Meet Paulina Ferber and Dana Samamian
Paulina, 70 years old, is a member of the Hevruta Seniors’ Group in Rishon Letzion and Dana, 37 years old, is a member of the Dror Israel Educators’ Kibbutz in Rishon Letzion and the facilitator of the Hevruta Seniors’ Group.
Hevruta was founded during the early period of the COVID pandemic when Israel was subject to lockdowns and seniors were barely leaving the house and suffering from loneliness and isolation. Groups of seniors were organized to meet weekly via Zoom, where they got to know one another, talk about themselves, talk about the country and society, learn about different topics together, and celebrate holidays and birthdays. And of course the facilitators from Dror Israel – Dana and Adi – are in touch regularly with all of the members to make sure that they are well, to help in an emergency, to visit when someone is sick, or of course just to lend a listening ear.
When the lockdowns ended and it was deemed safe, the group started to meet in person.
Paulina says, “I am very happy that we have this group. Because people who are alone need to express themselves. I assume that in every city there are lots of people like these, so there should be groups in which people can come and talk about their problems – or not just problems, good things too. And when someone has a birthday, we celebrate together. It gives a very good and special feeling to people who are alone.”
Dana and Paulina’s group in Rishon Letzion began with 6 members and now has over 20. They have continued to meet weekly for almost two years. All live very close to one another in the same neighborhood, so people who are less mobile – who walk for example with a walker – can attend.
Some also volunteer. Paulina volunteered for 8 years with the Police, and then started volunteering with children at a school. The volunteer spirit is also part of the purpose of the group, Paulina says, “The program contributes to [the seniors] themselves and also to the community. There are seniors who are embarrassed to ask for help from the authorities, but can ask their neighbors. So we have been in touch with other seniors in our neighborhood to make sure they have whatever they need.”
Dana is not only the facilitator of this group, but also the national coordinator of the Hevruta program, which has some 30 groups throughout Israel from Maalot in the north to Beer Sheva in the south. Hevruta is a program of MAKOM – the umbrella organization of over 200 mission-driven communities in Israel, including the Dror Israel kibbutzim, Machanot HaOlim, and many more.