What an inspiration it was to visit Wendy and Philip Goldstein in their home in Raanana and to share time with them, enjoying the enthusiasm they both generate when talking about the ESRA knitting group in Raanana.
The Goldsteins came to Israel from Johannesburg in South Africa 25 years ago. Shortly afterwards Wendy, a teacher by profession, mother of four daughters and a lifetime knitter, joined the knitting group which was being run at the time by its founder Esta Azouz. Esta, an inspirational ESRA volunteer, invested in wool and knitting needles and suggested that the social group that used to meet for tea and a chat should use their time together more usefully for the benefit of others by knitting useful items for those in need. And since that day that is exactly what the club does.
Wendy was hand-picked by Esta, then already in her nineties, to take over from her. So thirteen years ago Esta handed over the reins to her very worthy young successor, Wendy, then in her early fifties.
The group has grown from strength to strength since it was established, and still flourishes today. Some 25 to 32 women meet once a week throughout the year and spend the morning industriously knitting and chatting and socializing. Anyone is welcome to join them and there are even a few Hebrew speakers who thoroughly enjoy their involvement.
The value of this club is not only for the participants. Every item made is given to those who need it. The women have knitted hundreds of woollen caps for our soldiers. A local after school kindergarten run by ESRA in Kfar Saba benefitted from a scarf and cap for each pupil for Chanukah. The paediatric units at the local hospitals have all received gifts for patients from this loving work, as have had the baby units. When the demand arises, the ladies, under the outstanding leadership of Wendy, satisfy the need - be it from a hospital, an institution, a school or homes for the elderly. The list is long and varied and distribution is a practical job that keeps Wendy very busy.
Local shopkeepers donate wool when they have it and this project is supported by the Raanana Municipality, which provides the venue for the meetings at the Youth Club.
Wendy tells me the knitting club provides the best deal in town: for five shekels the members enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits or cakes while they work. They are given wool and needles to work with at home, so the benefits extend throughout the week. As Philip mentioned, this club is a win-win organization. The knitters gain satisfaction and enjoyment from their day’s social outing and the benefactors gain immeasurably by the beautiful items created with love, expertise and pleasure by the enthusiastic knitters.
Wendy’s personal speciality is beautiful bright crocheted ponchos of which she has produced hundreds over the years. At present Wendy is on leave of absence following a stay in hospital – and is in rehabilitation herself. Her enthusiasm is undimmed as is her pleasure in the results of her labor and encouragement. She proudly showed me the pile of sleeveless jerseys which has just been delivered by Janie Kessler who is running the knitting group in Wendy’s absence.
Wendy is very methodical and has everything on computer, including a file of photographs of the amazing work that is done in this group. There are even members of the Raanana knitting group in America and Australia who knit all year round and arrive on annual visits to Israel with suitcases full of their work. One such knitter is an expert on character dolls - each one with a personality of it's own. She brings 150 to 200 dolls every year; another knits warm woollen blankets; another arrived with 200 scarves in her case. This is truly an international effort.
We at ESRA salute Wendy Goldstein and her group of industrious ladies for the wonderful work that they do in the true spirit of our organization, under the outstanding leadership of Wendy.
Lynette Karp, originally from South Africa, is a nursery school teacher by profession and a writer and communicator by passion.