Volunteer medical aid organization Yad Sarah is opening a new multi-service center in Ashdod, Israel’s largest city in the South and home to one of Israel’s largest Russian-speaking olim, or immigrant, communities.
The 32,000-square-foot space will allow Yad Sarah to provide support to more elderly and disabled people in need of medical equipment, legal aid and social welfare. The new building will include a day rehabilitation center, lending center, exhibition and guidance center, emergency call center, offices and classrooms, and an equipment repair area.
“Yad Sarah is committed to helping all Jews, regardless of background or status,” Executive Board member David Oberman said in a statement to the Journal. “Their plans to massively expand their operations in Ashdod demonstrates that commitment. The level of care and sense of community that Yad Sarah provides and promotes will continue to strengthen the city.”
The Ashdod branch opened 30 years ago with volunteers working out of a small public shelter located between two low-income housing units. As the city’s population began to increase, the branch has attempted to meet the population’s growing demand, according to Executive Director of Friends of Yad Sarah, Adele Goldberg.
“After the influx of nearly 90,000 Russian immigrants in the 1990s and 2000s, our Ashdod branch needed to scale quickly to continue offering residents Yad Sarah’s life-changing services,” Goldberg said. “The old branch space had barely enough room for volunteers to work and process medical equipment loans—much less to store it. Volunteers often had to work outside to repair equipment. Now, in addition to meeting these vital needs, this branch will be able to offer new programs.”
“Friends of Yad Sarah is the U.S.-based support organization for the largest volunteer-staffed organization in Israel, providing a range of free or low-cost health and home care support services that save the Israeli economy several hundred million dollars each year in hospitalization and medical costs,” according to the organization.
Ashdod’s Yad Sarah currently handles 20,000 visits for equipment loans each year, lending out hospital beds, patient hoists, wheelchairs, oxygen equipment, home necklace alarms and breast pumps.
The new programs will include physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, music and art therapy, support groups, legal advice, community services, and vans to transport people in wheelchairs.
Yad Riva offers free legal aid to the elderly at Yad Sarah branches across Israel, benefitting Russian immigrant adults who seek to mitigate abusive situations, obtain welfare, and maintain independence.
“We have a long waiting list of Russian-speaking homebound people who would like to receive volunteer visitors,” Ida Strachman, a Russian immigrant who helps recruit Russian-speaking volunteers, said. “There are many elderly Russians who would use the free legal aid offered by our Yad Riva program if they were able to communicate with the staff lawyer.”
Construction for the new facility is expected to begin in October of 2019. Alongside the opening of the building, an awareness campaign about Yad Sarah’s services will be launched within the Russian community.