Dedication of the Research Center for Rehabilitation Sciences in memory of Lillian and David E. Feldman

The following was excerpted from a speech given by Suzie, daughter of Lillian and David E. Feldman, at the dedication ceremony of the Research Center in November 2022:

“I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be here today and tell you about my parents – whose memories are being honored by the dedication of the Research Center – and also to talk about rehabilitation, hope, and the Negev. I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation and thanks the entire staff of the Kaylie Rehabilitation Medical Center. In addition, I want to refer to the place itself – the Negev. I cannot explain David Ben-Gurion’s vision for the development of the Negev, but perhaps he was influenced by Psalm chapter 126, verse 4:

“Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like watercourses in the Negev”

Psalm 126 appears in the fifth book of Psalms, which is attributed to the ideas of the return of Zion and repairing the world (“tikkun olam”). The word Negev has several meanings, one being “a place wiped dry of water,” meaning a desert. The verse implies that the return to the land, the return to Zion, is like rivers in the Negev, strong streams of water in a dry desert, a necessary and welcome phenomenon. Viewing this in a picturesque and poetic way, you can say that there is a basis in the Bible for the Negev being part of the national rehabilitation and the national hope!

About The Feldman Family

The late David E. Feldman was born in London at the end of September 1926. Therefore, he was unable to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah thirteen years later, in 1939. (At the age of 80, he read from the Torah for the first time!) A few weeks before reaching Bar Mitzvah age, World War II broke out, and David and his sister were evacuated to the countryside outside of London, to a town called Saffron Walden, while his older brothers and sister served in the Royal Air Force and the military police. During the war, David was adopted by a Christian family. This family had never met a Jew and was quite alarmed that David fasted on Yom Kippur, not even drinking a single sip of water.

After the war, David studied economics and statistics at the London School of Economics and thus was the only child in his family to attend university. When he graduated in 1948, he began working at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, and 3 years later, he continued his work at the UN in New York. David would say that his joining the UN in 1948 was like a small ‘tikkun olam’, repairing the world which was desperately needed after World War II. His job as an economist at the UN was to help people in developing countries, particularly Africa, and he prepared an algorithm for the distribution of a budget of millions of dollars of economic aid to these developing countries. Perhaps this experience of helping people who were presented with fewer opportunities due to living in the periphery contributed to David’s desire to help people who are underprivileged.

In Suzie’s words: “My father was also very generous on a personal level with his private fortune. He donated a lot of money as well as his time to help people, always with a beaming smile on his face. He felt that he was fortunate and therefore always happily donated and expressed much gratitude.”

The late Lillian Ruth Feldman was born in New York. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks OBM wrote that the meaning of the word ‘ruth’ is ‘kindness’, after the biblical character, Ruth. Therefore, the meaning of the name ‘Lillian Ruth’ is ‘a flower of kindness’. And indeed, she was. Lillian modestly helped many people on a regular basis and was an exemplary model of respecting one’s parents.

Lillian worked as a dental hygienist and later as an elementary school teacher. A year after completing her Master’s degree in education, she became ill with Multiple Myeloma, a type of cancer. She bravely fought against the disease and tried not to be a burden to anyone.

Suzie, her daughter, says: “Perhaps one of the most impressive things for me, especially in the current age of hyper-communication, is that my mother did not tell her own mother (my grandmother) that she had cancer in order not to cause her unnecessary grief. My mother was strong, modest, and kind-hearted.”

“My mother did art therapy using watercolors while she was sick. I chose one of her paintings with colorful balloons in a blue sky, an amateur, simple piece of art. This painting was not created with the intent to be published, so much so that there is not even a signature since it was painted as part of the therapeutic process. Balloons are fragile, like life itself, as rehabilitation patients experience firsthand. Yet, balloons symbolize joy and optimism, perhaps because of the association with birthday celebrations and celebrations in general. Balloons also symbolize liberty or freedom, whether it is freedom from limitations, aspiration for independent functioning, release from pain, or and longing for calm. Whatever it may be, all interpretations are valid. I added the trilingual text “There is hope” to the image to convey a message of encouragement and hope to all those who are recovering here at ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran.” 

We hope that the by-products and findings of the research done at the Feldman Research Center for Rehabilitation Sciences will improve the quality of life of all those being rehabilitated at the Kaylie Rehabilitation Medical Center at ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, in Israel, and throughout the world.