Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Adar I 5765 - March 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Light for Meor Yerusholayim
by Sheindel Weinbach

This story has many beginnings, depending on how far back you want to go. I can start it from when I first met Tzirel. You know how they describe a laugh as `infectious'? Well, everything about Tzirel is `infectious': beginning with her smile, her warm manner, her positive attitude to everything, and the content of what she says. You listen — and get swept up with whatever project she's cooking up at the time.

Let's skip a bit to when I discovered that she had a daughter who wrote. All of 13, this kid had talent — and her stories have made it in YATED's HOME AND FAMILY section about a dozen times!

Tzirel has been an exciting, infectious asset to the Mattersdorf community ever since she moved in years ago, and that is a whole story in itself. But, as we are not writing a book, we will get on — and get to Tzirel's show.

Tzirel's latest project is "Meor Yerusholayim," a special Yeshiva Ketana for high functioning boys with disabilities. High functioning means that they can read. Her own Yisroel, a very likeable Down's Syndrome teenager, can read and write, but is still immature for his age, which is why he is not officially bar-mitzva-ed with the responsibilities that adulthood entails.

Tzirel tried many schools for Yisroel. For one reason or another, none were suitable. One was behind the Green Line, right near an Arab village, practically smothered under barbed wire. Others were not up to her standard of Yiddishkeit. They were not for Yisroel, who is a very sensitive, very G-d-loving and sincere child. She tells me about one Rosh Hashono, at a time when he still did not have a school to go to . . .

He went to shul, but after a while, became restless and needed a breather, and she went for a long, long walk with him. Every yeshiva they passed by, he turned to his mother with tears in his eyes and asked, "Maybe they would take me in." Or a playground of a yeshiva where children were playing outside. "Maybe they would let me join them, here?"

He was without a suitable framework until she discovered Meor Yerusholayim, which had been in existence for a dozen years, numbering at the time two boys, one rebbe, and one incredible woman with all the credentials for special education. (A universtiy degree for professionalism and for Yiddishkeit — her father was Rav Sheinberg's rebbe!) Focus now on Neshi Natanli Sterman, a woman past her seventies, coming in every day to make sure that the school will function and guiding with her professionalism in special ed.

Thanks to Tzirel, the school has grown, with several classes taught by devoted rebbeim, the incredible Yerushalmi breed of teachers who have an inborn aptitude for conveying Torah and Torah values to their students. I believe that these melamdim are a throwback to Shevet Shimon, whom Yaakov blessed to be melamdim, for that is what they are, par excellence.

I ramble, because I have a lot to say, and as an English high school teacher once complained about me, when I get emotional, my syntax goes haywire. I'm still not sure what syntax is, but I do know that I am trying to say a lot in one shot.

Tzirel discovered this `school,' no budget, just that one room, one rebbe. But the rebbe was teaching a retarded teenage boy — and holding his hand to make sure that the lesson would penetrate the limited capacity through his caring — a la the famous Talmudic Rav Preida.

Tzirel is the self-appointed fundraiser for Meor Yerusholayim, now that her son is in the program. It has expanded to several classes with a 5 to 1 ratio. The boys have extracurricular activities, like swimming once a week. When one of the boys couldn't afford the pool, she found a neighbor to subsidize it, and this has been going on ever since.

Meor Yerusholyaim has become a Mattersdorf project. The first fundraiser event was a talk featuring Rebbetzin Meisels and her unforgettable talk on saying "Amen." That brought in 1500 shekel but made Tzirel particularly happy for several reasons. First of all, the message and its long range impact on everyone who was there: families now concentrate on saying brochos out loud and answering `amen.' For that alone, Tzirel says it was worth it.

Secondly, was that composer and choir choreographer, Miri Israeli, was in the audience. She was so moved by Tzirel's talk that she came to her afterwards, offering to devote a whole concert for the school's benefit. And so she did, complete with the new song, "Amen," which she composed for it.

That was performed for an audience of 500 (myself included; it was marvelous!), and brought in 7,000 shekel. Next event was "Soup, Salad and a Shiur." Tzirel prepared the soup- salads herself for 200 women, doing all the cooking herself aside from some lovely cakes donated by young women.

The turnout was disappointing. Only 35 women showed up. But the program was certainly not. Still, what to do with all that food? And what about the money that was supposed to come in? But it takes a lot to get Tzirel down. One fine neighbor, sensing her deep disappointment, came over to her and said, "Could I buy the leftovers for $200?"


Tzirel gets a call two days later from a woman in our neighborhood who distributes fruits and vegetables to needy local families. "You don't know how happy you made twenty families! They licked their fingers on your delicious soup and salads, and they bless you heartily."

I meet Tzirel on Shabbos and she tells me the whole story. She got 2000 shekel — she really doesn't know how — from that luncheon, but she wants to pass on a lesson she learned from her disappointed great expectations.

"We really should have raffled off those leftovers. I came prepared with containers for the leftovers, and the food really was delicious. At any rate, I would like you to pass on the idea to YATED readers. Whenever there is some kind of social event — why not offer to buy off the extra cakes and refreshments? It will bring in added income to the organization and provide great leftovers for the folks at home."

So that's it. Tzirel in a nutshell with a cherry on top and Meor Yerusholayim, with some new interesting projects coming up which you won't want to miss (after Pesach, she promises me), and lots of lots of chessed and good works.

So you'll forgive the poor syntax, this time, won't you? And by the way, Tzirel's phone number is 02-5373026.


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