As our community was hard at work preparing for the Passover holiday, seven local families within a single month were hit with a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. In response, the Jewish Caring Network has launched a community-wide campaign called, K’ish Echad B’Lev Echad – like one man with one heart. In this campaign, which carries the haskama of Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer, the entire community – men, women, and children from every walk of life – can come together to help people affected by illness.
“It has been an overwhelmingly devastating period for the Jewish community,” noted Jewish Caring Network volunteer Rabbi Yisroel Roll, who is spearheading the effort. “This campaign will give everyone in the community an opportunity, and an entrée, to become involved with helping and supporting families who are facing an illness. We are offering many avenues to do this.”
For those who are into health and fitness, there will be separate Jewish Caring Network 5K events for men and women: the Men’s 5K Care Run (Race Run Walk) in Druid Hill Park, on Sunday, May 29, and the Women’s 5K Care Run (Race Run Walk), on Sunday, June 5, at the Maryland Zoo of Baltimore. You can sign up for the 5K online, at www.jewishcaringnetwork.org.
Those who want to help through learning can participate in a Learn-a-Thon program. It involves learning three hours beyond one’s usual learning schedule, during Sefira, as a special merit for those who are ill. You can accrue time by going to a shiur or by learning with a chavrusa! There are signup sheets in every shul. Men are taking on the challenge in shuls and yeshivas. Remember, it is just three hours during the entire Sefira, which amounts to just a few extra minutes per day! Participants have the option of receiving the names of cholim, so their learning can be dedicated to them.
There are two exciting programs for children, as well. The Midos-a-Thon is a ben adam lechaveiro midos program for boys, ages 8 to 13, being held from Pesach to Lag Ba’Omer, April 22 to May 26. Participants agree to perform midos tovos once a week. These include such things as kibud av va’em (respect for parents), helping a family member, and doing homework without being asked. Brochures and sign up sheets are in all the shuls.
In addition, Rabbi Mordechai Shuchatowitz, Rav of Agudath Israel Greenspring, has initiated a JCN “Chesed a Day” program for all ages! Participants simply do a mitzva a day, preceded by declaring that this mitzva is a zechus (merit) for a refuah shleima (speedy recovery) for a particular choleh (sick person) that he/she names.
Those who take part in the 5K, Learn-a-Thon, Midos-A-Thon, and “Chesed a Day” programs are asked to please reach out to family and friends to sponsor you (reach out via calls, emails, and approaching co-workers!) and help raise the funds Jewish Caring Network so desperately needs in order to continue to provide their various services. The JCN helps send kids to camp so they can just feel like kids; sends birthday and anniversary gifts; provides clothes for the holidays; has Big Brother/Big Sister programs; providse day and weekend respite retreats; supplies tickets to concerts, amusement parks, and sporting events; fills freezers and grocery shops for families; and provides many other custom-tailored services for the choleh and his/her family members.
“Between the JCN and the Tikva House, we provide just under $1,000,000 of programs and services each year to families diagnosed with a life-threatening, lifelong, or serious medical diagnosis,” noted Stacey Goldenberg, director of operations for the Jewish Caring Network. “We hope each and every person will participate in one of the K’ish Echad B’lev Echad projects. “With the community’s help, families will be able to have what they need during their difficult medical journey. Families need to know that they are not alone and that we are here, standing beside them, for as long as they need.”
“We have to do something about the situation that has hit our community,” concluded Karen Traub, one of the founders of Jewish Caring Network. “We feel that we have got to respond and galvanize our efforts in the area of chesed. The challenge facing many families in our community is a wake-up call for all of us. Hashem is speaking to us. We need to respond. That is why we launched all these programs at the same time, and we are asking the community to join us and get involved.”