In the midst of our spiritual preparation for the upcoming Yomim Noraim, we recall the poignant and sometimes painful words of the tefillah U’netaneh Tokef, especially the phrase kama yiborei’un (how many will be born). For Rabbi Marty Katz, executive vice president of Just One Life, an organization to which he has dedicated his professional life for the past 28 years, this phrase conjures up images of new mothers in Israel cradling newborn babies in their arms. These babies “almost” didn’t make it into the world. If not for the emotional and financial support of Just One Life, they may have been terminated and a Jewish neshama would have been lost to our people. Rabbi Katz is in the business of “saving lives” together with his team in Israel, consisting of Senior Social Worker Chaya Katzin and a highly trained cadre of volunteer social workers. Madeline Gitelman, currently chairperson of the JOL board, served as executive vice president and was well-known to doctors, social workers and university professors throughout the country as the recognized professional who formulated the specific techniques used by JOL. Over 17,000 births have been brought to term throughout Israel, an entire city’s population. Rabbi Katz respectfully refers to Gitelman as the “grandmother and even great-grandmother of all of JOL’s babies.”
Teaneck can take great pride in the organization, as one of our residents, Jack Forgash, saw the desperate need for such a mission after reading the frightening statistics of the number of terminations of pregnancy that take place regularly in Israel. The reasons given ranged from financial straits, trauma from terrorist incidents, mental challenges and any number of other issues. With the rabbinical sanction and encouragement of Rav Avraham Pam, zt”l, Rabbi Solomon Scharfman, zt”l, and currently Rav Dovid Feinstein, Forgash and his family undertook the cause and 28 years later they can view with pride the hatzalat nefashot (the saving of souls) of so many. Teaneck residents who have been involved in Just One Life over the years include Elaine and Hillel Weinberger, Linda and Mark Karasick, Sheryl and Aaron Liberman, Rachel and Azi Mandel, Cindy and Elliott Forgash, Fraidy and Stuart Forgash, Chaya and Jackie Feigenbaum, Channie and Norman Schmutter, and Sima and Daniel Weingarten. Hosting the upcoming benefit program are Sheryl and Aaron Liberman, who will be opening their lovely home on Sunday, September 10, to the benefit Just One Life.
Harav Yissocher Frand has been addressing Just One Life benefits since its inception. His passion for the cause and his inspiring words of Torah and chizuk attract audiences in communities worldwide. According to Katz, “Rabbi Frand is one of a kind. His words of inspiration have turned untold numbers of lives around.”
Just One Life services families throughout Israel whose life situations are such that they are considering terminating current pregnancies for a variety of legitimate desperate family situations. Through referrals to social work agencies, Just One Life steps in and through their many vital services is overwhelmingly successful in turning around situations that allow the pregnancy to go full term, resulting in healthy babies and happy families. The services are provided through Just One Life’s Mother and Infant Center, which provides supportive counseling with highly trained professionals, a monthly financial stipend, advocacy to government agencies for additional subsidies, referrals to other relevant agencies and general information. Mothering and child-care workshops are provided to the mothers and their families. Rabbi Katz emphasizes, “We are never coercive. The decision is that of the woman and her family.”
In addition to the monetary subsidy of $1,800 distributed over the course of a year, JOL provides a clothing gemach of brand-new infant clothing, sizes newborn to six months, which is collected internationally and can be accessed simply by visits to the office.
Currently, JOL has created Hebrew brochures for dissemination through social services offices across Israel to promote the mission of JOL. “We service families of many socio-economic groups with many different situations,” offers Gitelman. “A year ago we provided our services to a family consisting of a dependent grandmother living with her daughter in a two-room apartment. The husband was unemployed due to a disability and the pregnant wife could not maintain a paying job as she was caring for both her husband and mother. JOL came in, and through our many services helped the woman through her delivery of a health baby boy. But we did not stop at the delivery. We provided provisions for Pesach and continue sending care packages for Shabbat in addition to new clothing for the baby. We will also provide parenting sessions to the new mother who herself was never properly parented. We do not work on a ‘cookie cutter’ model. Every situation is different.”
Katz’s pride in Just One Life is immeasurable. “JOL is a reply to the Holocaust and terrorism. This is a tribute to the work of JOL that speaks reams to our precious work in bringing new lives into the world. We have welcomed many sets of twins, triplets and even quadruplets.”
The community is invited to attend the upcoming benefit evening for Just One Life to be held at the home of Sheryl and Aaron Liberman, 565 South Forest Drive, on Sunday, September 10, at 8 p.m. For more information, call 347-996-7751.
By Pearl Markovitz