My Baby Is 13 Days Old And Doesnt Like Cloth Knitting For Charity

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Knitting For Charity

In a small hall, hidden just steps from the main street of a small town in Israel, there are 30 gracefully aging, English-speaking women who meet once a week to knit. For the past 13 years they have voluntarily knitted scarves, sweaters, vests, socks, blankets, toys and booties for thousands of poor and sick children, and other less fortunate people across Israel.

The knitting club started in the early 1990s around the time of the first Ethiopian immigration, says the group’s president, Wendy Goldstein. It was started by British-born Renee Lees. Originally the women just met for coffee, but then Lees realized they could use their time better, so she suggested they knit for the new immigrants while they talked. The Ethiopian children, they assumed, had never experienced winter and had no proper clothing for cold weather. Everyone agreed it was a great idea and the Esra Knitting Club was born.

Word spread quickly and the group grew to the point that the meetings were moved to a large room in Beit HaNoar. Today there are officially 46 knitters (including eight home knitters who are either younger than the typical group members, busier or physically unable to participate), although it is rare that all attend any given Tuesday meeting. While many of the women come to mix as well as knit, there are a few who drop by to pick up more wool and then leave. Goldstein buys most of the wool in bulk with cash donations and other yarn is donated directly.

The women have an inside joke about their relationship: “We’re an intimate community,” one of them says. It’s quirky, but completely accurate. They are all comfortable together. They finish each other’s sentences and if you ask one of them about her life before arriving in Israel, it’s very likely that at least two others will help tell the story. Spending an hour with these women is like visiting with your grandmother or favorite aunt. Most of them probably don’t realize they’re knitting because they’re busy enjoying each other’s company. And it’s contagious.

While all members are English speakers, many of them speak English only as a second or third language. Some came from the obvious places like South Africa, Great Britain and the United States, while others were born in Eastern European countries. There is even one native Israeli, but the women are quick to point out that she speaks good English.

As with any close family, most of them can tell you the group history: who joined when, who left and who later died. Unfortunately some of the original members of the band are no longer alive. The oldest member today is Esta Azouz, who took over as the knitting club leader after Renee retired from knitting 10 years ago. Today, Azouz is 103 years old and she no longer knits but she is still considered a full member. “Almost everyone here has some sort of physical challenge,” says Goldstein, “but somehow they all manage to do the most phenomenal work.”

And it’s phenomenal. It is impossible to leave there without craving several things. The sweaters are beautifully knitted in the most abundant colors. The dolls are so huggable. The afghans and baby blankets are just begging you to wrap yourself in them. And for anyone wondering, not one item is for sale.

“We knit for those who need it and we don’t ask questions,” says one group member. Unfortunately there are so many Israelis in need. From the newborn Ethiopians whose parents don’t realize that babies born in the Israeli winter have to go home wrapped up warm, to children from families who just can’t afford a good warm hat and sweater, there always seems to be an important project on the way.

“When I need something, I pick up the phone and call them,” says Debbie Shkedy, who is the head nurse of all Pediatric departments at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. According to Shkedy, the Knitting Club made hundreds of small blankets, booties, hats, dolls and sweaters in all sizes for the sick children and in some cases, for other members of the families. The dolls, in particular, are very important: “It feels so good to give a sick child something to hug,” says Shkedy, “and it makes a big difference in how the children relate to the staff.”

While no one has kept a complete tally of the last 16 years of work, the club did start recording its achievements three and a half years ago. According to their records, they knitted:

o 120 hats, 359 dolls, 248 blankets and countless bottles for cancer patients in the pediatric wards of Meir and Schnieder Children’s Hospitals

o 100 scarves for Beit Zimmerman Retirement Home

o 20 sweaters for former residents of Gush Katif who were temporarily without clothes

o 200 sweaters, 33 knee rugs and several hats, scarves and booties for the Forgotten People’s Fund of Netanya

o 118 items, including sweaters, hats and scarves for the Rashi School in Netanya

o 27 vests and 20 pairs of bedrock for Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana

o 69 sweaters, 16 baby blankets and many hats, scarves and booties for Lev Veneshema in Sefat

o 320 hats for children with cancer at Zichron Menachem in Jerusalem

o 210 knee blankets for people in wheelchairs at Beit Avot Mishan in Ra’anana

o 315 sweaters and several hats and scarves for This Land is Mind Fund in Ra’anana

o 21 sweaters and 13 blankets for a Kindergarten in Netanya

o 34 sweaters for Families in Ma’a lot

o 53 knee rugs for the Frail Care Section of Laniado Hospital

o 130 sweaters for Etzion School in Kfar Saba

o 75 sweaters and 50 knee blankets for poor families in Ra’anana

If that doesn’t leave you speechless, check out club member Hilda DeLowe who, alone, has knitted 200 baby blankets and lap rugs in the past year.

In the middle of the interview Natalie Goodman, a long-time knitter, packed three large bags of beautifully knitted items that were recently displayed to all members as part of the club’s weekly “Showtime”. Goodman will deliver toques and vests to her daughter who is the head nurse at Schneider Hospital Children’s Intensive Care Unit. Goodman isn’t young, and she doesn’t drive. She said it would take her three buses to get to Petach Tikvah, but she was discouraged.

“A lot of these kids lose their hair during their treatments,” Goodman explained as she packed, “and they need hats and sweaters to keep them warm.”

Lynn Adler, who, at 50, is the youngest member of the group, fell into knitting after many years away from it. “One day I was cleaning out a drawer and I found my knitting needles. I joined the group because these ladies are an inspiration to me.”

It seems like there is always more knitting to do. For example, one of the members noted, there are soldiers who need socks. However, at the end of the day, Doreen Rosen wraps it up nicely: “When you just give money to something, you never really know where it’s going, but we make clothes and we know exactly where they go. And we do it. together. It makes us feel good.”

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