V., an immigrant from Tajikstan, is a 33 year old married mother of 2 children. Her older son, age 8, is epileptic, autistic and violent. Soon after opening a kindergarten, V. was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Due to the side effects of treatment, V. is unable to work. Her husband teaches martial arts abroad, but now needs to be home to care for his wife and children. This small family’s income has plummeted and their social worker submitted an application for an emergency Lemonade Fund grant, which was awarded.
To donate to Israel’s breast cancer emergency relief fund, the ESRA Lemonade Fund:
Every year at about this time, in mid July, I am stopped in my tracks for a few days.
It is now eight years since life changed so remarkably for me.
On July 18, 2010, I went for what I thought would be a routine mammogram. No reason to worry; no symptoms, no family history. It’s true what they say, that life can turn on a dime. I went into that test one person, and within an hour, I was another… a probable cancer patient. Two days later, which happened to coincide with the Ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, the fast of Tisha B’Av, the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar, I received the news that my biopsy was malignant and that I was indeed solemnly, a cancer patient.
What ensued was a whirlwind period of doctor visits, further testing, decisions, surgery and treatment. Followed by recovery, thank God. I am still recovering, both physically and emotionally, and I will forever be a different person than the one who walked into that mammogram booth in 2010. (A quick digression, a reminder to schedule your yearly medical screening. That routine mammogram saved my life.)
And though it was hard, really hard at times, I wouldn’t trade away what I’ve learned and the opportunities I’ve had, in the last eight years. Being seriously ill is one of the most out of control experiences one can have. Very quickly we learn that the only thing we can control when life throws us lemons, is our reaction. Sadness, anger and depression are certainly reasonable responses. But after a while one realizes that coming through a life-threatening event is an unimaginable gift, not to be squandered. Of course we don’t come out unscathed, but like clay passing through fire, we emerge stronger.
During the year after my diagnosis, while going through treatment, I saw how expensive it was to have breast cancer. I couldn’t imagine how poor or even just-breaking-even patients managed. Spoke to social workers in Breast Centers and they confirmed that some patients didn’t manage, and that financial instability impacted recovery in indigent patients.
It wasn’t the medical care itself; breast cancer treatment is covered by Israeli national health insurance. It was more the ancillary costs, such as lost income, the need for extra childcare or household help, transport to treatments, specialty clothing, etc. Studies show that a formerly solvent family can be catapulted into bankruptcy within six months of a cancer diagnosis. Other countries had breast cancer emergency relief funds to help patients in financial distress, but not Israel.
One year to the date after that fateful mammogram, the ESRA Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund, a.k.a, the ESRA Lemonade Fund was founded. Since August 2011, the Lemonade Fund has helped hundreds of breast cancer patients from all over Israel, from all sectors of Israeli society, with emergency grants, so that they can have peace of mind and focus on their recovery.
Breast cancer knows no boundaries. We are all human and vulnerable when we are sick.
Which brings me back to the extraordinary coincidence of receiving a diagnosis of cancer on Tisha B’Av… What, I always wonder, is the message in this? As we approach the Ninth of Av, it is a mistake to think that this day is the providence of the religious only. Anyone who understands the history and meaning behind the day will mark it as seriously as they mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The list of calamities that occurred on this date throughout history is devastating. Talmudic sources point to ‘baseless hatred’ between people as the cause of the destruction of the second temple and the loss of national sovereignty. Are we any better now? There is an unprecedented level of anger and vile hatred of the ‘other’ in modern day discourse.
Except in Israeli hospitals, where coexistence is the rule. Arab doctors work shoulder to shoulder with Jewish doctors, operating on patients with regard only to their diagnosis, not their origin, sexual, religious orientation or age. Jews forget their religious differences. People who wouldn’t walk on the same side of the street, (or pray next to each other at the Western Wall,) find common ground when facing a crisis. And it is the same in times of war. We pull together then, too.
Like victims of abuse, we don’t know how to live respectfully if we are not under the gun. Tisha B’Av is more than just a routine fast day for religious people. It is a wake up call to all of us about the perils of divisiveness. It is said that the residents of second century Jerusalem were astonished at the speed at which Jerusalem and the temple fell. Hatreds within our current society could tear us apart in no less time. Tolerance takes practice but it can be learned. We know that we can do it; we see that we transform into peaceful people within the walls of hospitals.
The ESRA Lemonade Fund has taught us that it’s much more rewarding to foster compassion and acceptance than anger and hate. A young Haredi mother with stage 4 breast cancer fears abandoning her children no more or less than a young secular mother from Tel Aviv. The antidote to ‘baseless hatred’ and potential destruction is really ‘baseless love.’ We can all do this.
Rav Joseph Soleveichik, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the modern age said, “Tisha B’Av is a day of limitless despair and boundless hope and faith.” Why hopeful? If we are open to it, this special day can be an extraordinary catalyst for change.
Wishing everyone a meaningful Ninth of Av, and years of good health and peace,
Founder and Director, ESRA Lemonade Fund
We at the Lemonade Fund often see how cancer can devastate a family financially in no time. E., a 73 year old Russian immigrant, lives with her unmarried daughter in a small apartment in a development town in the south. Until E. was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, the salary from the daughter’s factory job supported the two women. Subsequently, E.’s daughter lost so much time from work caring for her mother, accompanying her to doctor appointments and treatments, that the family slid into financial crisis. Despite assistance from Bituach Leumi, (National Health Insurance,) eviction was a possibility. The Lemonade Fund awarded E. a generous grant, and E. and her daughter can breathe again and turn their focus back to E. and her health. We are, as ever, grateful to all of our donors, who help us make this kind of assistance possible.
To donate: https://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
M. and her husband, a gentle couple in their mid-sixties, recently made aliyah from South America. Despite their limited Hebrew, they found jobs and were doing well. Within the last year, M.’s husband was laid off from his job and M. discovered a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to the side effects of chemotherapy, M. cannot work and the couple is now living solely on M.’s husband’s unemployment benefits. They’ve slid from solvency to financial crisis and they are feeling desperate. The Lemonade Fund was created for just such situations – and a Lemonade Fund grant was awarded to help tide them over and alleviate M.’s financial stress so she can focus on getting well.
H. has had a hard life by any standards. Yet she is proud and not accustomed to asking for help. She is a widow, living alone in the center of the country, suffering from mental illness and now breast cancer. She was orphaned at the age of 5 and was subsequently raised by various adults who mistreated her. When she was 29, her husband was killed in a car accident, leaving her to raise her two young children alone. She continued to work and support herself even after a diagnosis of schizophrenia. She has helped her daughter, who was also diagnosed with cancer, as a young mother. H. lives in a dilapidated flat without an elevator and is now quite ill from her treatments. She needs help with shopping, cooking and cleaning while she is so weak, but she has no extra money. Her social worker urged her to apply to the Lemonade Fund, and we were happy to award H. a grant to pay for some extra help. We wish H. (and her daughter,) a full recovery.
To donate to the Lemonade Fund: https://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
B., 53, from Sderot, is very ill. She has breast cancer that has metastasized throughout her body, and she will probably stop all treatment soon and enter hospice. Her only income comes from Bituach Leumi (National Insurance) and amounts to NIS 4300/month. The family has decided to move up B.’s daughter’s wedding and has requested assistance with buying B. a dress for the wedding. The Lemonade Fund awarded B. a grant to help her family with this request. We wish B. and her family a mazal tov and we wish B. peace in the days to come.
P., 33, is an immigrant from Romania living in a town north of Tel Aviv. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments to shrink her tumor prior to surgery. After surgery she will need radiation treatments. P. is divorced with two young children, ages 4 and 7. Her older child is severely autistic and needs extra help, and P. can’t rely on her ex-husband or any extended family. P. told her social workers that she is concerned about money because she had to take a leave from her job as a kindergarten teacher due to the side effects of her treatments. Until now she made ends meet with her income and alimony, but without her job, money is very tight. Bituach Leumi will hopefully provide her with some benefits, but approval takes time, and P. needs help now. The Lemonade Fund awarded P. a grant to help her during this critical time, so she can hire extra childcare and focus on getting well.
Another way to help: The Lemonade Fund is currently providing two young single mothers who are in treatment, in the Sharon area (Raanana and Kfar Sava,) with a Shabbat meal once a week, on Fridays. The commitment is to provide one meal to one of the mothers, no more than once every four months. If you are interested in signing up, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
To donate: https://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
Women’s Health Awareness Event (in English) Monday, May 12, 2014.
Come to Lemonade Fund’s Women’s Health Awareness Evening (in English) to hear about the latest controversies about screening.
RSVP: email@example.com or https://www.facebook.com/events/480634542039654/
Friends of the Lemonade Fund:Been out of touch but very busy! The Lemonade Fund,www.lemonadefund.org, has been helping Israeli women with breast cancer at an increased pace since our last update. The following are profiles of some of the women who have received grants:O., 37 years old, married with five children, ages 2-14, from the south. Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, O. had to take a leave of absence from her job as a kindergarten teacher while she undergoes chemotherapy. Her husband has had to take significant time off from his job to help care for O. and their children, and they are beginning to have trouble paying their bills. The Lemonade Fund was created to help families such as this; families that are hardworking and solvent, but who are pushed into financial crisis due to serious illness. It is our hope that our grants assist families with these temporary hardships while they recover physically, until they can get back on their feet.D., 30 years old, separated with two children, ages 2 and 7, from a city in the south. Her disease was diagnosed at an advanced stage and D. is getting chemotherapy to shrink her tumor prior to having surgery to remove it. After this she will need weeks of radiation treatments. Unfortunately, D. has no contact with her extended family and she gets little help from her former husband. She needs extra help and is now in severe financial distress. One of the things most important to D. is that she wants to be sure that her son, who recently started first grade, has enough clothing and books for school. The Lemonade Fund awarded D. a grant and we pray for her recovery.The Lemonade Fund is also now, thanks to amazing volunteers, supplying home-cooked meals to two single Mom’s in the Sharon area who are having chemotherapy.We are a simple charity. Money that comes in goes directly to women who have passed the application process. Apologies that we do not have fancy printed material or events, but know that the money that you donate goes straight to our recipients. Breast cancer in Israel is now striking 1 in 7 women. Please help us help these women.And best wishes for a healthy, meaningful Passover!Shari
photo by Romulo Yanes
Makes 8 to 10 servings
5 hrAlmonds and matzo cake meal make a wonderfully textured crust for this refreshing, citrusy cheesecake. After Passover, instead of pulling out the graham crackers again, experiment with other cookie crusts such as one made with shortbread.
- 3/4 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and cooled
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup matzo cake meal
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Equipment: a 9-inch springform pan
- Garnish: julienned lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350F with rack in middle.
Pulse almonds, sugar, matzo cake meal, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter until combined well. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of springform pan. Bake until crust is firm and a shade darker, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool crust completely in pan on a rack.
Make filling and bake cheesecake:
Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
Beat together cream cheese and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs 1 at a time, mixing until incorporated. Mix in zest and vanilla.
Put springform pan in a shallow baking pan and pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set 1 1/2 inches from edge but center is wobbly, 45 to 50 minutes (filling will continue to set as it cools). Transfer cake in pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around edge, then remove side of pan. Cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.
cooks’ note:Cheesecake can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, loosely covered.Shari MendesIsrael Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund (IBCERF)c/o ESRA10 Tsabarim StreetGan RashalP.O.Box 3132Herzliya 46104, ISRAEL972-9-950-8371email: firstname.lastname@example.org apply for assistance: Contact Anat at ESRA 09-950-8371to donate: https://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/website: http://www.lemonadefund.org/facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lemonadefund