Janet Kiesari (far right) with ‘Team Rishon’ ... Marion Levy, Naomi Aharoni, Lorna Toube, Shirley Frenkel and Lucille Reefe   Photo: Zvi of Foto Shop Rishon LeZion

The byline which appears on the ESRA website: "one organization - so many good causes" became a reality for me one beautiful balmy day when I met Janet Kiesari from Rishon LeZion to talk about what this enthusiastic, motivating volunteer does for ESRA.

Growing up in England where, as early as she can remember, her home was constantly filled with activities, projects and people related to her mother's dedicated interest, which was serving the Jewish blind of England, Janet was forever inspired. And so a seed was sown to be of service to the less privileged.

Janet Chait's fervent Zionistic dream was realized when she came to Israel in 1967 to stay. The opportunity to volunteer became a reality when, after many years in the work force as a managerial organizer in various capacities, she retired. Janet explored a few avenues and organizations where she offered her services, but never found the right place to satisfy her vision. One day she casually picked up an issue of ESRAmagazine, liked what she read and called the office to meet with the Executive.

So began her association with ESRA. She organized the first meeting of ESRA in Rishon which was held in her home seven years ago. Lorna Taube, Lucille Reefe and her husband, (since deceased) and Shirley Frenkel came to that meeting. They came, they heard, they were conquered, and today the women of that original group form the ESRA committee of Rishon. In addition, they are a band of loyal, closely-knit friends. Others have come and gone but the original group remains.

Lorna and Shirley at that time spoke of their passion for knitting and asked Janet’s advice on what to do with the 30 odd sweaters they had completed. Janet took control. She organized, in cooperation with the Rishon LeZion Municipality Welfare Department, for ESRA to present those sweaters at an after-school center to children who came from impoverished  home backgrounds. The volunteers came out of that experience humbled and inspired.

Seven years later,  they had 340 sweaters with matching scarves to distribute. All the items had been  hand knitted by the knitting group that has grown both in number and in enthusiasm, having been augmented by  keen knitters amongst the local residents of sheltered housing at “Ad 120". From 100 sweaters a year originally produced by the knitting group, last Chanukah they distributed 340 sweaters, and the committee visited 23 after-care centers to present the children with their wonderful, colorful warm garments.

In addition, recipients of the garments were given Chanukah gift parcels - cookies and sweets, a little bag of kindness - handed to them by the angels of ESRA whom they have got to know by name and whom they welcome warmly at every visit. The only problem now is to find money to pay for the wool which is distributed to all the knitters to keep this heartwarming project going.

There are two other projects on the go, addressing the social side of ESRA. With the late Audrey Goodman's encouragement and recommendations, the group now offers three film shows a year in the form of a worthwhile documentary with accompanying discussion by the producers or directors of each film.

There are also lecture evenings and game evenings arranged for the English speaking public at a nominal charge. The municipality has provided a small hall for their use, in appreciation for the services that ESRA provides. Janet is a dynamo at persuading those who can, to help their efforts, and she is acutely aware of any need that has to be addressed.

Three years ago Janet organized for ESRA to adopt a specific after-school center. The group has taken responsibility to mentor this center, which caters for Ethiopian, Russian and Israeli children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Every month they hold a birthday party for those children who have celebrated their birthdays, since the poor circumstances of their home lives often don't allow for celebration of special occasions. The volunteers make these days very special. They play games with the children, sometimes organize entertainment, and always provide a few treats. Naomi Aroni, one of the members of ESRA Rishon LeZion, has taken on this project as her responsibility. Everyone is involved but Naomi is in charge. The latest new project involves giving the children music lessons. This has proved very popular and concerts have already been held by the groups, affording much pride and joy to all who perform and to all who attend them.

ESRA Rishon LeZion is never idle. There is an English tutoring program involving 15 tutors in local schools, the coordinator being Marion Levy, another dedicated volunteer. Following this, they have now extended the English lessons to adults needing this service, and have received a positive response from 14 people replying  to an advertisement requesting volunteers for this project.

The ESRA committee is involved with everything - entertaining, catering, organizing and planning – all full-time volunteering jobs. The more that ESRA does, the more recognition and appreciation they get from the public in Rishon LeZion. 

Janet is the chairperson of ESRA Rishon LeZion and coordinator of the Southern region. She leads by example and would like to encourage many more volunteers to join the committee. The joy and satisfaction of being of service to those less privileged is a major mitzvah to the giver and to the receiver and only requires a little spare time and the will to help and to be of service.

To contact ESRA Rishon call Janet 054 733 5055 or email      janetk@netvision.net.il

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Lynette Karp

Today a resident of Kfar Saba, Lynette and her husband Matthew came on aliyah from South Africa in 2008. A Nursery school teacher by profession. A writer and communicator by passion. Today a voluntee...
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