Sunday, January 09, 2005

This woman needs our help!

I received an email, with this very moving article, from Naomi Ragen. I'm posting it in its entirety in the comment section. There is a single mother who needs our help. I know you all have already donated heavily to the Tsunami but hopefully there's a bit left over to help.


At 8:55 PM, Blogger Esther said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:00 PM, Blogger Esther said...

I wanted to format it better hope this works:

Jerusalem Post humor columnist, Andrea Siman Tov. It brought tears to my eyes.

I hope to visit Chasia and let you know what's happening.


Andrea Siman Tov

It was my first ‘communal’ Shabbos dinner, and I was in a foul mood on a chilly night in Jerusalem. Forever I’ll remember that Sukkoth in October 2002. Bad enough that I didn’t have the money to buy a sukkah that year. Bad enough that I was ashamed to call friends and ask to join them and their families. Couldn’t a few of my children have stayed with me for this holiday, instead of all going off with their dad to a fancy hotel? But when the host rabbi stood and asked that we all take no more than two minutes to relate either what was our best Sukkoth experience or when we first learned about the holiday, I wanted the floor to swallow me whole. Doing the math, I figured that even if every one of the thirty or so strangers in the tent only took two minutes a piece, we were in for a l-o-o-o-n-g evening.
And so, dining on vegan-fare using plastic plates and Styrofoam cups, I learned how one fellow got in touch with God while sitting atop the Himalayas. Several young women who were in the process of converting to Judaism told their tales (taking more than five minutes each). Many, many of the attendees had sat at the respective right arms of Rabbi Carlbach, the Rebbe Lubavitch and/or the Baba Sali. And one middle-aged woman wearing a large Minnie Pearl hat and huge, gold Jewish star embedded with a large sapphire crucifix spoke on behalf of herself and her two friends who sat on either side. Speaking in an unmistakable German accent, she exclaimed, “We luff de Jewish peoples. We luff you and ven you vill haff peace de vorld will be happy! May Gott bless all you Jewish peoples. We luff you!”
I wasn’t charmed. In fact, my ingratitude for all I had and distrust of others seemed limitless during that Autumn of My Discontent.
A young woman sat across from me and her appearance was so drab that I - - immersed in egocentric boredom - - immediately dismissed her along with the other co-diners. A well-behaved little boy alongside her was admittedly adorable but did little to pique my interest in whatever tale she might, in turn, tell.
“Shabbat Shalom,” she began, quietly, in Russian accented Hebrew. “My name is Chassia and this is my son, Nachum.” He smiled, shyly, at the mention of his name and continued to stab at sesame seeds that had fallen from his challah roll with the tine of a plastic fork.
“My first Sukkoth happened nine years ago when I was a student in St. Petersburg. We had a small, secret Jewish club and the handful of us decided to build a sukkah in the back of factory, not far from the university. I cannot even tell you today whether or not it was a kosher sukkah. All I know is that we were very excited. The year before I didn’t even know I was Jewish!
“We met for prayers in one boy’s apartment and walked to the sukkah with the covered dishes we’d prepared. But when we got there, it was unusable because snow and wind had caused it to collapse. None of us knew what to do but we didn’t want to give up. Someone had heard that there was another sukkah in another part of the city and we decided to walk there together.
“When we got there, there was no room and the people were frightened that neighbors would call the police. They asked us to leave but where could we go? We had walked for at least an hour to get to this second sukkah and we felt, suddenly, very determined.
“We knew of one more sukkah at the northern end of St. Petersburg. We had started out, originally, in the south of the city and this sukkah would take us another hour to reach. Without taking a vote, we began to walk. It was bitter cold out but we were laughing among ourselves, delighted in our newfound Jewish-camaraderie.
“All in all, it had taken us three hours to walk from the first sukkah to the third. They were happy to have us and quickly gave us each a bowl of soup. The rabbi began to talk and when he finished, we picked up our spoons to eat. But what did we find? The soup had frozen solid in our bowls!
“This was the most important Sukkoth of my life. For the first time in my life I understood that it didn’t matter where I sat down. If there were Jews at the table, I was home.”
Naturally, I told my children the story of this young divorcee and how moved I became from her tale. One of my daughters befriended her, bringing letters from Russian pen pals for translation. When Yael offered to pay for the service, Chassia refused.
We moved away and lost touch with many of the friends we’d made during our brief sojourn in town. Truth be told, it was a painful period in my life and I was anxious to rebuild a personal world that was less penny-pinching, less fragmented, less eclectic.
A few days ago I received a phone call from one of those friends. She sheepishly asked me to pen a letter on behalf of a young woman in the community who had suddenly been diagnosed with malignant breast cancer. She said, “Andrea, I’d do it myself but I’m not a writer. This girl has nothing and I want to make sure people understand the severity of the situation.” After only a few moments of note taking, I knew that this wasn’t just ‘any woman.’ It had to be Chassia.
“She’s an ‘engraver’ for jewelry manufacturer. A single mother. Adorable little boy. Living way below the poverty line. Last year my son helped her carry a bed that someone had discarded into her apartment. After she went to the hospital I went there to clean and saw that she had given the bed to her little boy. She sleeps on a mattress outside of his room.”
It has all happened so fast. The last week in December she went to the doctor and within four days she underwent a radical mastectomy and removal of 50% of her lymph nodes on the right side. According to the physician who performed the surgery, a strong possibility exists that she’ll have to undergo the same process on the left side. At the time of this writing, she is still in Bikur
Cholim hospital and social workers are desperately trying to keep her admitted until this coming Thursday, the minimum amount of time that will entitle her to adequate household help through her insurance provider.
Upon being released from the hospital, Chassia is scheduled to receive intensive chemotherapy. There is no doubt that she will become very weak during this process. According to her doctor, she’ll lose her hair during this time. She’ll need physical therapy as well to improve mobility in her right arm as well.
It has all happened so fast that we, Chassia’s friends, haven’t had time to put together a plan of action in order to make things go more smoothly. Rebbetzin Raize Lipke has been serving as an advocate between the doctors, community and Chassia and I’m very grateful to her for taking the time to explain the situation to me. Several women are meeting this week to organize daytime and overnight shifts. There are several potential interim options which may allow her to stay in a ‘recuperation facility’ before she actually has to return to her bleak, threadbare apartment. I’ll learn more in the coming days and will be happy to share any updates as they become available.
She can’t work. She has no family. She won’t even use the electric heater which friend’s provided because she can’t afford the additional electricity. She will need food. She’ll need to pay utilities. Nachum’s father is ‘out of the picture.’ She’ll need round the clock supervision for the unforeseeable future. She has absolutely nothing and we are doing everything possible to keep
her spirits elevated, hoping to provide her with enough encouragement and physical sustenance to fight the battle ahead. Right now, Nachum is staying with a loving Russian family in Beit El, but he’ll need the intervention of school social workers and psychologists as both his mother’s health and physical appearance alter.
She needs money. There. I said it. Money. Whatever you can. Any amount you can find from your obligatory terumah/tithes, please earmark some of it for Chassia. She is responsible and good and - - through no fault of her own - - on the receiving end of a terrible illness.
Eleven years ago, nineteen-year-old Chassia Ullman understood that, wherever there were Jews, she was among family. Those of us who know her are trying to make this sad episode a little less brutal as she fights for her life. Our ‘sister’ is sick. Chassia Bat Ludmilla. Please help us help her.

In Gratitude,
Andrea Simantov

Note: Please send checks to the address below. Shekel checks can be made out directly to Chassia Ullman. Dollar checks should be made out to Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz with a note indicating that they are for Chassia.
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz
“Chava Yachad”
P.O.B. 43173
It doesn't say Israel, but I'm guessing that's needed.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger RomanWanderer said...

Very touching, I hope the article will serve its purpose


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