Orthodox Jews and Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians Unite to Save ‘Just One Life’
Rabbi Marty Katz has been saving lives in Israel for 30 years – as a part of his work with Israel-based non-profit Just One Life (JOL), he has saved 17,500 babies, including several sets of twins and triplets and even a set of quadruplets who are now 20 years old.
It is this work of saving lives through counseling ambivalent, expectant mothers deciding whether to terminate their pregnancy that Katz has become an ally and personal friend to some of the biggest names in the American Evangelical world, such as Pastor John and Diana Hagee, who he says are “amazing people” with great influence over Washington. Not only do they exchange Shabbat (Jewish sabbath) greetings every week, but Pastor Hagee, founder and national chairman for the largest pro-Israel grassroots organization in the United States, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), has ‘put his money where his mouth is,’ supporting JOL with hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past several years and setting an example for other Evangelical churches who have followed in their wake.
This year, Katz accepted a gift of $100,000 from John Hagee Ministries at his 37th Annual “A Night To Honor Israel” event at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, with Hagee’s Rabbi and Katz’s good friend Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg. At the forefront of saving Jewish lives in Israel, JOL has gained respect, receiving its financial assistance from dedicated supporters around the world, and in particular, Evangelical Christians who are invested in creating a flourishing Jewish state and supporting the children of Israel.
Receiving funds from Pastor George and Cheryl Morrison of the Faith Bible Church in Denver, Pastor Sharon Dougherty from Oklahoma, Pastor Ron Lewis from North Carolina, the Grace Covenant Church of Virginia, the Solace Church in Oklahoma and Pastor Reymundo Meneses of the Life Church of Memphis, their support allows the organization to provide their clients with the security to make critical future-focused decisions for themselves and their families. Doing so relieves burdens before and after the baby arrives, and with this clarity and confidence provided to the client, JOL has saved thousands of lives of women and families in crisis – what a cause!
Saving ‘Just One Life’
For the Jewish people, the desire to save lives stems from a central text of rabbinic Judaism. The Talmud states, “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” JOL and its team of professional social workers who empower women who find themselves in a crisis situation during pregnancy have thus saved thousands of worlds, acting as cause-leaders.
“We are willing to do nearly anything to save just one life,” Katz told Breaking Israel News. “We can help pay a woman’s bills and rent, offer parenting workshops, support and even train spouses who need another job to pay for a baby.” Doing so creates dignity for a family and is not a simple band-aid over a financial issue, but a longer-term investment into the future of the family. “In the absence of the support of others, we are here to reach out with an emotional and loving hand,” said Katz.
By assisting mothers with challenges ranging from mental health issues, medical problems with the pregnancy, abuse, poverty and more, nearly all the women JOL sees – women who were considering abortion – to keep their babies.
Such values and programs have garnered the organization great financial support from both Orthodox Jewish and often right-wing, pro-Israel Christian donors, including Evangelical Christians whose ‘pro-life’ agenda aligns with the Jewish value of saving lives. “The Evangelicals say we are doing holy work. They love us, they love the holy land and they love Israel,” maintained Katz. “We are tied to the Evangelical Christians.”
A Pro-Chance Stance
According to cause-leader and JOL director Bini Maryles, however, Just One Life does not want to be labeled as ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’ – “We are what we call ‘pro-chance,’” he told Breaking Israel News – “giving every future mother the chance to make great, empowering, knowledgeable, future focused decisions about herself, her children and her family.”
Despite some theological differences regarding the definition of life between Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians, Donna Jollay, co-founder of educational platform Yeshiva for the Nations, which aims to revolutionize Christian thinking about the Torah, maintains that Jews and Christians both value life, treating it with honor and dignity – and this is just one of the shared values that have led to the natural alliance between Christians and Jews in supporting Just one Life.
The children of Israel, both Jews and Christians believe, are at stake and it is up to them to ensure its flourishing. “Certainly, by Christians supporting Just One Life and other organizations that promote life, we are continuing our shared work that is based on our value for life and vision for the future,” said Jollay.
Originally posted on Breaking Israel News
May 6th 2020
כמה יבראון Israel’s Most Precious Resource is Its Children
When Miriam learned she was pregnant with her third child, she was ambivalent about her preg- nancy. She and her two young children were feeling unwell and she had recently been laid off from her part-time job, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without his wife’s paycheck to supplement the family income, Miriam’s husband was afraid they wouldn’t be able to both feed the family and pay their rent.
Then Miriam tested positive for COVID-19.
Due to her high-risk pregnancy, she was rushed into isolation in the corona ward at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Miriam felt helpless, as though her entire life was crumbling around her, and she was left to deal with it all on her own, without even the sup- port of her close family.
When a Shaare Zedek social worker suggested she contact Nefesh Achat B’Yis- rael, Miriam jumped at the chance.
For many women suffering from financial and emotional distress, or experiencing medical complica- tions or high-risk pregnancies, the preg- nancy is often too much to cope with.
That’s where Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael steps in.
Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael (with the financial backing of Just One Life, USA) was formed in 1988 by concerned individu- als who recognized the need to provide support for expect- ant mothers in Israel, where financial hardship and social and medical issues can lead to difficult pregnancies.
The founders of the organization were Rabbi Solomon J. Sharfman a”h, Dr. Shimon Glick, who was then the Dean of Ben-Gurion University Soroka Hospital, Jack Forgash, a businessman from the USA and a friend of Dr. Glick and Rabbi Sharfman, and Madelaine Gitelman from Jerusalem, who became the organization’s Director and Head of Social Workers in 1989. The organization’s name was derived from the Talmudic passage in Sanhedrin that states, “One who saves a single Jewish life has saved an entire world.”
The key to the organization’s success is that “we provide stability to families who are experiencing turbulence in their lives,” said Rabbi Martin Katz, who has served as the USA Executive Vice President of Just One Life since its founding. “By providing pro- fessional counseling, emotional support and financial assis- tance, Just One Life empowers mothers to bring their preg- nancy to full term, thus preserving Israel’s most precious resource – its children.”
Veteran social worker Chaya Katzin, the current Israel Director and Head of Social Workers, and her team of social workers and therapists, help expectant women speak about their challenges at the welcoming Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael/Just One Life office on Jerusalem’s King George Street.
“Helping women process their choices and empowering them to understand their strengths is the goal of our inter- vention. We try to bring down the crisis level and arm women with the skills they need to more easily manage their lives,” says Katzin. “Through various workshops and meth- ods of individual and group therapy, we help women develop an empowered approach to parenting and provide their chil- dren with a healthy and supportive environment.”
For example, Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael’s team of social workers provided Miriam with emotional and financial support, and empowered her to cope with her difficult pregnancy and give birth to a healthy son. The brit was in their home, the baby is starting off his new life with a layette provided by Just One Life, and Miriam is in a much stronger mental and physical position to be a happy healthy mother to her children.
The social workers and therapists at Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael aid approximately 500 families every year, which has resulted in over 18,500 babies over the last three decades. The cou- ples come from all over Israel and from a broad range of backgrounds: religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Sephardi and new immigrants as well as longtime Israelis. But what the women share in common are limited incomes, stressful family situations or health issues. A pregnancy only adds to their long roster of challenges.
Jack Forgash, the Chairman and Co-Founder of JOL and Nefesh Achat for 31 years, said, “I would be remiss if I did not give praise, recognition and todah to the manner in which the professional social workers for 31 years have given care and compassion to the mothers and the 18,500 plus children born in Israel. To Madelaine Gitelman, who served as Director for 27 years, current Director, Chaya Katzin, and the professional staff – Shira Keyak, Sara Gordon, Atara Block and Eliana Rubinstein. Just One Life in the USA provides the resources and the Nefesh Achat organization in Israel provides the loving care.”
Women often find their way to the Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael office through referrals from doctors, social workers, nurses and welfare offices. Even now during this pandemic, over- whelmed hospital nurses and social workers are calling upon Nefesh Achat to take on additional cases.
The organization also receives referrals from major hospitals across Israel. For example, Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael maintains a strong relationship with Shaare Zedek in Jerusalem. Shaare Zedek’s high-risk pregnancy clinic, led by Dr. Ori Shen and Mrs. Yehudit Ackerman, refers patients who require addi- tional emotional or financial support to Nefesh Achat B’Yis- rael. Dr. Shen has praised the organization’s important work: “There is no doubt Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael’s assistance has created circumstances optimal for helping the couples and has brought about beneficial outcomes.”
The vast majority of the women that turn to Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael have very limited income. Currently, 1.7 million people in Israel are living below the poverty level. Just One Life provides nearly $1,800 to each mother for financial and psychological services.
Just One Life has earned praise from many leading politi- cians and medical professionals, including Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who recently rec- ognized the organization’s three decades of success in bring- ing Jewish life into the world: “Your work for Jewish families is fundamental to the future and well-being of the Jewish people. Bringing Just One Life to Israel was an important development, and brought the issue of raising Jewish chil- dren straight to the heart of the Jewish world.”
The children who have been born with the support of Just One Life are now taking their rightful places in society. Many have grown up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, attend Torah institutions and universities and have families of their own.
“In the 31 years since the organization has been helping women have their babies, nobody has ever come back to complain,” recounts Katz. “But many have returned to give thanks. They say, ‘I can’t imagine what my life would be like without my children.’”
Dec 2nd 2020