Ontarian shares bar mitzvah joy with physically challenged Israeli boy

Ontarian shares bar mitzvah joy with physically challenged Israeli boy

Canadian Jewish Tribune – Aug 30, 2011
By Avraham Zuroff

JERUSALEM – Daniel Edery of Ontario recently celebrated his bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem with friends, family…and Tzvika Frenkel, a cognitively disabled and autistic boy from the ALEH Moriah rehabilitation centre in Gedera in central Israel.

When planning for his bar mitzvah, Daniel decided that it only made sense to mark his “big day” by championing a cause and taking on the responsibilities of adulthood for real. As such, he invited Tzvika – a boy whom he had never met – to share his bar mitzvah celebration with him as his “bar mitzvah twin,” affording Tzvika an opportunity he would not have had otherwise.

After prayer services at the Western Wall, Tzvika, his mother and his ALEH caretakers joined Daniel and his extended family for a luncheon to celebrate the occasion. In his speech, Daniel spoke about his “twin” – who he had met for the first time that morning – and how special it was to share his special day with his “new brother.”

Daniel’s father Abe beamed with pride when he revealed that Daniel had decided to donate all of his bar mitzvah gift money to ALEH to provide for Tzvika’s needs.
Abe Edery credits Daniel’s philanthropy to “a mindset that we have in our home.”

Abe acknowledges that outlook to his mother Gittie Edery who has volunteered at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children for 30 years and more recently became a hospital chaplain.

“You have to give back and share to those less fortunate is a message I try to give to my children,” Abe said.

Dov Hirth, ALEH’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah Projects coordinator, frequently gives tours of ALEH’s facilities.

“Before they start the tour, we explain the goals of ALEH and that it’s difficult to see the children,” he told the Jewish Tribune.

He said that the initial reaction of most visitors when seeing a severely disabled child wearing a bib is fear and trepidation.

“But when they come to the realization that he’s a beautiful child or young adult, you can’t pull them away,” he added.

Hirth said that a patient infirmed in a hospital for several weeks is relieved when a medical clown or volunteer visits him, even if he is a total stranger.

“You made him feel special,” he said. “A family from Canada, such as the Ederys, made Tzvika feel so special. They picked him up from his home in Gedera by taxi and sent him to the Western Wall to spend a bar mitzvah together.”

The majority of ALEH’s children don’t speak. Yet Hirth explains that visitors can still communicate with the children despite the challenges.

“They all speak the universal language of the heart and that is love. You see that a light goes on,” Hirth says.

ALEH (www.aleh.org) has residential facilities in Bnei Brak, Gadera, Jerusalem and the Negev. Its annual budget of $20 million is used to help 650 severely disabled juvenile residents on a daily basis, including 18,000 outpatients annually.


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