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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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Aliyah and Keeping Young with Yisrael

After they made Aliyah, Randi discovered she was pregnant with Yisrael, who has Down syndrome.

Yisrael Simcha, age 6

Yisrael Simcha, age 6
Photo Credit: Michael Lipkin

V: What would you tell prospective Olim who are parents of children with Down’s syndrome?

Randi: I can only speak towards this portion of his life in terms of recommending Israel versus America. I take things one year at a time. I would definitely recommend things from a therapeutic level here. I do not feel he could have gotten anything near what he is getting here in New Jersey and we would have gone bankrupt!

Still things are expensive for us because we do go private for certain therapies for Yisrael because there are certain therapists who have that much more expertise in the field, particularly with kids with Down’s syndrome and they do not work in the Kupa [HMO]. But still—it doesn’t come close to what we would have paid for similar therapies in the States.

Yisrael channeling Gene Kelly (photo credit: courtesy Michael Lipkin)

Yisrael channeling Gene Kelly (photo credit: courtesy Michael Lipkin)

V: I think it notable that both of you were involved in HASC and that Randi is an OT. Do you see a spiritual lesson in that in terms of being the “right” parents for Yisrael Simcha? Or is that a terrible suggestion—that if you volunteer with special kids, you might end up with one of your own?

Randi: Certainly that’s a thought given our backgrounds and the ease with which we accepted Yisrael into our hearts and lives. However, also given our experience, we know of too many cases where this was not the case, for example where children with Down’s syndrome were left behind in the hospital, abandoned. It’s never smart to second guess God’s “intentions.”

I think we were pre-prepared and nothing was a shock. Very little was a surprise. We had experience—we were 90% ready for a Down syndrome child. On a behavioral level we were prepared to raise him and handle him. We have perfected our parenting styles to be the right parents for him.

Being more rules-oriented in order to help Yisrael develop the discipline that he will need in his life has been an effort. He behaves on the level of a 3-4 year-old. But we still make demands on him.

V: What about age wise? Is it hard to keep up with a little one at this stage in your life? Especially one with special needs?

Michael: Yisrael keeps me young. Randi does feel more tired, less energetic.

Randi: My friends all have empty nests and I don’t really have that: my own time. I rest. I get him from Gan [nursery school]. We do something almost every afternoon. Yisrael doesn’t go to bed until 9:30 at night.

I laugh because I’m out there in the afternoons with the 25-35 year-old moms. I guess he’s keeping me young and I don’t know it.

Feel free to write me: Varda at kars4kids dot org and I will share your stories here in this space, anonymous or attributed as you prefer.

Varda Meyers Epstein

About the Author: Blogger and mother of 12, Varda Meyers Epstein is a third-generation Pittsburgher who made aliyah at age 18 and never looked back. A proud settler who lives in the biblical Judean heartland, Varda serves as the communications writer for the nonprofit car donation program Kars4Kids, a Guidestar Gold medal charity.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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