Grandmother, 89, thanked for making teddy bears for Jewish orphans in Belarus

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Grandmother, 89, thanked for making teddy bears for Jewish orphans in Belarus

Lily Genztler from Chigwell used her time during lockdown to make the cuddly toys, which Jewish charity The Together Plan sends to needy children

A charity has thanked an 89-year old Jewish grandmother in Essex who used her time at home during the coronavirus lockdown to make scores of teddy bears for Jewish children and orphans in Belarus.

Lily Genztler from Chigwell makes the teddies’ bodies before handing the cuddly toys over to a knitting group in Pinner whose members add the bears’ facial features.

They are then sent to Minsk, where British Jewish charity The Together Plan (TTP) works with the country’s Jewish community.

Lily lived at Westcliff until seven years ago, when she moved to Chigwell to be nearer to family. Her husband, who she cared for, died three years ago.

Her grandson Seth said: “Whilst in Westcliff she made many teddy bears which went to babies in Israel. When we went into lockdown in March she decided to do something useful and has now made over 160 teddies for children in Belarus.”

TTP director Debra Brunner said: “The bears will reach children in Jewish communities, children in orphanages and shelters, and non-Jewish families in need throughout Belarus. They will travel by road with our next consignment of aid which will be sent around November time.”

This month the charity is bringing Belarus into the European Days of Jewish Culture Festival for the first time ever with a Klezmer Concert which will be broadcast live on Zoom from the garden of a family home on 13 September.

“The theme of the European Days of Jewish Culture is ‘Jewish Journeys’ so this story of the teddy bears is a great opportunity to talk about Jewish journeys.”

TTP is a member of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Heritage and Culture and is building a Jewish cultural heritage trail in the country.

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