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Supporting and Empowering Expectant Mother in Israel for Over 30 Years

Supporting and Empowering Expectant Mother in Israel for Over 30 Years

Josh Forgash, Rabbi Martin Katz, Chaya Katzin

For many women in Israel suffering from financial and emotional distress or experiencing medical complications or high-risk pregnancies, the news of a pregnancy is too much to bear. 

That’s where Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael (Israel), with the financial backing of Just One Life (USA), steps in. 

Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael (Israel Amutah)/Just One Life (USA 501-C-3) was formed in 1988 by concerned individuals who recognized the need to provide support for expectant mothers in Israel, where financial hardship and social and medical issues can lead to difficult pregnancies. The organization’s name was derived from the Talmudic passage in Sanhedrin that states that “He who saves a single life in Israel, has saved an entire world.” (Talmud)

In the 31 years since, the non-profit is credited with saving many worlds over. Since its establishment, Just One Life has been instrumental in the births and lives of over 18,500 Israeli children. 

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.  

Through professional counseling, emotional support and financial assistance, Just One Life empowers mothers to bring their pregnancy to full term, thus preserving Israel’s most precious resource - its children

Veteran social worker Chaya Katzin, the Israel director, typically meets expectant women at the welcoming Just One Life office on Jerusalem’s King George Street where they speak about their challenges. She urges them to consider their options, as well as the types of assistance that would alleviate their pressures.  

Chaya, and her team of social workers and therapists, help couples navigate the social, emotional and economic issues that can accompany an untimely or at-risk pregnancy. 

“Because many couples struggle with limited financial resources or are lacking a support system, their ability to raise a family is compromised,” Chaya explained. 

“Helping women process their choices and empowering them to understand their strengths is the goal of our intervention. We try to bring down the crisis level and arm women with the skills they need to more easily manage their lives,” she added. “Through various workshops and methods of individual and group therapy we help women develop an empowered approach to parenting and provide their children a healthy and supportive environment.”

The social workers and therapists at Just One Life aid approximately 500 families every year. The couples come from all over Israel and from a broad range of backgrounds: religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Sephardic and new immigrants as well as longtime Israelis.

But what the women share in common is that all face limited incomes, stressful family situations or health issues. A pregnancy only adds to their long roster of challenges. 

Women often find their way to the Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael office through referrals from doctors, social workers, nurses and welfare offices. The organization also receives referrals from major hospitals across Israel. For example, Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael maintains a strong relationship with Jerusalem’s Shaarei Tzedek Hospital, known for having the most active maternity facility in the western world. Shaarei Tzedek, including through its high-risk pregnancy clinic led by Dr. Ori Shen and Mrs. Yehudit Ackerman, refer their clients that require additional emotional or financial support to Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael. In one of his letters of thanks to the organization, Dr. Shen praised the organization’s important work. “There is no doubt that your assistance brought about circumstances that were optimal in helping the couples during their difficult predicaments and brought about beneficial outcomes,” he wrote.

Women that come to Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael do not encounter any anti-abortion propaganda from the organization. Instead, they are encouraged to talk about what they would need in order to raise a child. 

The vast majority of the cases are families with limited income. Currently, 1.7 million people in Israel are living below poverty level. Just One Life provides nearly $1800 to each mother for financial and psychological services. 

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 social workers in 1989. 

Just One Life has earned praise from Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s representative to the United Nations, who penned a letter recognizing the organization’s three decades of success in bringing Jewish life into the world. “Your work for Jewish families is fundamental to the future and well-being of the Jewish people,” he wrote. “Bringing Just One Life to Israel was an important development, and brought the issue of raising Jewish children 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. 

Among the thousands of mothers who have been helped through the organization was a young Sephardic woman who was pregnant with quadruplets and had additional children at home. Her doctor advised her to the reduce the number of babies, but Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael and Just One Life took her and her husband under its wing by offering her support, financial aid and the assistance of a high-risk pregnancy expert. 

After giving birth to the first naturally born quadruplet boys in Israel, the couple was assisted financially and emotionally through the beginning years. The quadruplets recently celebrated their 21st birthday. Two are learning in Yeshiva, one is working at the police department and the fourth is doing national service. One of them got married before Passover. Rabbi Katz and his wife met with this family in Israel, one month before the wedding. 

“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.’” 

As chairman and co-founder of JOL and Nefesh Achat for 31 years, I, Jack Forgash, 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, and current Director Chaya Katzin and the professional staff Shira Keyak, Sara Gordon, Atara Block and Eliana Rubinstein. During my recent visit Chanukah 2019 I had the pleasure of meeting with staff, mothers and their babies and hearing the mothers express their gratitude for all that Nefesh Achat has provided them. Even now during this pandemic hospital nurses and social workers who are overwhelmed are calling upon Nefesh Achat to take on additional cases. Just One Life in USA provides the resources and the Nefesh Achat organization in Israel provides the loving care. 

ISRAEL'S MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE = ITS CHILDREN

 

JUST ONE LIFE INC.

501 C-3 ORGANIZATION

587 FIFTH AVE RM702 

NY NY 10017 

Rabbi Martin Katz 

347 996 7751

www.justonelife.org

info@justonelife.org

 

NEFESH ACHAT B'YISRAEL  

16 KING GEORGE ST 

JERUSALEM ISRAEL 91024

Chaya Katzin

02 625 4973  

nefesh

nefesh@netvision.net.il

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2019 Bergenfield/Teaneck Function
As in years past, the founders and supporters of “Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael” or “Just One Life” will join together for its annual benefit evening in Teaneck during the Nine Days, on Wednesday, August 7. According to founder and American Chairman and Israeli Co-Chairman Jack Forgash, “This time of year marking the churban of both of our precious Batei Mikdash can best be memorialized by supporting an organization that has effectively helped to recoup the loss of Jewish lives. It has been statistically proven that there were more Jewish children born in the State of Israel during its brief 71-year history than in all of its prior 2,000 years of history in the land. We can modestly attest that the work of Just One Life has been an important component in that impressive statistic.” Included in its ever-increasing services to mothers in Israel who are beset with challenges before and after giving birth, Just One Life offers supportive counseling, financial stipends, home visits, referrals to government and private agencies and advocacy. Their headquarters are in the beautifully renovated offices near Rechov King George in the center of Jerusalem. According to new Director Chaya Katzin, who serves as well as the chief social worker and supervisor of the team of social workers, this past year has seen an impressive increase in services offered. Through an expanded program of workshops, clients are provided with multi-session courses in parenting skills, psycho-dynamic approaches to dealing with the past, present and future, mind-body techniques for dealing with stress and anxiety, and identifying behavioral techniques for achieving happiness and comfort. These multi-session workshops are subsidized and often result in creating support groups among the attendees. Interns from both Shaare Zedek Hospital and Hadassah College in conjunction with Hadassah Hospital work alongside the Just One Life social work team. In appreciation of their work, Dr. Uri Chen, of the Hadassah School of Medicine, wrote a letter to Katzin: “There is no doubt that your assistance brought about circumstances that were optimal to helping women and couples during their difficult predicaments and brought about beneficial outcomes.” Upon her retirement last year, Madelaine Gitelman, who served as the director of social work at Just One Life for over 30 years, became chairman of the board, which she now co-chairs with Jack Forgash. Upon her retirement, Gitelman received a congratulatory letter from Ambassador Danny Danon, permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations, who shared: “I would like to extend my appreciation to Madelaine Gitelman in recognition of her incredible leadership of Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael. Bringing Just One Life to Israel brought the issue of raising Jewish children straight to the heart of the Jewish world.” Rabbi Martin Katz, who has served as the executive vice president of Just One Life for close to 30 years, commented upon his recent “awesome” trip to Israel: “I spent many quality hours with Chaya Katzin and her team of social workers. I visited with new mothers and their happy babies. I listened to the testimonies of women who had overcome difficult times and situations with the help of Just One Life. I saw baby triplets born with our assistance as well as Yael, our former client, mother to now 20-year-old quadruplets. On occasion I am asked how it feels to be doing such holy work. My response is that I am simply a messenger. In turn, I would like to thank the generous communities of Teaneck/Bergenfield for being our special partners in this holy work.” The community is invited to attend the evening of tribute to Just One Life to be held on Wednesday, August 7, at 8 p.m., at the home of Rachel and Azi Mandel, 60 Westminster Avenue, Bergenfield. Co-hosting the evening are Sheryl and Aaron Liberman. Organizers include Rayzel and Ron Yaish, Fraidy and Stuart Forgash, Cindy and Elliot Forgash and Carole and Jack Forgash.The speaker for the evening is the internationally renowned inspirational Torah scholar Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson. For more information and to reserve, please call 347-996-7751 or visit www.justonelife.org.   Article originally appeared on The Jewish Link.
Aug 1st 2019