Five years ago, Liti Haramaty wasn’t planning to start a growing support system with a membership in the thousands. She just wanted to visit her eema in Tel Aviv. But what she saw got her started down the path to meet a dire need that many face.
Haramaty grew up in Tel Aviv and got an undergraduate degree at Ben Gurion University followed by a master’s in oceanography at Bar Ilan University. During postgraduate work she met an American man conducting research in her field in Israel and they started dating. She came to the US in 1989 for a summer course in coral ecology and, while traveling, visited her boyfriend in New York. As their son describes it to her, “You came to visit the U.S. and forgot to leave.”
Liti and Kevin married in 1990 and she took positions in the New York/New Jersey area—as a researcher at Stony Brook University, a member of the scientific advisory committee at NY Sea Grant and a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory. In 1999, she started a position as a researcher at the Rutgers University Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, where she has worked for 22 years. She and her family live in East Brunswick.
In the summer of 2016, Haramaty and her son were visiting Israel. They stopped by her mother’s apartment, where she was concerned to see an accumulation of unpaid bills, unopened mail and a growing number of fix-it projects that needed attention. Not long after that, she learned that her father’s health (her parents are divorced) had started getting worse.
When she returned to the U.S., she consulted with her brother Lior, an entrepreneur and high-tech innovator who lives in Bergenfield. Working together, they found solutions to many of the challenges facing their parents. But these challenges were by no means simple; they included:
How do you help a parent manage their finances when Israel banks won’t talk to you without an access code, and they only send the code to telephone numbers in Israel?
How do you assist a parent who can no longer handle grocery shopping and food prep, with obtaining healthy meals at reasonable costs while you are overseas?
How do you understand Israeli citizens’ rights and the best ways to gain support from the Israeli government, while not being there to visit the appropriate offices?
As time went on, the siblings developed a growing expertise in how to handle the many long-distance challenges of assisting their aging parents. Their knowledge and network increased, and as Haramaty describes it, if they couldn’t find an answer, “We knew who to ask.” They began to receive inquiries on how to handle the challenges, first from friends and then from friends of friends.
They began to realize that there were more and more people like them—Israelis living in the US and other places, scrambling to find ways to help their aging parents “back home.” Haramaty decided at first to form a Facebook group, to promote information sharing. She whimsically called it “We’re living abroad and our parents are getting old in Israel.” The group grew and grew and eventually attracted 2,500 members, with people asking questions, sharing ideas and helping each other out.
Haramaty saw the response and understood that a more comprehensive and organized approach was needed, to store and share all the information they’d gathered. Lior suggested that beyond just a good website, they also need a company so they could negotiate with businesses and vendors.
The organization they founded, HaHorim (“Our parents” in Hebrew), now features a five person management team—founders Liti and Lior, along with vice president for sales and marketing Gal Halperin and vice president for business development Einat Roter Roy, and comprehensive (both based in Israel) and technology support expert Avital Spivak, a resident of Hackensack whose parents live in Israel.
HaHorim has attracted over 5,000 people who’ve registered at their website (https://hahorim.com), with many members from the United States and others from Europe, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Australia, Africa and Asia.
Lior explained, in a press release: “Our website focuses on finding solutions to these obstacles [that caregivers of Israeli parents face]. We publish reliable information on topics that many don’t know about or understand the importance of, such as elders’ and Holocaust survivors’ rights, power of attorney, living wills and more.”
Liti added, in an interview with The Jewish Link, that the website provides lists of nursing homes and assisted living residences in Israel, reliable handymen and women, and other helpful information. The website also features monthly meetings over Zoom with a variety of geriatric experts in Israel, such as lawyers, social workers, caregivers and others, who offer practical advice to viewers; these presentations are archived on the website. One of the goals of the site to is “allow you to prepare, before you go to Israel” to assist your parents.
One aspect of the website that is growing and receiving a great deal of response are support groups offered in conjunction with Israeli-based groups. The Circles group provides two emotional “support circles” in small groups once a week, in Hebrew; members of HaHorim receive discounts on the cost. There are also Zoom support groups for children of parents struggling with dementia or Alzheimers; these groups are provided by the Israeli group EMDA.
Haramaty stated that by registering on the website, members of HaHorim receive a monthly email newsletter with news, updates and information on events. They also received discounts from service providers, stores and suppliers who’ve affiliated with HaHorim.
One member of Hahorim, reached by The Jewish Link, was very enthusiastic about the site.
“Taking care of older parents is a very stressful thing, which is harder when you are far away in a different country,” said Nava Eisenberg, who lives outside Boston, Massachusetts. “We were so stressed, but with HaHorim we had a place to talk, ask questions and get advice and help. During COVID, I joined a support group Liti organized in collaboration with EMDA. It’s very convenient for people who are in a different time zone but share the same culture and language.”
To learn more about HaHorim, please go to: https://hahorim.com
By Harry Glazer