It all began in the 1970s. A young Jerusalem high school teacher with a growing family needed to borrow a vaporizer from a neighbor for a sick child. Discovering that such appliances were hard to find, he bought a few to lend to others, and people started dropping off similar items at his home that they no longer needed.
The small apartment was soon overflowing with a variety of the kind of medical equipment people need for only a short time: crutches, walkers, vaporizers, even a couple of wheelchairs.
The teacher, Uri Lupolianski, saw there was a real need for this kind of help. Around that time, his father, the late Jacob Lupolianski, retired and sold his small shop. He offered to use the money to help. And so, in 1976, the Yad Sarah Organization was incorporated as a non-profit organization. It was named for Jacob`s mother, Sarah, who had perished in the Holocaust. The word “yad,” which literally means “hand,” is also used to mean a remembrance or a memorial.
Space was offered near a local hospital, a stock of equipment was purchased, and Yad Sarah was a reality. There was no shortage of volunteers to take turns handling the requests. In order to keep track of the inventory, a small deposit was asked for, refundable when the item was returned.
The idea spread rapidly. Branches of Yad Sarah opened in other locations around Israel, always operated by volunteers, and before long there was hardly an Israeli who didn’t know about the kind of help available from this organization. Today more than 380,000 Israelis use Yad Sarah services each year.
Yad Sarah has been the recipient of several awards and citations, including the President’s Award for Volunteering in 1982 and the Kaplan Prize for Efficiency in 1990. In 1994, only 18 years after it was founded, Yad Sarah received the highest award given by the State of Israel: The Israel Prize, for “a significant contribution to the society and the State.” In 2005, Yad Sarah was recognized as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
Uri Lupolianski, the teacher who founded and directed Yad Sarah, was elected Mayor of Jerusalem in April 2003, and continues to be the spiritual leader of the organization, keeping it true to its original mission of giving to those in need.