By Yochanan Gordon
On Sunday, November 3, Satmar Bikur Cholim will iy’H be holding its first Five Towns meet-and-greet brunch, coordinated by Mr. Reuven and Mrs. Esther Guttman, at the newly constructed Regency Condominiums in Lawrence. This is an opportunity to give back to an organization that has provided care, compassion, and generosity to those in need over the last 60 years. An organization that was founded with one important policy—to never turn down a call for help—deserves our help.
We recently read Parashas Vayeira, which commences with Hashem paying a visit to Avraham Avinu on the third day after he was circumcised, in order to ease his pain and aid in his recovery. While visiting the sick makes sense from a moral and humane vantage point, we are also obligated to tend to the needs of the ill in order to emulate the ways of Hashem. No one has emulated G‑d’s care, compassion, and thoughtfulness in the area of tending to the sick as Satmar Bikur Cholim has.
An indigent man once knocked on the door of the Brisker Rav; it was erev Pesach and he did not have money to buy enough wine for the Pesach Seder. The Rav gave him an envelope with a handsome sum of money and sent the man happily on his way. Having heard the man’s request for wine money and taking notice of the large sum that the Rav had given the man, his rebbetzin asked for an explanation. The Rav responded, “If he is asking for wine now, he doesn’t have meat, matzah, or any other holiday fare in order to celebrate the holiday joyously.” This is a profound lesson in giving and the sensitivity and insight with which each case needs to be seen through. It is sensitivity like this that Satmar Bikur Cholim represents.
Many of the people receiving assistance from Satmar Bikur Cholim have never needed to rely on public support, and would feel humiliated having to ask for help. The alter Satmar Rebbetzin was a paragon of loving-kindness and founded the Bikur Cholim in 1952, spearheading the system and training a team of devoted women to see to it that all of the needs of the ailing are met without them having to ask for it.
The sense of helplessness that overcomes a family that has encountered an illness weighs down and compromises the family’s stability. Satmar Bikur Cholim must meet the costs of tending to the family’s everyday needs and to keep up the spirits of hundreds of patients and their families throughout their ordeals. There are some 300–400 volunteers distributing meals to hospitals every day!
In a conversation with Sara Stern, who is in charge of running the professional end of Satmar Bikur Cholim, I learned that the Bikur Cholim owns a few apartments in Manhattan where family members of those being treated can stay within walking distance of the hospital. In addition, they have a team of top physicians with whom they consult regularly and who offer second and third opinions, reevaluating the patients’ medical records and charting an accurate course of treatment for each patient that has requested their services.
After seeing the ad for the upcoming event, a woman contacted the Bikur Cholim offices seeking to donate an electric scooter to someone in need. Shortly thereafter, a middle-aged woman who has been homebound for the past two years with multiple sclerosis, not wanting to be seen being pushed around by a home attendant, called to see if perhaps they had a scooter available so that she could finally get out of the house. Arrangements were then made to have the scooter delivered to the woman’s house, allowing her for the first time in two years to enjoy the outdoors. Mrs. Stern said to me, “You can’t imagine the joy and ecstasy that she radiated when the delivery was brought to her house.”
It’s sad to constantly hear stories of people suffering from health problems. But we’d be much better off thinking about how fortunate we are to be part of such a dedicated and selfless people that has the Bikur Cholim in its midst. They exemplify the characteristics of rachmanim, baishanim, and gomlei chassadim and in their inimitable way they see to it that people receive their services with utmost dignity and honor.
On a happier note, Sara mentioned to me that the Bikur Cholim has been there aiding kimpeturins, women who have given birth, with the needs that are most important to them. She said, “The Satmar Rebbetzin once said that if we don’t reach out to the kimpeturins offering to send them for a few days upstate to receive round-the-clock care for their newborns and enough time to rest, we would be getting a call for help three months down the line having to deal with postpartum issues—and we want to avoid that at all costs.” She then said, “I pray for the day that all we are needed for is to tend to the needs of new mothers.” And I say, Hashem should look at the dedication and the unconditional love of these public servants and usher in the day when the only people occupying hospital beds are mothers in childbirth.
But until then, we owe it to these women of valor who are committed to being there for us in our time of need to at least be there for them and to see to it that they are able to continue their holy work. So please come out in support on Sunday, November 3 at 10:00 a.m. and make a difference in someone’s life. For credit-card donations, please call 718-237-5585 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Sara Stern can be reached at the outreach office, 718-855-6666, for all matters relating to medical referrals and health guidance. She will iy’H be at the event to greet the community. v