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yenty1.jpgIt’s the first day back Home for the house-sisters who spent a whirlwind summer vacation enjoying day camp experiences, field trips and sleep-aways. Today the Home is buzzing with the energy and the appearance of a combination of Grand Central Station in New York City and a busy department store the day before school opens.

FirstDay1.jpgGirls are rushing about the hallways, but never forgetting to say “hello” to those of another age group they had not seen all summer. It seems that no matter how frantic the atmosphere, there’s always a moment for a hug and a smile. This really impresses me while I make a mental note to copy this behavior when I return to the States.

BrachaDesk.jpgI seek out Bracha Runes, Lev LaLev’s Program Director. I begin my search at her office, where I press the buzzer. Her secretary opens the door just a crack and tells me that Bracha is in a meeting, but she will be with me soon. No matter how inundated any staff member is, regardless of the time of day, or year, I note that I am offered water and a snack and a warm greeting. No sooner do I turn around to get my pad and pen ready to take notes, when I notice a woman I’ve seen around the Home for years. She was always rushing through the hallways, and picking up a waiting girl. I never had the chance to ask what exactly she was doing, or where exactly she was going. Now we are face to face, smiling at each other. We introduce ourselves – me first, then the lady. Our ‘connection’ was easy and natural.

Finally, I think, I’m meeting Yenty Roth! Her job description is not easy to explain without using a few hundred words, at least! Yenty, I notice, is strong, but soft-spoken. Her demeanor is friendly, and her smile is all encompassing. Yenty and I, like with Bracha, get interrupted often during our impromptu hallway interview. Girls passing by cannot resist excusing themselves while interrupting us to exchanging greetings. Of course, they give and accept hugs, and share tidbits about their summer with Yenty. I see how they walk away a little bit happier for the momentary experience.

So, what is it that Yenty, a 32-year resident of Kiryat Sanz, Netanya, do for and with the girls at the Lev LaLev Home? Yenty Roth, a mother to nine grown children, who lives virtually across the street, takes the girls to their doctor and dentist appointments.  Her official Hebrew title is “Achrayit Refuah” – loosely translated, it’s “responsible for medical care”.  Yenty takes the girls at the Home to their medical doctor appointments, to their dentist or orthodontist visits, to an optometrist, to lab tests, picks up their prescriptions, and, most important, she is a mother figure, who holds their hands when they are worried and frightened.

For five years now, Yenty, who is originally from the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn, New York, has been available 24/7 to the girls at the Home. She began her career as an office volunteer, serving  Laniado Hospital for two years - just blocks away from the Children’s Home, for 12 hours a week. Then she worked at the Recovery Room of the Ear, Nose, and Throat Division once a week for 2 years. Her services were then used at the Intensive Care Unit (Heart) doing paperwork and checking patients’ vital signs. She also did a stint in the Emergency Room.

All in the Family

BackHome.jpgStanding in the walkway next to Bracha’s office, I was so impressed with Yenty’s background. Hungry for more about her, I asked about her kids. Yenty added that two of her married daughters who now work at the Home, brought her in as the “Achrayit Refuah”. One daughter, Chaya, is a tutor, and the other, Leah, is a counselor.  Her daughter, Aidy, 17, teaches our special girls home economics including baking challah, cookies and cakes. With a broad grin, Yenty tells me that while the goodies are in the oven, she keeps the girls busy popping corn for a snack.

Our interview is almost over, since I see that Bracha is ready to see me in her office. But, I have one more question to ask. “So Yenty, about how many appointments a week do you go to with the girls?” A quick mental bookkeeping yields t he answer “About 25 appointments a week.”  And, besides being on call day and night, one of the former housemates, Hodaya H. dorms at Yenty’s home. Hodaya was a “bat bayit” – sort of like an adopted family member, and when she left the Home, it was natural for her to move into the Roth’s. Yenty tells me that Hodaya works in Bnei Brak in a baby nursery.

Another Mentor Appears

sasya1.jpgNow it’s almost my turn to visit with Bracha, when I see another lady I know for years. Her smile and laughter add some more energy to what should have been a tiring day, but is now exhilarating. I bump into Sasya Koppel, a jolly woman who the girls at the Home absolutely adore.

Sasya, who lives in the Kiryat Sanz enclave of Netanya for 36 years, began her career as a music teacher. She plays the guitar, the flute and the accordion. She has directed plays and choirs at the Home for many years. But, she’s also an “Aunty” and a role model for the numerous girls who’ve lived at the Home.

Taking girls on day-trips to Haifa and surrounding areas, or out for a relaxing evening at a café in Tel-Aviv, or for a drive along the scenic Beit-Oren Route in Northern Israel, Sasya has driven the girls at the Home to a multitude of retreats and get-aways.

Once again, as girls are walking through the hallways making arrangements for the school-year and preparing their rooms, Sasya gives them words of encouragement and asks them about their summer, how they are feeling, what their future plans hold. Her face is candid, her questions are genuine, and her concern is no less than a mother’s. Then I see more smiles, hugs, and kisses on the cheek. I reflect back on the years I sent my kids off to school – Sasya’s care is no less sincere as was mine for the children who were my very own flesh and blood. I wondered  - how much love can such a woman possess?

NewNightgowns.jpgSasya Koppel is the mother of 3 grown daughters and 1 son. She has grandchildren – snd with a full plate of responsibilities, she gives of herself so freely.  Since Malkie G.’s wedding was coming up soon, I asked Sasya how Malkie met her future husband. Now her smile was so radiant, it could have lit up a dark room. With great motherly pride, Sasya tells me she was the one who was responsible for the “shidduch” – the match. Shalom’s family, (Malkie’s groom), was a friend of her family’s. It was obvious that pairing up this couple gave Sasya Koppel great pride and joy.

My curiosity got the best of me again, when I asked if she had a moment for just one more question. She agreed – just one more – she had to go. I asked her if her own kids bore any resentment of the fact that she spent so much time working with the girls at the Home all the years she was physically raising them.  Once again, her forever-glowing smile appeared, as she answered me. “One of my married daughters told me lately that when she was a young girl she did feel some jealousy. But now, at 24, a mother herself, she was very proud.”

Clothes.jpgLev LaLev also takes great pride in knowing that the girls at the Children’s Home are blessed with these two wonderful women who are more than just responsible for our girls getting to doctor and dentist appointments, for chaperoning them on fun-filled excursions, but for being their life mentors – giving them memories of love and dedication that they could not have received from their own parents. Yenty and Sasya and their families became our girls’ families too!

Finally, Bracha notices me in the hallway and beckons me to take a walk with her around the Home’s property. I get another warm welcome, a hug and a smile. I note the dozens of new nightclothes she has purchased for the girls, tops, skirts, and toiletries. We walk together and look in on the girls and their state of preparedness. Smiles and warm greetings are non-stop. How do these wonderful women do it, I wonder?

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