Hope Lives Here: Chai Alum Ofek Lalkin
opens online Judaica store and gives back

By Adina Saban

In the 17 years Chai Lifeline Canada has existed, we have worked with many clients, all with different backgrounds and needs. Many of them graduate from our services and go on to do great things in their lives, and it is always special for us when we reconnect with them to catch up. Ofek Lalkin is a perfect example.

Ofek was born with cerebral palsy – a disorder that affects a person’s ability to control their muscles – and became a Chai Lifeline Canada client at 6 years-old. Right away, Ofek was paired with a case manager, Yaffi, who would visit him every day and encourage him to come to events, such as the annual Chanukah party which Ofek remembers fondly. He also joined the Big Sibling program and had 2 big brothers, Micheal Altman and Shimon Danielli, who would visit and hang out with him daily. We were excited to hear that they’re still in touch to this day, over a decade later! Even during the challenging moments, Ofek remembers that Chai brought him hope. He recalls that during a long hospital stay, Chai gave him an iPod filled with movies and games that kept him entertained. While it may seem like something small, this kindness impacted Ofek in a big way and when he talks about it, he lights up.

Perhaps Ofeks greatest Chai Lifeline memories come from his time at Camp Simcha. Ofek attended Camp Simcha from the age of 6 until he was 18 years-old—12 years! Every summer was filled with incredible experiences that he will never forget. When Ofek first arrived at camp, he was unwell and had to spend his first few days in the infirmary. His counselor, Hillel Lichtenstein, kept him company and helped make the best of that time. As Ofek and his fellow bunkmates at camp got older, they got permission to do whatever they wanted – whether that was eating fast food such as hot dogs and fries for almost every meal or doing cool activities such as race car driving, helicopter rides and pool parties. He had the best time with his camp friends and even meets up with two of them every year, Joey Zacaia and Gabi Geula. 

“Every day at Camp Simcha was filled with hope. You’re surrounded by people with illnesses and you see how they overcome challenges. If kids with illnesses more serious than mine could be happy and have hope, so can I.”

So, what has Ofek been up to since graduating from Chai Lifeline? Well, he moved to Israel for two years to study in Yeshiva, then moved to New York for another two years to study at Yeshiva University and then it was home to Toronto where he started his own business! With the help of Avi Mamann, who he connected with over a decade ago who has also been involved with Chai, Ofek launched his online Judaica store called Ofek’s Judaica. Discovering that it can be difficult for a person living with a disability to find a job, Ofek took matters into his own hands and created a business around something he’s passionate about—his Judaism. Through this business endeavor, Ofek hopes to inspire other Chai Lifeline alumni.

“If you are someone with a disability, don’t let anyone or anything get in your way. Don’t wait for anyone to help you, help yourself.”

Thank you for the wise and powerful words, Ofek.

Ofek’s Judaica can be found at https://ofeksjudaica.com/.

A portion of every sale will be donated to Chai Lifeline Canada because as Ofek puts it “I hope to help Chai Lifeline in many different ways throughout my life.”

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