Before we made Aliyah, I spent an entire year working tirelessly to make sure the move would go smoothly for our two sons. They are seventeen years old and autistic.
When we came to Eretz Yisrael in August, we were still floundering. Getting hold of people from so far away had proven to be challenging, to say the least. The one person we had thought was helping us hadn’t been doing much at all, and we were left on our own, trying to connect with people who spoke some semblance of English. We finally found another helper who seemed somewhat promising, but after a while we realized that he was also just passing us along.
My daughter, who had made Aliyah a year earlier, saw an article in Mishpacha about Chaim V’Chessed. She called me and said, “Mom, call them!” I said, “No, that organization’s for hospitals. We don’t need a hospital!” But the next week there was an advertisement saying something about Special Education. I told my daughter that if we didn’t get anywhere with the person who was trying to help us, we’d call.
Needless to say, we didn’t get very far. I called Chaim V’Chessed. And that is when things started happening.
At Chaim V’Chessed, I spoke to D’vora Grossbaum. Mrs. Grossbaum was amazing. She found people in the Misrad Hachinuch of Rechovot, where I live, who could help me there. For the first time since we’d come we actually made progress.
We ran into a brick wall when we found out that Misrad Hachinuch required us to translate and notarize all of the boys’ papers. Special needs kids have psychological workups of 30-50 pages, aside from the lengthy psychiatric evaluations that are required by Israeli authorities. Getting all those papers translated from English to Hebrew for two boys would be a huge headache and expense, something to the tune of $10,000.
Mrs. Grossbaum came to the rescue again. She connected us with a psychologist in Rechovot who read through the documents in English and approved them all for us. The psychologist was also present at the vaadat hasamah (final placement meeting), and when a committee member protested that the documents went against protocol, she was there to reiterate her approval.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Grossbaum advised us to research schools so we could have one in mind by the time we came to the vaadat hasamah. The only place we felt was right for our boys was Shtilim, a chareidi school in Har Nof. I felt strongly about a program that would enrich their lives with Jewish values, something that was sorely lacking in the secular program they attended back in the United States. Faigie Gugenheim, the other Special Education case manager, was very instrumental in researching, contacting people, and writing letters to the school on our behalf, and the boys were accepted.
Three months after we moved to Eretz Yisrael, just before Chanukah, our boys enrolled in school. It is a school that perfectly suits their needs. They are having a wonderful time. Today, the boys are learning real life skills, including the Hebrew language, and they put on tefillin every day. I cannot imagine where we would all be today without Chaim V’Chessed. We are endlessly grateful.
– R.G., Rechovot