By Tania Hammer
I was invited to an Australian wedding in Pittsburgh. I felt compelled to go for my friend and fellow Aussie, even though I didn’t know anyone in the area. The fun started the moment I was picked up by a friend of the wedding party. It’s the friendliest out-of-town community, and I fit right in. My hostess made sure to introduce me to all her friends, and the places we ate at over Shabbos were as gracious as could be. The chassan, my Australian friend’s son, was in very good hands.
A lot of people asked me what I did in New York, and when I answered that I work for Satmar Bikur Cholim, they were in awe. It is awesome to work for an organization that is defined by chesed. I am truly blessed to know these holy rebbetzins who give their lives to helping the most frail among us.
At the end of the wedding, someone marched up to me with spirit in her steps. I didn’t recognize her, but she seemed enthusiastic. “I heard you are the one who works for Satmar Bikur Cholim. Do you have time to hear my story?” I can never hear enough stories about my work! So we sat down in a quiet corner and talked. Here is her very personal story about what Satmar Bikur Cholim did for her:
“My eldest son contracted the dreaded disease when he was five. At the time, I had four children. Here in Pittsburgh, the options were slim, so his oncologist recommended a hospital in New York. Four kids under 5 is hard enough, but with a sick child, it’s a whole new playing field. I took him to New York and we decided to hospitalize him there. It was the best for him. My husband and I decided to uproot the family and move in to my in-laws’ house. We registered them for school and started fresh.
“Satmar Bikur Cholim visited every day. They brought fresh, home-cooked meals for my son, and a highlight every day was unwrapping the package to see what was being served. Always fresh, always delicious, and always delivered with a smile. I received the highest level of care from every volunteer. They listened as I laughed and cried, arranged recreational activities for my other children, introduced me to organizations that provided endless support in all areas of my new life. There was nothing they couldn’t help me with.
“The decline in my son’s health was evident. We asked rabbis for berachos, we went to Israel to daven at kevarim, but he wasn’t responding to treatment. After about a year, the doctors told us they had run out of options, and frankly, I couldn’t bear to see him suffering through the endless pain of chemo. He wasn’t going to get better and that was our reality. We decided to take him to the Catskills in the summer—perhaps the fresh air would do him good.
“I told each volunteer that we were leaving to the country and gave her a little something from us. I got their names and numbers and promised I would be in touch. It took a couple of days to settle in; my son was outfitted with a hospital bed—in a small bungalow, that’s quite a challenge, but we did it. It was on loan to us from a Satmar Bikur Cholim gemach. We were sitting on the deck about four days into the summer and a chassidishe fellow came to our door. He presented us with a care package from Satmar Bikur Cholim: the usual delicious menu, plus some small toys for the other children. I was stunned. I had told one of the volunteers which colony I was in, and she must have taken note of it and organized a meal delivery. Every day, we received a delivery for my son and, more often than not, something for the other kids too.
“My son died two weeks before Rosh Hashanah. Satmar Bikur Cholim volunteers came to the shivah house every day. Even the young delivery guy came to visit. This was 15 years ago, and I’m still in touch with some volunteers. In the midst of the devastation, there was light. I wanted to thank you for all that you do for the klal. Going to the hospitals is one thing, but finding us in the country took the mitzvah to another level.” ϖ
The Lawrence chapter of Satmar Bikur Cholim will iy’H be hosting an evening of prayer and song on the first night of Selichos, motzaei Shabbos, September 20, at the home of Suzi and Dov Klein in Lawrence. For more information, please see the ad on page 15.
To donate to Satmar Bikur Cholim, please call Rebbetzin Chaye Miller at 718-855-6666, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a check to Ladies Bikur Cholim of Satmar, 439 Park Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205. Put “5 Towns Melaveh Malka” in the memo.