Dear Beth Miriam,
As a religious leader, one of my ongoing efforts is to engage the community I serve in new ways to do good deeds in the spirit of tikkun olam. It is in that spirit that I would like to share the story of someone in my community who needs our help.
A lifelong member of Temple Beth Miriam, whose parents were active volunteers in our Synagogue, has dedicated her life to tzedakah and gemelut chasadim. She is a lifetime member of Hadassah and serves on the Advisory Board for Jewish Family Services. In 2000, she started one of the most meaningful programs our Synagogue offers, Family Affair, which brings food and comfort to the mourning and encouragement to those in need.
These are just some examples of her impact on our Jewish community.
Her passion and commitment to helping those in need is far reaching. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Department of Education at Monmouth University where she established a scholarship, counseled students and taught psychology for many years. At Brookdale Community College she not only taught psychology, but taught English as a Second Language to immigrant students and community members. She has made financial contributions to countless needy organizations and has given her time and energy to countless others. Assisting ShoreHouse is but one example. Their mission is to aid those with mental illness to build long-term relationships that, in turn, support in obtaining education, employment and housing.
Many who know this community member know how much passion she has for the people in her life and the causes she supports. What they may not realize is how much strength and energy this required. When she was a young mother, she was diagnosed with a serious mood disorder. Her two boys were less than ten years old at the time. Faced with the fear that this condition would deprive her children of a normal childhood, she made the choice that any mother would—to take the medication suggested by her doctor, despite risk for major side effects later in life. Some of the side effects were a known commodity. Some were not. Still, this was the best medication available at that time and with a less than 5% chance of experiencing side effects, taking the medication was the obvious choice.
So she did just that. She took her medication, without fail, and provided the love and care that her children needed to have a wonderful childhood. After she was widowed at age 45, she stepped up and became the strong, independent, generous woman she is today, never regretting the choice she had made to deal with her illness. By all measures, she had succeeded.
Sadly, the side effects of these medications have become my friend's reality. While she managed with them for many years, it has now reached end stage renal disease and is in need of a kidney transplant. She has always considered herself blessed, with a full life, amazing friends, two beautiful sons, and now two amazing grandchildren. Her only wish is to continue as a vibrant figure in the lives of her children and grandchildren, and to one day see them under the chuppah.
So as we approach this High Holiday season, and we search for ways to show our friends, family and congregants the value of mitzvot, I hope you will spread the word. We need a donor. She needs a kidney. All of us can do a mitzvah by telling others of this story. The power of your words, of your congregants’ words, spreading this need throughout their circles is immeasurable, and a tremendous mitzvah on its own. After all, we all know the greatest gifts sometimes come from the most unknown places.
Rabbi Cy Stanway