Rabbi Marty Katz & Jack Forgash
As the Nine days approach, the staff and supporters of “Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael” or “Just One Life” are planning their annual Teaneck/Bergenfield benefit. This year, the event will be live streamed for the community on Tuesday evening, July 28. The guest speaker is Rabbi YY Jacobson a world renown lecturer and a friend of Just One Life.
This years' event will once again be hosted by Rachel and Azi Mandel and Sheryl and Aaron Liberman. Jack Forgash, founder and Co-Chairmen, is excited to bring technology to Just One Life and their events. “It has been many years and several events in various communities, but now it’s time to share our wealth of talented speakers and the Just One Life mission and reach more people”.
For many women in Israel suffering from financial and emotional stress, the news of a pregnancy is too much to bear.
That’s where Just One Life USA), or Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael (Israel), 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 group’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 couples at the cozy Just One Life office on Jerusalem’s King George Street where they speak about their anxieties and fears. She urges them to consider their options, as well as the types of assistance that would alleviate their pressures.
Together with her team of social workers, she helps couples navigate the social, emotional and economic issues that can accompany an untimely or at-risk pregnancy.
“Because many couples are not equipped with financial resources or a support system, their ability to raise a family is compromised,” Katzin said about her clients.
“Helping women think about 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.
The social workers 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 problems.
Women often find their way to the Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael/Just One Life office through referrals from doctors, social workers, nurses and welfare offices. The couples 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. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of money. The group also receives referrals from major hospitals across Israel.
Dr. Uri Chen, Director of the ultrasound maternity unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, has referred many patients to Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael over the years. In one of his letters of thanks to the organization, he praised the group’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.
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 group also offers assistance to those with high-risk 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 Gittleman from Jerusalem who became the Director and Head social workers in 1989 of the Amutah.
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 group’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 in large part because 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 (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 21 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.’”
The community is invited to attend the livestream event on Tuesday July, 28 at 8pm for Just One Life by registering at jol.vsociallive.com
For more information, call 347 766-7751
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