On Sunday, July 5, ALEH (www.ALEH.org), Israel’s network of care for individuals with severe complex disabilities, hosted a virtual memorial ceremony and dedication to honor the life and legacy of Rhoda Fischer OB”M, who advocated passionately for the advancement of disability care and inclusion as the Honorary President of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran from 2008-2013, while her husband, Stanley Fischer, served as Governor of the Bank of Israel.
As the sun set in Israel, the ALEH leadership gathered at the renowned residential and rehabilitative village in the Negev to conclude the initial 30-day mourning period with moving words of tribute and the dedication of a garden that pays homage to Rhoda’s love of natural beauty and belief in the unrestricted growth of all people. Some 500 participants, including the Fischer family and their closest friends, tuned in for the ceremony via Zoom and Facebook Live.
“Today, we inaugurate this special flower garden in memory of our beloved Rhoda. A magical garden that will cause the desert to blossom, as envisioned by the prophet Isaiah, and that will reflect Rhoda’s inner beauty and her deep love for this special place and its residents,” said Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, Chairman of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, during the ceremony. “This garden is an expression of our steadfast commitment to memorialize Rhoda, the values she held dear, and her love for the children of ALEH.”
Those close to Rhoda knew all about her deep love for flowers. In addition to their natural beauty, she saw flowers as the ultimate symbol of potential and believed that every bloom could reach its greatest potential with the proper care and attention. She believed the same was true of children, and was dedicated to promoting the ALEH mission. Fittingly, the garden that now bears her name will be tended to by individuals with disabilities, those for whom she advocated so passionately. Through ALEH Negev’s innovative gardening program, 26 gardeners with special needs are provided with real and equal employment opportunities – a fair wage earned within a supportive social framework.
During the ceremony, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel, and a Board Member of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, lauded Rhoda and Stanley as a “modern day Abraham and Sarah,” and highlighted Rhoda’s passionate dedication and extreme modesty.
“Rhoda, together with Stanley, may he live a long and healthy life, you left your home, children, friends, and careers and came to the Land of Israel on a mission and with a sense of responsibility for the fate of the Jewish nation. Though your actions were worthy of a great deal of respect, you always shied away from honor and distanced yourself from the spotlight. It was never about you – you were always working on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society, to give a voice to those who could not speak for themselves.”
Joining the ceremony from San Francisco, David Fischer, Rhoda’s son and Chief Revenue Officer at Facebook, expressed his deep appreciation to ALEH for finding such a fitting way to memorialize his mother.
“This garden is the perfect tribute and one that my mother would have loved. She would teach by telling and more often by showing, and when there was something that she cared about, something that she loved, she couldn’t help but tell you all about it. From the time she got involved with ALEH Negev, to hear her describe it and her passion for it, it was clear that it was something that really mattered to her. And so this garden, which is all about teaching and growth of all kinds in the place that she loved so dearly, captures her essence perfectly,” said David Fischer, with a tear in his eye. “This living memorial will advance the mission of ALEH Negev and give people the chance to not just hear about how to do something but to actually roll up their sleeves and do it.”
“Today, one month since she passed, it is a remarkable tribute – and one that touches us all deeply – to see this memorial brought to life. We want to say thank you to ALEH Negev for honoring her memory, and we look forward to the day when we can come and see the garden, as she would have insisted on doing, and rolling up our sleeves to work alongside the people who you serve there so ably and so well, and to be part of this wonderful tribute to her.”
ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, ALEH’s residential and rehabilitative village in Israel’s south, provides a continuum of loving care from infancy and childhood through adulthood, ensuring that its residents with multiple disabilities and complex medical issues receive the high-level medical and rehabilitative care and educational, vocational and social opportunities they need to reach their fullest potentials.