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
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/
Though the Lemonade Fund, www.lemonadefund.org, would never turn away donations, today I am personally asking for something other than money.
Three years ago this week, in July 2010, specifically on the Jewish day of Tisha B’Av, I received the news that I had breast cancer. The year that followed was difficult, but I had excellent medical care, faith and support, and I am happy to say that I felt fine by the following Tisha B’Av.
As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. A serious illness is terrifying, and one can focus on little beyond survival. During that initial year I was also struck by how costly it was to be sick and I became concerned about patients who were dealing with breast cancer and poverty at the same time. Thus, exactly one year later, in August 2011, on erev Tisha B’Av, the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund, aka, the Lemonade Fund, was born. Since then, the Lemonade Fund has given one-time grants to many needy Israeli breast cancer patients, to help alleviate financial pressure while they are undergoing treatment.
While I am heartened that we can help these patients financially, there is another way I would like to ask for your help. Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, begins tomorrow evening. The fractious nature of Jewish society is often blamed for the historic tragedies that befell us on this day, and we hear many calls for Jewish unity at this time of year. Great idea, but how do we implement ‘tikun olam’ (repairing the world) at a grass-roots level? How do we begin?
Personally. One to one.
At the Lemonade Fund, our focus is illness. Most of the women (though men can get breast cancer, all of our grantees to date have been women) who have received Lemonade Fund grants are desperately ill. The poor often don’t get medical help until disease is advanced. Many are young and single parents. Children are impacted.
Please take a moment on Monday night/Tuesday to have these women in mind. If it is your way, please pray for them. (You can read many of their stories on the website.) Volunteer at the Lemonade Fund; we welcome all volunteers. Or reach out to someone you may know who is ill. Call them, text them, visit them, connect with their caregivers and offer support. Pray for them.
That’s all. Thank you.
With collective acts of good, we can become closer and turn this day of destruction into a day of happiness and reconstruction. Petty hatred is incompatible with compassion. Illness knows no boundaries; enemies share hospital rooms and heal together. I have had the good fortune, thank God, to see this date, Tisha B’Av, transformed into an anniversary of recovery, of hope. May we all merit to continue in this direction, together.
|HOT APPLE CIDER LEMONADE|
|1 gal. apple cider
6 oz. lemonade
6 oz. orange juice
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. whole cloves
1 tbsp. whole allspiceCombine cider, lemonade, orange juice and brown sugar in pan. Heat over medium heat. Place spices in cheese cloth and add to cider. Serve warm.
The Lemonade Fund, http://www.lemonadefund.org, was founded as a response to devastating news. After getting over the shock of a breast cancer diagnosis, I was fortunate to be able to concentrate on the all-consuming job of getting well. During that initial year of treatment, I was often struck by how costly it was to be sick and wondered, how do impoverished women do this? Income is often reduced due to time off from work and yet there are a myriad of new illness-related expenses. Having a serious illness teaches you that there are things that you can and things that you can’t control. We couldn’t necessarily cure cancer, but we could alleviate some of the financial pressure in the neediest among us. Thus was born the Lemonade Fund, an official Israeli charity that grants short term financial assistance to needy breast cancer patients (from all segments of the Israeli population, women and men, of all races and religions,) during the first year of treatment.
Now after more than a year of successfully making lemonade out of lemons, we aim to continue this good work. We are receiving grant requests from all over the country. One of the women who received a grant this month is a single mother of three children, who was recently diagnosed with serious disease. One of her children is a 17 year old daughter who survived a terrorist attack and is just getting back on her feet. The mother is now unable to work and the family is having trouble making ends meet. It was a privilege to be able to help her.
If you haven’t already, please consider making a donation to the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund (IBCERF) aka, the Lemonade Fund, in honor of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
By Telephone: Call the ESRA office and make your donation by credit card (011 972 9-950-8371).
Tax Exempt Donations in Israel: Mail checks to ESRA, POB 3132, Herzliya 46104 (include cover letter designating IBCERF.)
Tax Exempt donations from the United States of America:
P.E.F. Endowment Funds, Inc., Room 607
317 Madison Avenue,
New York, NY 10017
Make check out to PEF but please include a covering letter stating that your donation is earmarked for ESRA, specifying IBCERF.
Tax Exempt donation from the United Kingdom and other countries:
Please contact the ESRA office to find out the best way of making your donation to ESRA from your country.