The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last June elicited a frenzy of reactions from both sides of the contentious abortion issue.
In Israel, the media was fast and furious in its blanket condemnation of the decision and possible implications it may have for the status of abortions in Israel. Moreover, the wheels of a government committee ground with uncharacteristic swiftness to approve new regulations, removing some of the procedures and making it easier than ever before for women to get an abortion in Israel.
Israel’s media, too, wasted no time in attacking EFRAT, the leading Jewish organization actively working to help women prevent unnecessary abortions. However, since EFRAT is not an anti-abortion organization but, rather, one that empowers women, the detractors supported their slanders with propaganda and statements that do not reflect EFRAT’s platform at all, but which were copied directly from Be’ad Chaim (Lilach Center). Be’ad Chaim, as the name suggests, is a “pro-life,” anti-abortion organization, but what most people are unaware of is that it is a Christian organization led by a Messianic Jew. Naturally, their approach to the issue is fundamentally different from that of EFRAT.
However, since the Israeli public is only familiar with EFRAT’s involvement in this endeavor, very few readers distinguish between the ads of EFRAT, whose message is about giving women the ability to choose, and those of Be’ad Chaim. (In fact, when some of the Facebook talkbacks pointed out that the ads referenced were not EFRAT’s, the response was, “This must be another arm of EFRAT since they are the only ones in this space.”) The truth must be known: Be’ad Chaim is a pro-life, Christian organization headed by a Messianic Jew and has absolutely no ties to EFRAT.
EFRAT, founded over 45 years ago by the late Dr. Eli Schussheim, empowers women experiencing unexpected pregnancy by providing them with information and assistance, so that they can calmly review their options and make the best choice for themselves. EFRAT’s team of experienced, professional staff and volunteers will never try to sway these vulnerable women one way or the other; the EFRAT mandate is to provide the tools, empowering the woman, and then to step back and allow her to make her own choice. EFRAT’s platform is about making the choice of life viable; but it is not specifically against abortion. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons EFRAT has been so overwhelmingly successful.
“At EFRAT, we do our utmost to remove ourselves from politicization of the abortion issue,” said Nir Salomon, the current executive director. “We’re about helping and empowering women, enabling them to have a real choice, period.”
People today have little patience to analyze the issue and investigate the facts. And the fact is that the majority of women in Israel seek abortion because of economic distress. Of those women, explains Salomon, a significant percentage would opt to keep their babies were they only given counseling and assistance—and that is where EFRAT comes in.
Statistics show that over 35,000 babies are aborted each year in Israel. It’s painful to think how many of those lives could have been saved, if only the woman had been offered some help. No less painful is the thought that for every baby aborted, there is also a woman who mourns the loss of that life, and who bears a burden of guilt for the rest of her life.
“Society contends that it’s a woman’s personal choice whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. I say, let’s give them that choice!” exclaimed Salomon. “In too many cases, there are women who truly wish they could choose to bring their child into the world, but they lack the resources to do so. We at EFRAT are there to help them.”
In addition to moral support and counseling, EFRAT provides practical assistance in the form of a complete package to cover all of a baby’s needs: a crib, stroller, bathtub, infant seat, layette, etc. What’s more, for the first two years of her baby’s life, the woman receives monthly deliveries of diapers, wipes, infant formula and more; and often, also, staple food items for her and the rest of the family.
EFRAT has now incorporated a new service that goes a step further in solving the problem at its source and breaking the cycle of poverty. The Working Moms vocational support program empowers women to enter the workforce and become self-respecting breadwinners for their growing families. In addition to vocational assessment, to identify each woman’s strengths, preferences, and aptitude, the program helps them access professional training and subsidized child care, positioning them on the path toward financial independence. In the few months that the program, headed by Cintia Beinichis Remeny, has been operational, close to 100 women have begun training for gainful employment in fields such as cosmetology, hairstyling, business management and even law school. With this program EFRAT is truly changing worlds and building generations.
Today EFRAT has become so efficient that the cost of saving a life, including the entire package, amounts to a mere $1,500. Each donor who saves a life is given the name and date of birth of the child they helped save.
No less important are the funds attributed to publicity. EFRAT invests in advertising its services on billboards, print media and social media to reach as many women as possible so that they will know that they have a viable option in their hour of need.