May 29, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Spotlight on Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society

Once again we take pride in familiarizing our communities with another Chesed organization: RCCS (Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society).

How and when did the organization get started:

In 1997, RCCS’s founder, Brooklyn businessman Rabbi Herschel Kohn, was approached by a friend who had been injured in a car accident and had been told at the hospital that the scans had revealed cancer in his brain. The friend confided that he felt a sense of impending doom because he had recently lost his business and couldn’t afford his medical insurance premiums. He had no way of paying for the treatments he needed so desperately. Rabbi Kohn generously offered to cover the insurance costs and felt positively empowered knowing that the price he was paying would pale in comparison to the cost of the surgery, hospital bills and rehabilitation sessions that would be covered. Eventually, Rabbi Kohn was approached by two other members of his community who had also been diagnosed with cancer and similarly weren’t able to afford the insurance. Rabbi Kohn decided not only to also cover them but eventually to start an organization that would be based around the principle of paying the cost of medical insurance premiums in order to provide for expensive cancer treatments. Over the 25 years since then, RCCS has added many more critical services to its lineup.

Please describe in detail what services your organization provides?

RCCS gives cancer patients in our community the best possible chance of recovery and survival, and provides patients with access to the best medical treatments that are available today. RCCS offers the following services and more:

  1. Specialized medical referrals. Over the last 25 years, RCCS has built very close relationships with some of the top-level oncologists in North America and beyond. Our 12 medical referral specialists who each focus on different types of cancer give our patients a highly personalized referral to a doctor that is uniquely qualified to deal with the patient’s specific situation.
  2. Expedited appointments. When time is of the essence, RCCS will arrange an appointment which could have taken months within a few days or even sooner.
  3. Assistance with medical insurance issues. Navigating the complex world of medical insurance can be overwhelming, especially when dealing with a serious illness. The experts at RCCS can help.
  4. Generous financial aid. In times of need, RCCS will cover the full medical insurance premium each month so that the patient can focus on recovery and doesn’t have to worry about the bills. RCCS also offers medical subsidies to help pay for out-of-pocket expenses.
  5. A large advocacy team fighting insurance denials.
  6. Care managers who help patients every step of the way, including keeping the patient informed of other services available to cancer patients in the community.

Are your services anonymous?

Yes. Patient confidentiality is extremely important to us and we have strict policies in place that ensure that our patients remain completely anonymous.

Please share some anecdotes that highlight the work that you do.

At a recent fundraising event, an RCCS patient related how he ended up in a Brooklyn hospital diagnosed with a type of cancer that needed treatment urgently, but he wanted to be in a facility that was better known for its cancer expertise. So he told the attending oncologist that he wanted to be moved to Cornell cancer center instead. The doctor almost laughed, dismissing his suggestion as “a joke” because “it would take at least six weeks just to get in the door, and you need help immediately.” The patient shared with the crowd that he was undeterred and called RCCS. He told the shocked audience that the very next morning he had an appointment at Cornell, where he continues to be treated successfully, all thanks to RCCS.

On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 27, 2022, RCCS received a desperate call. A 46-year-old father of five young children from Antwerp who had been battling an advanced cancer was given 48 hours to live by his specialist. We jumped into action immediately and over Friday and Shabbat, enormous efforts were coordinated to find a treatment that may give him another chance. On Sunday morning, with the help of his devoted family and friends, he was brought to New York to start a trial regimen of CAR T-cell therapy. With God’s help, he ended up beating the odds and enjoyed a full five months of quality time with his family and friends before the cancer returned aggressively; he passed away just before Pesach.

Even though this particular case did not have the happy ending everyone was hoping for, it demonstrates RCCS’s ability, with God’s help, to provide fast access to cutting edge treatments and our fierce determination to do everything we can to help our brothers and sisters going through this terrible illness.

What aspects of your work would you like the community to know about that are perhaps not obvious OR misconceptions that you would like to correct?

In 2022, RCCS helped 4,605 cancer patients (1,326 in Israel and 3,279 outside Israel) and facilitated approximately $72 million in total medical care for its patients. RCCS now has a staff of about 80 people with an annual budget of over $20 million.

Even though some people have not yet heard of RCCS, it is not because we are a new or a small organization. It is rather because RCCS doesn’t do a lot of marketing or advertising due to its natural and rapid growth (RCCS doubled in size and budget in the five years between 2016- 2021). Lastly, it is important to understand that RCCS’s services are unique and do not duplicate the work of other cancer organizations.

What volunteer opportunities, if any, can community members sign up for?

We need volunteers who have a passion for helping cancer patients and are willing to plan events, host parlor meetings, introduce their friends and raise funds in order to partner in our work and help patients recover.


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected]

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