By stopping at the Family Camp on our way to Cherkassy, we met about 100 people over Shabbat. So, when we got to Cherkassy, it was like seeing old friends. For our first full day in Cherkassy, we started at Hesed Dorot.
Among the many things it does, Hesed Dorot is home to a Senior Center named for Mickey Fried. His daughter, Paula Saginaw, was supposed to lead our mission, but when her mother Sylvia Fried passed away last week, Paula could not possibly join us. The Senior Center serves seniors who are homebound and would not otherwise get out and about. A bus picks them up twice a month and brings them to the Hesed Center where they spend time in a group of about 8-10 seniors. The group we met was comprised of 5 married couples who were in the middle of a game – asking each couple questions in order to determine which member of the couple was more quick to get angry. They paused long enough to share some of their stories – such as this gentleman in the photo who was holding up photos of his parents, both of whom served in Soviet Army.
Hesed Dorot is also home to a Seniors Club for seniors who are able to get to the Hesed Center on their own. We just happened to visit when the music group was meeting. There a number of different groups – the men’s group, the women’s group, the literature group and more. We enjoyed singing “Tum Balalaika” to with a violin accompaniment. We then visited the Nursery program which has slowed down for summer vacation, but still gets a few participants.
And then we visited the computer lab which was established through Greater MetroWest funding in 2003. That means that the equipment is all 10 years old. Nonetheless, both kids and adults take computer classes – the sign says “Computer Class” in Russian. Also, the community Jewish newspaper is produced in the Computer Lab.
After our visit to the Hesed Center, we moved on to a public Kindergarten that houses the Jewish Kindergarten. It’s a private/public partnership. The entire building hosts 11 classes of 25 children – three of them are Jewish classes. Although they call it kindergarten, we would probably call it a Pre-School/Daycare program. The kids are in school from 8:00am to 6::00pm and receive three meals a day. School is free since it is a public school. Parents have to pay for the meals. In addition to learning about the kindergarten, we also painted the curb which surrounds the playground of the school.
We did a lot more, but I don’t want to be late for the bus. We are on our way to Babi Yar – site of one of the worst massacres during the Holocaust.