The star event of March month was definitely Purim celebration. Odessa Migdal JCC celebrated the holiday, as always, in the circle of its big family: Mazel Tov, Beitenu center and many other groups’ participants. For two days and nights, about 300 participants and spectators including the youngest ones – babies and toddlers – gathered under the roof of the JCC.
This time, though, it was decided not to have a number of purimshpiels but to make one, which would include performances by all the groups and clubs. The only exception was children’s celebration at Mazel Tov and Beitenu Center, during which the children listened to Megilat Esther, had a concert with their own participation, and enjoyed sweets and noise from ra-ashana. The children’s party ended with a great surprise – the local circus brought a group of several animals to the children. During the concert, two drama groups presented their vision of the holiday: one of the performances was with dancing and singing, the other one – in the form of poems. Thus, there were different interpretations of Esther, Aman, Mordechai and other main heroes of the holiday.
The main purimshpiel in the JCC was coordinated by Students’ Club whose members had been taking initiatives to organize various celebrations in an original way, be it hippy- Chanukah or retro party. As always, the evening was full of surprises, fun and joy.
BIRTHDAY PARTY AT ALEX’S HOME
It is a usual thing to hold days of birthday children every month in Mazel Tov and Beitenu centers. For all the children, especially those that come from the so-called “group at-risk”, such events are of utmost importance. For Alex from Odessa, his 13th birthday was probably the happiest one, as about 25 guests – teachers, volunteers, children and parents from the JCC, Beitenu and Mazel Tov programs - came to the small apartment where he lives with his grandparents on March 16th.
Before visiting Alex, one could hardly ever think that a sociable and smart boy dreams of making at least a few steps by himself, whenever it may happen. The doctors are almost sure it will happen after one more surgery has been performed.
Alex was born on March 15, 1994, in the United States of America, after his parents had immigrated there. When Alex was born, he at once was diagnosed with a severe disease – cerebral paralysis. Alex’s parents did their utmost to treat him and make him walk himself, but all their endeavors were in vain. He never walked and could only move around the apartment in a wheelchair. In addition to his severe disease, Alex had a surgery on his heart that resulted in speech impediment.
When Alex was a little boy, another tragedy came to their home – Alex’s mother passed away from cancer. All his relatives, scared of the boy’s disabilities and making excuses of having no time to look after him properly, rejected the boy. His father, busy at works from morning till night, could not survive either, so first he took Alex to a boarding school and, in the end, brought him to Ukraine, the city of Odessa. Here, after several psychological traumas due to his mother’s death and the terrible memories of the boarding school, the boy was left with his grandparents. Since then, for about 3 years, Alex has been living in Odessa.
The boy’s grandparents have taken guardianship after Sasha, and now are raising him with a patient care (both of them are the war veterans; grandmother is almost 76, grandfather – 75). A monthly pension for disabled children, which Sasha currently receives from the government, is 309 grivnyas ($61). His grandparents sold everything they had in their home including their dacha grand plot in order to keep on medical treatment. Alex had such medical treatment in Odessa Children’s Rehabilitation Center of Boris Litvak (known in Odessa as “House with Angel”) and in a specialized children’s spa.
Alex has been a participant of Beitenu program since April 2005. He receives vital assistance in the form of monthly food packages. Not less important assistance that he receives from the Jewish community is spiritual support. Beitenu educator regularly delivers classes and necessary exercises to his home (Alex loves reading and has learned a great deal of poems by heart); Mazel Tov coordinator Yulia Maksimyuk tries to visit the boy very often.
The recent (July 2006) surgery that was possible thanks to the JDC support (the total cost of the operation was $300, JDC has provided $250) is likely to become a very significant stage in Alex’s life: some time after the surgery, the constraint of his legs has considerable decreased, and the intensive therapy with massages he was not able to have without extreme pain before has now become much more efficient. As per doctors, the next surgery that needs to be done in about a year, should even enable Alex to step out of his wheelchair!
It seemed on that day – March 16th - the tiny apartment would never house so many people at one, but it did. Alex, sitting in his wheelchair, could not stop smiling and laughing with happiness, his grandmother would wipe away tears from her eyes, thankful for the gifts and sweets, birthday wishes and surprises the guests had brought with them. To culminate the joyful day, a trick-player was invited to the celebration. Alex and all the children and teenagers loved watching the tricks and also being taught how to do that.