Dementia help for Sydney man living in Jerusalem

June 30, 2015 by Michael Kuttner
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A 90-yr-old former Sydney resident now living in Jerusalem has received a special iPod to help deal with Alzheimer’s.

Since 1981, Melabev, a non-profit organization and the leader in Israel for the care of those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, has been providing ground breaking therapies for the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding areas. It is interesting to note that of the many who benefit from its unique activities about 40% are Holocaust survivors.

Staffed by professionals and volunteers (including J-Wire’s Israel correspondent), this amazing organization improves the lives of both those suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia and their families.

Julien Friedman helps Jennie fit the iPod

Julian Friedman watches Jennie help Steven Shelley with the iPod

This week a most heartwarming and joyous event took place. Bar Mitzvah boy, Julian Friedman together with Liam, his younger brother, parents, grandparents and friends, all from California, visited the Melabev English-speaking day care center in Jerusalem. They came as part of Julian’s Bar Mitzvah, to make a presentation of I-pods, the purpose of the “Soothing Sounds” project he helped to initiate in the USA. Motivated by his great-grandmother’s inability to speak after years of dementia, he and his brother decided to use the power of music to reach her. Loading up her favorite tunes on an iPod she listened day after day. Nobody knew whether this would help but lo and behold after just one month, their beloved great grandmother started communicating again.

With the active encouragement of Julian’s parents and the generosity of friends the project to provide iPods with pre-programmed music to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients developed. Julian decided as part of his Bar Mitzvah to make an initial donation of two of these I-pods. Their visit to Melabev was a highlight of the Bar Mitzvah celebrations.

There is an Australian connection to this wonderful event.

One of the recipients is Hungarian born ex Sydney resident, Steven Shelly (Szili Pista) now living in Jerusalem. Steven, who is nearly 91 years old, married his wife Agi in Budapest and in 1949 at the age of 25 emigrated to Sydney. Despite having been in a Russian prison camp, his zest for life and hard work ethic resulted in him eventually starting his own company dealing with air conditioning and refrigeration.

His two children, Robert living in Sydney and Jennie living in Jerusalem are very proud of his achievements in Australia where he had to start from scratch after the war. Now widowed, he came to Israel in 2008 for his granddaughter’s wedding and stayed. Steven is a proud grandfather of seven grandchildren with, Robert’s daughter, Ariella, only 18 months old. Thirteen great grandchildren in Israel make sure that he is always surrounded by loving family and is the constant center of attention.

Suffering from Alzheimer’s he has not spoken for four years. Steven lives in a “granny” flat attached to Jennie’s home and attends Melabev three times a week where incidentally his daughter is on the staff. Many Australians and Sydneysiders in particular may remember Jennie as the subject of the book, “Black becomes a Rainbow”, her mother’s mixed reactions to her daughter’s journey as a Baal Tshuva as she searched for and finally found her roots.

Jennie provided twenty of her father’s favorite songs for pre programming the iPod which Julian proudly presented. Softly placing the earphones on Steven and fine tuning the iPod, we watched as the music started to play. With his daughter sitting beside him, Steven listened intently and all present applauded.

Julian Friedman and his family provide a wonderful example of how Chessed can start from an early age. With many more iPods in the pipeline the hope is that more people who have lost the ability to communicate may benefit.

Steven Shelly may hopefully be one of these. Meantime he has a caring and loving environment at Melabev.

If you are interested in learning more about this unique organization you can find them at and you will surely be impressed.


One Response to “Dementia help for Sydney man living in Jerusalem”
  1. Jennie Breuer says:

    To the Editor,

    What kind of a title is Dementia help?
    Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

    Soothing Sounds for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia – Sydney man receives I-pod in Jerusalem, would have been a more enticing title in my opinion.

    Jennie Breuer

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