July 23, 2024
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Just One Life Empowers Women in Israel

During the upcoming Nine Days, the Teaneck community will once again have the zechut of ensuring the future of am Yisrael through their support of Just One Life—Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael, which to date has facilitated the healthy and welcomed births of over 17,000 babies in Israel. As Just One Life celebrates its 30th anniversary year, its mission to encourage and support the birth of children in Israel has recently been expanded to include the empowerment of women residing in Israeli neighborhoods such as within the walled Jerusalem quarters and Ir David.

To commemorate the anniversary, a special Just One Life evening is being planned for Tuesday, July 17, at 8 p.m. at the home of Rachel and Azi Mandel, hosts of the event together with Sheryl and Aaron Liberman. Internationally renowned speaker Rabbi Yissocher Frand, who has been a featured speaker on behalf of the organization for many years, will share words of inspiration and chizuk.

During the past year, many exciting changes have taken place within the organization. Founder, former executive vice president and “honorary grandmother” of the organization, Madelaine Gitelman, MSW, who served as well as the director of social work for Just One Life for over 30 years, retired in January to assume the position of board chair. When the organization was in its infancy in the late 1980s, Gitelman was responsible for the initial study that revealed that thousands of pregnancies were at risk throughout Israel. Reacting to these dire statistics, Gitelman and co-founders Rabbi Solomon Sharfman, z”l, and Jack Forgash of Teaneck were determined to stem the tide of this inordinate loss of potential lives and established an organization that would proactively address the issue. Thus, Just One Life was born. Through referrals from social workers and nurses in hospitals and family members, Gitelman put together a team of highly qualified social workers to meet with the families and present ways that would enable these pregnancies to result in beautiful, healthy Israeli children. Among the long-time social workers in the organization is Chaya Katzin, who will now be taking over the reigns of the social work team that will also include Shira Kayak, trained at Bar Ilan University, who recently served as an intern at Just One Life.

Recently appointed director of Just One Life in Israel is Rabbi Bini Maryles. Currently residing in Chashmonaim, Rabbi Maryles will now take over the daily operation of the organization as well as fundraising in America and Israel. Rabbi Dovid Feinstein will continue in his long-standing role as rabbinic adviser for JOL. In tribute to the organization, Rabbi Feinstein has often emphasized, “Just One Life stands in the forefront of the mitzvot of hatzalat nefashot and tzedakah l’aniyim.”

A new initiative of the organization came about as a result of the recent visit of Carole and Jack Forgash to Israel this past Yom Ha’atzmaut. In their travels, the Forgashes, together with a group of visitors from Teaneck’s Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, met with families residing in Ir David and the Old City. It was brought to the group’s attention that apartments in these areas are being renovated and rented reasonably to many young couples who have chosen to reside in these neighborhoods. Forgash and his team realized that the young women in these communities deserve the community’s chizuk, applause and support in bringing new lives into the Israeli population. Thus, a new initiative of Just One Life came about, which is being referred to as “Empowering Women in Israel to Have Children.” Financial gifts and social services will be provided to these young families.

From their welcoming offices on 16 King George Street in Yerushalayim, Just One Life helps families to resolve complications and issues including financial straits and emotional/psychological pressures before the babies are born. Currently in Israel over 1.6 million people are living below the poverty line, resulting in nearly 800,000 children affected. The needs of each family are assessed by the team of social workers and a plan is drawn up, which includes a monthly stipend, counseling and even gifts of clothing for the babies. This support will continue as long as indicated. Also, assistance in securing additional resources from other agencies is provided. On an annual basis, JOL subsidizes between 400 and 450 births.

Rabbi Martin Katz, who has served as the USA executive vice president of Just One Life from its beginning, expressed that the key to the organization’s success is that “we provide stability for these families who are experiencing turbulence in their lives. One of our thousands of stories involves a young, religious Sephardic woman who found herself pregnant with quadruplets with three additional children under 5 at home. Doctors had advised her to reduce the babies, but Just One Life put her in touch with Dr. Shimon Glick at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva who encouraged her to bring all the babies to term. After giving birth to the first naturally born boy quadruplets in Israel, the family was assisted financially and emotionally throughout the initial years. The quads are now celebrating their 20th birthdays. Two are learning in yeshiva, one is doing administrative work for the police department and the fourth is doing national service.”

“If you consider that we have been involved for close to 30 years now,” Forgash estimated, “the babies whom JOL enabled to be born have babies of their own and are helping to populate Eretz Yisrael in the thousands.”

The Just One Life planning committee, consisting of Rachel and Azi Mandel and Sheryl and Aaron Liberman, joined by Carole and Jack Forgash, Fraidy and Stuart Forgash and Rayzel and Ronn Yaish, invite the community to join them at this meaningful program on Tuesday evening, July 17, at 8 p.m. at the home of Rachel and Azi Mandel, 60 Westminster Avenue, Bergenfield. To join, please call 347-996-7751.

To learn more about Just One Life visit www.justonelife.org.

By Pearl Markovitz

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