HASC Center Mothers' Retreat
While waiting for the bus to the HASC Center Womens’ Retreat, last Sunday morning, I had the opportunity to observe the women arriving to the bus stop in front of the HASC Center Yeshiva Day Hab at 63rd Street corner 16th Avenue in Boro Park.
As cars and vans began pulling up, I realized that each mother’s arrival was a mini drama, all with a common denominator, as the exact same scene replayed itself again and again. The doors to the car or minivan were flung open and out came the father, the mother and more often than not, a folding car seat / carriage with a small child or baby wrapped in a furry blanket. And I began to wonder.
Each of the people I was observing was quite obviously the parent of a special needs child. My thoughts began to wander... ”Does the husband realize how much his wife needs this very special Mothers’ Retreat?” “Does he cherish her and thank her for being there day after day, caring for their special daughter or son?“
By the look of things, it seemed that the husbands genuinely acknowledged their wive’s care and deep dedication to the needs of their special child, and they fully realized that this Mothers’ Retreat is a gift that they really, truly want their wives to enjoy. These two days will exclusively offer rest, relaxation, fun, laughter, and entertainment, as well as the opportunity to meet other mothers with whom to share their deepest feelings of fear, as well as the joys, of raising a child with special needs.
There is much to be said for a Mothers’ Retreat, as it offers mothers entrance to an incomparable comfort zone. It is a unique experience, with a camaraderie that simply does not and cannot exist in another type of setting. Feelings run deep and strong and there are no barriers or interrupted waves of thoughts and dreams, as women open up and dig deep to face and express their challenges and draw strength from one another.
Sharing the exciting events and programs prepared by the staff of the HASC Center Mothers Retreat, letting loose in song and dance and dissolving in laughter can only be felt woman to woman and mother to mother. Being in the company of other mothers and having fabulous fun times generates a rare blend of teamwork and enrichment. Enthusiasm is palpable as mothers eagerly escape daily routines to play games, get involved in treasure hunts, crafting, and other exciting projects and adventures. Of course, everyone enjoyed the inspirational speakers invited to speak at the Retreat, suffusing the assemblage with bitachon, courage and emunah to continue the fabulous care and nurturing of their special needs child, as well as the rest of the family.
From the first moment of “Welcome to our exciting Travel Getaway” held at the magnificently regal Hilton Pearl River Hotel, we were all treated as royal guests. We were shown to our beautifully appointed hotel rooms with the most comfortable amenities. And the Program began, organized and arranged by the very talented HASC Center Staff - Devorah Kahn, Bracha Lavrinoff, Beilu Freund, Lea Spangelet, and Raizy Weingarten (if I inadvertently left anyone out, please forgive)! Every hour of the day was specifically appointed with action – packed activities and events.
What is a Getaway without a proper theme? Not to be out-done, this year’s Getaway theme was “Travel – All Over the World”. First thing upon arrival, each participant was presented with a fabulously useful Passport Wallet, as well as a beautiful, waterproof, travel garment bag, definitely starting the event with a feeling of “I’m on my way... Travel here I come!“
There were representative performers from all over the world, including a Chinese Acrobat, performing unbelievable feats of strength and grace, as well as a comedienne from London, England regaling the audience with true to life English humor. Following right along was an International Lunch Fiesta, featuring trademark foods from many countries that we all are familiar with, such as Italian Pasta in many shapes, tasty ravioli, deliciously creamy fettuccini, penne vodka and more. We also were treated to a positively delectable French Onion Soup that was a favorite for doubles, and of course, Israeli falafel with salad and fries – who could mistake this unique flavor?
For mothers who barely have time to sit down to a quick meal at home, the luxurious dining experience at the Retreat was a very welcome treat. All meals were served in the beautifully appointed dining room, where every meal was an occasion. Dinners were formal affairs, complete with candles, crystal candelabras, floral arrangements, elegant table settings and tantalizing appetizers and entrees. First Class Caterers of Passaic, New Jersey outdid themselves in preparing each dish to culinary perfection. Every dessert was outstanding, indescribably beautiful, as well as a feast for the palate.
As we filled up on delicious culinary cuisine, we also were privileged to fill our souls with much needed, and much anticipated fun and laughter. There was had a rousing round of playing games and ball, grinning at our ability to run, jump, throw and catch – something many of us have not done in a long, long time. Next - Imagine a roomful of grown up ladies boisterously singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat“, accompanied by the deep hum of a harmonica. We laughed more than we sang, but it was fabulous.
But our souls needed more. We craved words of encouragement, pats on the back and praise for going on with their daily lives of caring, comforting and nurturing their families with the challenges we constantly must face. We came to the Retreat drained of energy, sapped of strength, and emotionally torn and worn out. We needed to hear words especially directed to our neshama. We needed words that reach deep beyond the surface, where we could draw comfort and strength to continue day after day, night after night.
Rebbetzin Shlomtzi Weiss was just the person to deliver these important words of chizuk and emunah, infusing strength into weary hearts and souls. Thought upon deep thought, sentence after sentence, Rebbetzin Weiss assured the audience that everyone was created by Hakadosh Baruch Hu with perfection and loving kindness, and that everyone is exactly where Hashem wants us to be and that we are all given precisely the challenges we can handle with the capabilities and tools to cope. We could feel the palpable shift in the atmosphere as we all absorbed Rebbetzin Weiss’s deep message of emunah, giving every one of us the opportunity to realize we are not alone! Hashem, Who gives us challenges, Holds our hand as we bravely wend our way through these challenges. May we be zoche to greet Mashiach soon in our days, and may all of our pain and sorrows come to an end.
With these thoughts filling our minds and hearts, we joined together for a deeply inspiring kumzitz, singing gentle songs of yearning and bitachon, giving comfort and warmth, with the message that we must continue, go on, and hope for a better day.
Spontaneous dancing followed, with the joy that only Am Yisroel can express. Smiling, laughing, and singing, we spun round and round in circles, before flopping into our seats with delicious fatigue.
The two Retreat days were action packed with delightful entertainment, activities as well as gifted, meaningful speakers. Salsa dancing (Spanish dancing at its best!) was a challenge and lots of fun as we tried to follow the intricate footwork of the talented teacher. But everyone tried – and that was the main thing. To top it all off, an exciting Chinese Auction was held, with stunning gifts and prizes to fit every winner’s wish list.
And so it went. Joy, laughter, soul food as well as deep, raw, emotion - all coming together for the benefit of brave, phenomenally fantastic women - the mothers of Hashem’s special children. We enjoyed two entire days of bliss; of change of scenery and changes in menu and habit. Mother to Mother, friend to friend, as new friendships were formed; friendships made of common bonds and challenges; friends with whom to share heartache and happiness in the days to come.
There is something very wonderful in mothers of special needs children having specific “Me Time” with like minded women. When we left the HASC Center Retreat, we were suffused with confidence and pride in our special purpose in life, ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow with the full knowledge that we are not alone; a Special Sister is right there to laugh and cry with, and Hashem will always hold our hand, to guide us and give untold strength to carry on.
HASC Center has gone above and beyond in preparing this fantastic Mothers Retreat 2019, and their endeavor was indeed blessed with success. Success that was visible on everyone’s face as we bid farewell, hoping that the memories of this beautiful event will linger until our final Geulah, very soon.