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Knitting For Charity
In a small hall, tucked away a few steps from the main street of the small town of Israel, 30 aging and graceful English-speaking women gather once a week to knit. Over the past 13 years, they have voluntarily knit scarves, sweaters, vests, socks, blankets, toys and booties for thousands of underprivileged and sick children, and other less fortunate people across Israel.
The knitting club started in the early 1990s, when Ethiopian immigrants first arrived, says group president Wendy Goldstein. It was started by British-born Renee Lees. Originally, the women would meet just for coffee, but Lees realized they could make better use of their time, so she suggested they knit for the new immigrants while they talked. Ethiopian children, they believed, had never known winter and had no clothes for the cold. Everyone agreed it was a great idea and the Esra Knitting Club was born.
Word spread quickly and the group grew to the point that meetings were moved to a large hall in Beit HaNoar. Today, there are officially 46 knitters (including eight home knitters who are either younger than typical group members, busier, or physically unable to attend), although it’s rare that everyone attends. at a meeting given on Tuesday. While many women come to mingle and knit, there are some who drop by to get more wool and leave. Goldstein buys most of the wool wholesale with cash donations, and the other yarns are donated directly.
The women have an inside joke about their relationship: “We’re a tight-knit community,” said one. It’s corny, but absolutely true. They are all comfortable together. They finish each other’s sentences and if you ask one of them about their life before arriving in Israel, it’s very likely that at least two others will help you tell the story. Spending an hour with these women is like visiting your favorite grandmother or aunt. Most of them probably don’t realize they’re knitting because they’re busy enjoying each other’s company. And it’s contagious.
While all members are English speakers, many of them only speak English as a second or third language. Some came from obvious places such as South Africa, Britain and the United States, while others were born in Eastern European countries. There is even a native-born Israeli, but the women are quick to point out that she speaks good English.
As with any united family, most of them can tell you the history of the group: who joined when, who left and who died since. Unfortunately, some of the original band members are no longer alive. The oldest member today is Esta Azouz, who took over as head of the knitting club after Renee retired from knitting 10 years ago. Today, Azouz is 103 years old and she no longer knits but she is still considered a full member. “Almost everyone here is physically challenged,” Goldstein says, “but somehow everyone manages to do the most phenomenal work.”
And it’s phenomenal. It is impossible to get out of it without coveting several objects. Sweaters are beautifully knitted in the lushest colors. Dolls are so cuddly. Afghans and baby blankets are just waiting to wrap you up in them. And for those wondering, not a single item is for sale.
“We knit for those who need it and we don’t ask questions”, explains a member of the group. Unfortunately, there are so many Israelis in need. From Ethiopian newborns whose parents don’t realize babies born in the Israeli winter need to go home wrapped up, to children in families who simply can’t afford a good warm hat and sweater, it seems always have a major project going on.
“Whenever I need something, I pick up the phone and call them,” says Debbie Shkedy, head nurse for all pediatric wards at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. According to Shkedy, the Knitting Club has made hundreds of little blankets, little booties, little hats, dolls and sweaters of all sizes for sick children and in some cases for other family members. The dolls, in particular, are very important: “It’s so nice to give something to a sick child to hug”, says Shkedy, “and it makes a big difference in the way children behave with it. the staff. »
Although no one has kept a full account of the work of the past 16 years, the club started recording its achievements three and a half years ago. According to their records, they knitted:
o 120 hats, 359 dolls, 248 blankets and countless slippers for cancer patients in the pediatric wards of Meir and Schnieder children’s hospitals
o 100 scarves for the Beit Zimmerman retirement home
o 20 sweaters for former residents of Gush Katif who were temporarily without clothes
o 200 sweaters, 33 knee blankets and several hats, scarves and slippers for the Netanya Forgotten People Fund
o 118 items, including sweaters, hats and scarves for Rashi School in Netanya
o 27 vests and 20 pairs of bases for Beit Issie Shapiro in Raanana
o 69 sweaters, 16 baby blankets and many hats, scarves and booties for Lev Veneshema in Sefat
o 320 hats for children with cancer at Zichron Menachem in Jerusalem
o 210 knee blankets for wheelchair users in Beit Avot Mishan in Raanana
o 315 sweaters and several hats and scarves for This Land is Mind Fund in Ra’anana
o 21 sweaters and 13 blankets for the Netanya kindergarten
o 34 sweaters for families at Ma’a lot
o 53 knee blankets for the fragile care section of Laniado Hospital
o 130 sweaters for the Etzion school in Kfar Saba
o 75 sweaters and 50 knee blankets for needy families in Raanana
If that doesn’t leave you speechless, take a look at club member Hilda DeLowe who alone has knitted 200 baby blankets and lap blankets in the past year.
Midway through the interview, Natalie Goodman, a longtime knitter, packed three large bags of beautifully knit items that had just been displayed to all members as part of the club’s weekly “Showtime.” Goodman was going to deliver toques and vests to his daughter who is the head nurse at the children’s intensive care unit at Schneider Hospital. Goodman is not young and she does not drive. She said it would take three buses to get to Petach Tikvah, but she was undeterred.
“A lot of these kids lose their hair during their treatments,” Goodman explained as she packed her bags, “and they need hats and sweaters to keep them warm.”
Lynn Adler, who at around 50 is the youngest member of the group, fell into knitting after many years away. “One day I was cleaning out a drawer and found my knitting needles. I joined the group because these ladies are an inspiration to me.”
It seems there is always more knitting to do. For example, noted one of the members, there are soldiers who need socks. However, at the end of the day, Doreen Rosen sums it up nicely: “When you give something money, you never really know where it’s going, but we make clothes and we know exactly where it’s going. And we do. whole. It does us good.”
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