A new addition to Amberley Village's Jewish community that gives area children an enjoyable and safe place to play is dedicated to the memory of a 2-year-old girl who inspired much good during her too-short life.
Congregation Sha'arei Torah-The Village Shul launched a new playground Sunday, Oct. 31, and parents from across Cincinnati's Torah-observant community socialized and dined on lunch as their children played on the new attraction's slides, see saws, swings, jungle gym, and other fun-filled features.
"It's a really nice playground, a place to get together with friends, for the parents and the kids," said Tamara Shaffer, who attended the event with her husband Sam and their three children. "We can sit and chill and the kids can play. I think it will be really fun."
The playground, which is open to the community, was made possible through community generosity. That generosity started with Arna Poupko Fisher and Bobby Fisher, who contributed the majority of the project’s funding to dedicate Gan Ayelet in memory of their 2-year-old granddaughter, Ayelet Yakira Galena,
The Amberley Village couple committed to donate matching funds during a fundraising drive in August, and scores of people in Cincinnati and nationwide stepped up to contribute to the project.
In addition to inspiring many projects and initiatives since her passing in 2012, Ayelet’s battle with a rare disease at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has moved thousands of people to take part in Gift of Life Marrow Registry, which has in turn facilitated over a hundred lifesaving matches and transplants.
Rabbi Ben Yudin attended the kickoff event with his wife Sora Liba and their children.
"It's a beautiful thing for the community, Yudin said. "All the different kids from the different shuls in the community and the playground itself looks very nice."
Congregation Sha'arei Torah's Rabbi Ezra Goldschmiedt said he saw the need for such an offering on shul property several years ago, but "really pushed its importance as we bounce back from Covid-19."
"A major missing piece in our neighborhood, especially on Shabbat and Yamim Tovim when we can't drive out somewhere, was a community playground," Goldschmiedt said. "With Gan Ayelet completed, we not only have a space for children to play, we also have a hub for parents and families at large to get together and build connections."
Seth Galena, Ayelet's father, took to the Ayelet Galena Fan Page Sunday evening to express his gratitude.
"Endless 'thank yous' to Cincinnati’s Sha’arei Torah synagogue for dedicating their new community playground, named Gan Ayelet!" he said. "Incredible what one amazing community can accomplish.
Thank you to Ayelet's bubbe Arna Poupko Fisher and Bobby Fisher for inspiring so many to get behind this special project! Every play, slide, swing and giggle an Ayelet blessing!"
Galena said he and his wife Hindy Poupko were "so moved to see such an incredible showing, especially of children," from Cincinnati's Jewish community at the dedication.
"They were there for us then, and continue to be a source of inspiration today," he said. "A special place for us."
Arna Poupko Fisher said, "To watch a child lose a child is painful beyond measure. It is our hope that Gan Ayelet will provide a measure of comfort to Hindy, Seth, and our entire family.”