A very special evening was held last week in honor of dozens of volunteers who have hosted women rescued from Arab villages in their homes and continue to help integrate them into full Jewish lives.
The event, for members of Yad L'Achim's "Kesher Eitan" (Firm Connection) program, was held at Yad L'Achim's hostel for survivors in Jerusalem. The head of the Kesher Eitan program, Mrs. M. Itzkovitch, opened the evening by thanking the women for giving of their time and energy to help Yad L'Achim activists in their life-saving work.
A workshop led by a senior social worker focused on the importance of forging a one-on-one connection with women who for years were trapped in marriages to Arab men and cut off from the Jewish people. She shared a parable demonstrating how an empathetic voice can empower these women to change their lives and choose the right path.
At a round-table discussion, each volunteer introduced herself, explaining how she came to work for Yad L'Achim and sharing her most moving moment with the survivor under her care. Each woman also spoke about what her volunteer work has meant to her own life.
The women listened intently to one another, identifying with the powerful feeling that their volunteer work was a mission, not just a good deed. At the same time, they conceded, the work had its difficult moments, including the the exposure to the painful stories of the survivors.
The emotional highlight of the evening was the airing of a film on a recent Shabbaton held to strengthen the survivors spiritually. Quiet descended on the room, as the volunteers saw on the screen large numbers of women and children and suddenly understood that "their" family was just one of many that Yad L'Achim was helping. They were stunned at the energy, time and resources dedicated by Yad L'Achim to each and every family.
The most emotional scene was that of the women lighting Shabbos candles erev Shabbos. Tears streamed down the cheeks of the volunteers, as they spotted their families taking upon themselves Shabbos. "That woman and her daughter slept in my home for two weeks immediately after being rescued," cried out one volunteer. "It is moving to see them getting so strong in their faith and religious practice in such a short time!"
After the film was aired, the volunteers were addressed by Rebbetzin Miriam Lifschitz, the widow of Hagaon Harav Shalom Dovber Lifschitz, zt"l, the legendary founder and long-time chairman of Yad L'Achim.
"I want to thank you will all my heart," she began. "In your merit, we are witness to a significant change among the survivors. Through your amazing work, you bring light, values, warmth, hope into the dark pit in which they lived. This pit was so dark that they forgot there was light outside.
"And here they see that they are being treated with love; that people worry about them, call them, host them in their homes. This creates a change and removes the great darkness," she concluded in a voice choked with emotion.
At the conclusion of the evening, each volunteer received a special gift, a token of Yad L'Achim's gratitude. The volunteers asked for more such meetings, which they said gives them the strength to continue with their holy volunteer efforts.