April 14, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 14, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Making Dreams a Reality: How Shalva Was Born

Highlighting: ‘Dreams Never Dreamed: A Memoir’ by Kalman Samuels. Toby Press, published 2020, English. Paperback; 368 pages. ISBN: 978-1-59264-525-1.

Many of us begin our young lives with hopes, dreams and expectations. Over time we often get caught in the nitty-gritty of little things that bog down the enjoyment we could have from our every day. Certainly that was not the case of Kalman and Malki Samuels. Kerry, as Kalman was then known by his friends back home in Vancouver, grew up in a traditional Jewish family, and Malki was the daughter of Holocaust survivors who grew up in Israel. She and Kalman met through a rav who knew him and another who knew her.

Their life experience expanded once they began sharing their tale of the birth of their son Yossi, their second child. Yossi was a healthy baby boy until one ordinary day just two weeks prior to his first birthday. He was taken by his mother to the local well-baby clinic for his DPT injection. Within just a few hours Malki noticed significant changes in Yossi’s behavior. From a normal bright-eyed infant he gradually became an infant whose body lay still and listless most of the time.

The Samuels frantically went from doctor to doctor receiving little information. They felt that it had to be the injection, but absolutely no one was able to agree with such a diagnosis. Unfortunately Israel’s health authorities already had the knowledge that the batch of vaccine they were using was dangerously flawed. An unwritten decision was made somewhere to not discuss with anyone that the vaccine was still being administered to children.

As I read their story I remembered the many comments by doctors, by neighbors, by our children’s friends and even teachers as being very similar to the negative reactions that the Samuels received in Israel. Yes indeed, the Samuels family and our family, the Glicks, in many ways, had much in common.

What I think we had most in common was our decision to bite the bullet and gain from the experience of having a child with special needs, teaching others along the way. And the Samuels went further, establishing the world-renowned Shalva Center, which began in their apartment.

The name Shalva was chosen by Malki. As she said, “shalva” means peace of mind, or serenity in English. “It’s simple, it’s gentle and it describes exactly what we want to provide,” she said.

It was Malki, who, from her own experience, understood the need for stimulation for her son and others like him, and who realized what young mothers could gain by meeting together in a center where they could learn from each other. She also understood the need for respite care so that families would have time to spend catering to other family members without the extra burden of caring for the child who demanded so much of their attention.

The Samuels family did eventually take legal action against several parties: the neurologist who treated their child; Connaught Laboratories and Rafa, the Canadian and Israeli pharmaceutical companies that had manufactured and mixed the vaccines; the city of Jerusalem, which provided services for immunization; and the state of Israel, whose Health Ministry is responsible for ensuring the health of Israel’s population. Years went by before their case was settled.

From a small apartment to a larger apartment, sacrificing their own families’ space to make more room available to Shalva participants, Kalman and Malki left no stone unturned. Kalman became a master fundraiser in his soft, inexperienced way. Malki was—and still is—the guiding light making each dream a reality. For anyone who has seen the Shalva Center, they all acknowledge what I mean.

Procuring the site and having to go to court with neighbors who opposed its existence did not stop the wheels of dreams from churning. Passion and drive allowed the building to be constructed. Today, no one is turned away from this amazing facility and its breathtaking curriculum. What goes on there each day is miraculous.

Yossi’s story and how he, despite his many challenges, was able to become a celebrity in his own right; his brilliance despite the many roadblocks he had to overcome; his means of communicating despite his total hearing loss and blindness is mind-boggling alone. Read about how he visited as a guest of President George W. Bush in the White House. The amazing Shalva Band has its own story of how it was started; it’s too much of a challenge to transcribe and review here. There were tears shed while I read this, and moments where I found myself laughing out loud.

There is so much more that I could say. I have visited the Shalva Center several times and am bowled over each time that I arrive. There is nothing like it in the world. This book is a must for anyone who doubts that dreams can really come true. It exemplifies how hard work and deep belief can bring a dream into fruition.

By Nina Glick

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles