Diary of Global Networking in Action

— by Hannah Lee

As Part 4 of a sporadic series on Creating Community, I write about an effort that spans the Atlantic Ocean and connects us with Eretz Yisrael.

In May, a friend, Ari, contacted me to find an organization that could use three dental chairs and two x-ray machines, donated by a dentist who was retiring from his practice in New York.  (We’re foodie buddies and he knows about my networking instincts.)  His father, Bob Schwell, coordinates donations for Yad Sarah in New York (while shuttling between Israel and the United States) and these items were deemed not suitable for shipping to Israel.  By the end of the day, I was able to identify two organizations interested in the equipment: Columbia’s dental school which runs a clinic in New York and Partners in Health which would like to send them to Haiti.  

More after the jump.
However, neither one of them was able to mobilize in time for the date when the shipping container would be packed in the warehouse in Newark.  Meanwhile, my inquiries led to a phone call from a young dentist who was starting up her own practice and wanted the equipment.  Fine, but my stipulation was that she give a donation to Yad Sarah.

In early June, Bob went to Newark to supervise the packing of the shipping container and they set aside the dental equipment.  I asked him what does it take to start a chapter in Philly?  He said that the major issue is finding local storage.  The heavy items — hospital beds, etc. — that require professionals are picked up by Moishe’s Movers (which volunteers the time of its employees who are all veterans of the Israeli Army) and brought to the shipper’s warehouse in Newark.  The smaller, portable items are the things that need local storage until the next date for packing a shipping container.

So, I made contact with the coordinators of the local Bikur Cholim and they will accept the items Yad Sarah cannot send to Israel, such as manual wheelchairs.   Mati Sved, whose family owns a warehouse in Philly, agreed to house items, as long as they fit on a 40″ x 48″ pallet for transport to the upstairs storage floor.  I was making steady progress!  

Early this month, Bob reported that he’d spoken with someone at Moishe’s Movers but that individual was not interested in picking up from Philly.  However, this was not the boss!  Undeterred, I asked if we could separate the project in two: portable items that can be transported by volunteers and heavy items like hospital beds that require professional movers.  Then I got official permission from the American headquarters in New York and on July 11th, I announced the launching of a local chapter for Yad Sarah.  

I posted a notice on the LowerMerionShuls community list-serve (subject of Part 1 of this “Creating Community” series and now with 1,414 members) and I’ve gotten offers already.  Alas, they’re not items I can send overseas, so I’m busy finding other beneficiaries for them.  Still, it’s a good way to build community networks.  The next step is to line up volunteer drivers and additional storage space.

Founded in 1976 by Uri Lupolianski, now the mayor of Jerusalem, Yad Sarah offers a wide range of medical and legal services in Israel.  A recent survey by the Dahaf Institute found that every second family in Israel has been helped by one of Yad Sarah’s services.  In 2004, The United Nations granted Yad Sarah advisory status to its Economic and Social Council.  In 2011, Yad Sarah served 420,000 people, lent out 270,000 pieces of medical equipment from its 104 sites, staffed by over 6,000 volunteers.   For more information about Yad Sarah Philly, contact me at [email protected]  

Some Lessons I Have Learned About Bikur Cholim

— by Hannah Lee

We human beings learn better, more viscerally, when it is experiential.  A recent convalescence from an injury has taught me some serendipitous lessons in being a patient (wouldn’t “impatient” be a more apt term?) and offering comfort to the sick.

With one leg effectively immobilized, I have learned to get up from a prone position from the floor; throw most non-fragile items down the stairs; bump downstairs on my tush (I never did learn to gauge the distance on the stair treads to do it back upwards); ask for and accept help from all kinds of strangers, including the visiting plumber; and I am still learning to be patient while the requested help– a fetched object, a ride– is being processed and executed.

This injury and convalescence has taught me some important lessons in bikur cholim (comforting the sick):

  • show that you care;
  • do not offer blithe reassurances on prognosis and recovery (you do not really know);
  • do not relate medical horror stories of your own or of others (this is not the time for one-upsmanship or to educate the na├»ve);
  • ask what would give comfort to the invalid (not what you think would give comfort; I’ve learned this lesson before about giving appropriate birthday gifts); and
  • try different ways of making the person feel alive and needed (such as by maintaining the family routines), not just defined by the injury or illness.

More after the jump.
Most of the time we take our bodies for granted and we’re heedless of how fortunate we are that we can awaken each day and have all of our organs and limbs ready to do our bidding.  But when our body fails us, it’s not necessary or helpful to regard it as a punishment, as in what did we do wrong to deserve this trial?.  A more positive, healing perspective is to think of it as a nisayon, a test- for us and for our community and social network.  This could be a test for our neshamah (soul) and of our values.  How do we comfort the sick and help them stay connected and a part of our life?