצהל

Chesed Mission establishes the feeling of אחדות within each and every one of us. We're able to connect with all the wonderful individuals who we interact with. We stay and entertain for an hour or two, but the workers at Aleh and Meshi, the beautiful children they care for, the IDF soldiers, and the firemen of the Beit Shemesh station continue 365 days a year. They are the ones who do the most difficult jobs of all.
~Diana Hoffstein, Class of 2017 and Victoria Haddad, Class of 2018

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Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 6

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 5

The fifth day of the Chesed Mission was jam-packed with chesed activities. Our first stop of the day was to Save A Child's Heart. Save a Child's Heart is an organization that is based in Holon and provides pediatric heart surgery for children that come from developing countries. Learning more about the organization's efforts in making these treatments available all around the world gave us a better insight into what SACH really does. We were able to meet some of the children that SACH has brought to Israel and through this we developed a deeper connection with the children. We got to put smiles on their faces and those are images that will last in our minds for a life time! 
We then traveled to the Holon children's Museum where we were able to experience their exhibits "Dialogue in The Dark" led by a sight-impaired guide or "Invitation To Silence," an inter-active exhibition exploring communication led by deaf guides. I explored the "Dialogue in the Dark" exhibit which I found to be very shocking. As we walked through a dark room with our friends listening around for each other we were able to understand what it truly feels like to live as a blind person. This really made a lot of us appreciate so many of the things we take for granted each and every day. Just to be able to wake up and see is something that most people take for granted, but we learned that we should not take these things for granted.
We then went to Achuzat Sarah: Emunah Children's Home. Achuzat Sarah takes in children who come from broken homes. We were able to interact with some of the children there one on one, shared a nice dinner together, gave presents to bat/ bar mitzvah boys and girls and danced with all the children. Through this we learned how children can come from such broken homes and still remain so kind and humble through the help of Achuzat Sarah. It was definitely an experience I will never forget!
Our final stop was Hemla, a home that saves young Jewish Israeli women who have fallen under the influence of abusive men. The girls of the trip were given an opportunity to go to the Hemla house where they met some of the girls that have been saved. We gave them gifts and danced together, but most importantly we heard stories of a very strong young women and how they overcame the terrible situations they were in. We learned that keeping a strong connection to our Jewish identity is one of the most important aspects of life that will keep a person from making bad decisions. 
~ Marlo Dayon, Class of 2018

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Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 5

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 4

Shabbat on Chesed Mission was very special. Friday night before Shabbat we all boarded the bus and headed to the Kotel for Minha, Kabbalat Shabbat, and Arbit. Praying by the kotel, as always, was a beautiful experience. Surrounded by hundreds of people on each side of the mehetiza--who are clutching the wall deep in thought and prayer, smiling up in awe and disbelief, kissing the wall as they place a heavily folded note into its crevices, or dancing and welcoming the Shabbat in song--really makes you feel the אחדות of עם ישראל.

After concluding our prayer we made our way through a park and water fall display to the Inbal for dinner. At the hotel we all found our seats on various round tables in a lavishly decorated dinning hall. While at first some of us were frazzled at the multiple sets of utensils our nerves were calmed when we filled our plates with delicious food. After eating Rabbi Besser, Raymond Braha, and David Maimon a lone soldier spoke to us about אחדות and the deep level of connectivity felt in Israel amongst all of the Jewish people.

After finishing desert and benching we all crowded around singing zemirot. We really felt a strong sense of Zionism and love for Israel and everyone around us. After that some of us made our way the lounge or lobby to hang out and talk about seminaries and spending a year in Israel before being ushered to bed by Mr. Galpert.

The next morning after שחרית, breakfast, מנחה גדולה, and lunch Rabbi Besser gave a dvar Torah on the reason we place such a strong emphasis on קטורת and Susan Franco spoke about Rabbi Besser and his deep level of commitment to everyone around him. Then in the afternoon we walked through the old city to תודה לצהל an organization dedicated to connecting soldiers to the people rooting for them all over the world. The building was newly renovated and Rivka, the woman in charge of this program gave us a brief introduction and even shared that when they were digging below ground level they hit second temple artifacts which they left intact.
We sat around eating סעודה שלישית and talking to soldiers, getting to personally know them and thank them for their service. We then all put our arms around each other singing and smiling truly feeling connected. The sense of togetherness and the spirit in the air was indescribable. Our אמונה was so strong as we clapped vigorously and chanted along. Then after Arbit we partook in a phenomenal havdalah experience (even though it wasn't led by Mr. Galpert), danced, took pictures, and handed out gifts before parting ways. The experience was like none other and we left feeling so much אמונה and love for the state of Israel and those defending it.
Later that night we went to collel chabad's Pantry Packers. This organization aims to alleviate hunger and starvation among those living under the poverty line in the state of Israel. After a video about the aims of Pantry Packers and a short informational video summarizing how the operation works, we put on hair nets, aprons, and divided into groups of ten to operate the machinery. After filling 216 packages of beans we headed to Emek Refaim for dinner to conclude our amazingly beautiful and incredibly inspirational weekend. ~Esther Levy, 2017

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Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 4

Friday, January 20, 2017

Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 3

Today, we went to Ammunition Hill/Givat Hatachmoshet and met reservists who told us about their position in the IDF. Steve Garr, a first responder in the anti terrorist unit told us an inspiring story about the daily lifestyle of this type of soldier. After that, we watched a short film about the recapturing of Jerusalem during the Six Day War. 
Following this, we went to Machane Yehudah Market and experienced a typical Friday atmosphere. We walked through the shuk buying candy and eating falafel. It was an incredible and unforgettable experience! Then we were taken back to the hotel to get ready for Shabbat. We can't wait for Shabbat and the week to come! Shabbat Shalom! ~Lydia Cohen, Class of 2018

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Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 3

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 2

This morning we started our first full day of chesed. Our first stop was to Ilanot School for Special Education. This school focuses specifically on helping students with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities. We gathered as an audience to listen to their special choir, led by Cheryl Leiberman (HS '04) who made aliyah and is the choir director. The students showcased songs that the choir has been practicing for months.
Our next stop was to Haddasah Medical Center where we visited sick children, gave them presents and fulfilled the mitzvah of bikor cholim. Each patient was given a present, reciprocating the gift with large smiles and hugs from the children in the hospital.
Then, we visited Mount Herzl, which is Israel's national cemetery site and learned about many soldiers who died to protect Israel. It was very inspiring to hear each of their stories. There, we were able to fulfill the mitzvah of chesed shel emet.
Next, we went to the Shalva National Children's Center, which provides high quality care for individuals with disabilities, empowering their families and promoting social inclusion. This organization is focused on caring for and nurturing children with special needs, also helping alleviate pressure from parents of these children and provide them with an opportunity to care for their homes without worrying about the wellbeing of their children. We learned about Shalva's new facilities and all of the programs that Shalva is now able to run in its new home. We also had the opportunity to dance and interact with the children. Shalva was such a great experience because when we put smiles on their faces it made all of us even happier.
Our last stop for the night was to hear from and interact with injured Israeli soldiers, though an organization called Tikvot. Tikvot aims to rehabilitate injured soldiers and help them lead productive and proactive lives. We heard from soldiers about their personal experience when and how they were wounded. This organization gives hope to the injured soldiers through therapeutic rehabilitation. We experienced one of these therapeutic methods by rock-climbing with the soldiers.  ~Gabrielle Sharaby, 2018

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Chesed Mission 2017/5777: Day 2