Published July 9, 2023 10:44 AM IST
Chaim V’Chessed operates an active Special Education Department, led by Mrs. Faigie Gugenheim. The department, which is also staffed by Mrs. Dvora Grosbaum and Mrs. Breindy Rizel, counsels and guides families who have been blessed with children who have special needs. Hundreds of families benefit from the department’s guidance each year.
As an outgrowth of this work, in 2022, Chaim V’Chessed hosted its first ever two-day getaway for mothers of children with special needs. Read about it in a recent column in Mishpacha magazine.
Last month, we hosted our second retreat, this time at scenic Kibbutz Lavi. 151 mothers participated in this incredible event.
One Family. Two Days. Three Letters
One family. Chaim V’Chessed.
Two days. June 6 -7.
Three letters. To help you understand.
Dear Rabbi Freedman,
I really don’t have enough words (and since I’m back home I also don’t have enough time!) to convey what this retreat meant to me and my family.
B”H we love our Down Syndrome 9 year old to pieces! Since she was born there is an extra dosage of happiness, chen, working together, and Emunah for each member of the family. Together with that there is a lot of hard work, a lot of practicing patience (and more patience), a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of distraction, less family trips and attention and lots of difficult decisions about things that we really don’t know very much about.
Although only I, as the mom, came on this retreat, the rest of the family really took pleasure in the idea that there is recognition of how challenging it is. All their school friends gush about how cute my 9 year old is, as do strangers and shopkeepers. None of them have exposure to the real challenges. This retreat was, among many other things, a validation for them. They felt cared for by the gifts and awed by the monetary and thought invested into them!
When I described the details of the trip to them, their awe was כפל כפליים.
I think it’s left you with quite a challenge because now husbands and kids are also looking forward to a retreat
The trip was a phenomenal mixture of fun, chizuk, connection and being majorly spoiled and feeling that we are really important to you.
I could go on and on.
Thank you so much,
I’ve been posting updates about my retreat for moms of special needs kids by Chaim V’Chessed. Not chas veshalom to make anyone jealous, but to show hakaras hatov to this amazing organization for all that they’ve done for us. I didn’t understand how two days and one night away could be so energizing, but oh man, it was. I’m on a high! I feel like this is just deserving of one big dayenu….
If they only took us to yaar ben shemen for some fun activities, dayenu, it would have been enough.
If they only gave us a sumptuous brunch in yaar ben shemen, dayeinu.
If they only brought us an ice cream truck to yaar ben shemen, dayeinu.
If they only brought us to kibbutz lavi for the night, dayeinu.
If they only had a really fun drum circle, dayeinu.
If they only had swimming for us at kibutz lavi, dayeinu.
If they only had a wonderful dinner at kibutz lavi, dayeinu.
If they only brought us to a cruise on the kineret, dayeinu.
If they only brought Miri Israeli for a concert and dance party on the cruise, dayeinu.
If they only brought us sushi and popcorn and nuts and candies to our concert and dance party on the kineret cruise, dayeinu.
If they only had water aerobics and a virtual tour of eretz yisrael and smoothie making on bikes, dayeinu.
If we only had a voucher for ice cream or drinks at the snack bar, dayeinu.
If they only had 2 really helpful and enjoyable workshops (per person, there were more) using psychology techniques to help us be better parents, dayeinu.
If they only gave us a really nice lunch on the pergola, dayeinu.
If they only brought us to daven at kever hashla for our children, dayeinu.
If they only brought us to netanya overlooking the mediteranean sea, dayeinu.
If we only had a hilarious improv show with Debbie Hirsch (with techniques to use it for our kids) dayeinu.
If we only had a fancy dinner in the hall overlooking the sea, dayeinu.
If we only had a live performance with piano, violin, singing, sand art, and chizuk stories, dayeinu…
If we only met so many people and connected and bonded, dayeinu.
If we only got so much swag, dayeinu…
And all that, was only 250 shekel.
Al achas kama vikama we have hakaras hatov for chayim v’chessed and all the sponsors who made us be able to be pampered like this, without a single detail missing. I am incredibly grateful.
Dearest Chaim V’Chessed Retreat staff,
How? How does it work? How do you do it – once and then again? How does a 36 hour retreat give lasting energy and inspiration, support and vitality to so many mothers and their families?
It seems counterintuitive. Even the most successful vacation is finite. Plentiful food, entertaining and inspiring programming, refreshing trips, thoughtful and generous refreshments and gifts and varied forms of relaxation serve a purpose but do not and can not last forever – generally not more than a few hours.
The memories can last for longer -perhaps a week or two, until they fade into the backdrop of busy life. But the Chaim V’Chessed Special Moments retreat is different.
Admittedly, the Special Moments retreat is meticulously planned and executed. But, that doesn’t explain how Special Moments seems to take on a life of its own: something much larger and broader than the sum total of its innumerable parts.
What is the elusive ingredient which you seem to have mastered:
Is it the fact that every participant was able to come without needing to plan or think about what to bring or pack or do – everything was provided for: meals, snacks, cold water (and bathroom breaks!), transportation, wide ranging programming, cold popsicles which seemed to appear at the hottest moments and warm shawls which somehow materialized for the evening’s surprise cruise. (Not to mention gifts and treats for the family back home and beautiful loving gifts for the Mommy’s)?
Is it the instant camaraderie made possible by high caliber participants who share a common language, life circumstances and empathy and understanding for one another facilitated by Special Moments thoughtful yet unintrusive “getting to know one another” activities together with many varied bonding and socializing opportunities?
Is it the incredible potpourri of wide ranging experiences: from fun to more fun, time for introspection and Tefilla, together with time for networking and interaction. Activities which were thoughtful and thought provoking, restful yet invigorating, inspiring and uplifting yet simultaneously practical and down to earth?
Is it the love and care and thoughtfulness which shone through at every juncture? True, unadulterated Ahavas Yisrael. Special Moments somehow mastered the ability to give without making the recipient feel either pitied or put on a pedestal: just loved and cared for.
Of course, it was a combination of all of the above which makes Special Moments retreat a social tidal wave. It creates or solidifies each participant’s positive perception of themselves, their life mission, their place in society and how society perceives them.
Special Moments leaves a lasting impact and impression which does not fade into oblivion or get lost in the pressures of day to day living. Special Moments provides strength, resilience, fortitude and a sense of pride and mission which will power and empower each participant, their family, their friends and community in ways that are impossible to comprehend or calculate.
I still don’t know how you did it – but the fact is that you did. In fact, you outdid yourselves. May Hashem bless you in every way.
Thank you again and again.
In humble appreciation and admiration,