Can You Help?


eliyahu safranBy Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

There is no disease in the world for which Hashem had not already created the cure.

The task is for us to find it!

To everything there is a time and a season.  So Koheles teaches, so our lives make clear.  Study and prayer are among the great pleasures and joys of my life.  But just as every aspect of life must be in balance with every other aspect of the life God has given us, there are times when we must not only pray and study but we must also act in the world.

This is such a time.

* * *

Meet Esther Herzfeld.  She is a wonderful woman whom I first came to know when she taught English at the Yeshiva University Girls High School where I served as Principal in the mid 1980’s.   As a principal, I often came to know not only the students in my school but also their parents.  It was more rare for me to come to know the parents of my faculty.  However, I did meet Esther’s mother, a Holocaust survivor.  Like other survivors, she wanted nothing more than her children know a better, purer existence than her own.  She was a lovely woman, with a beautiful smile and a sparkle in her eyes.

Once, when I saw her, rather than show me the deference and respect I had come to appreciate from the old time European Jews, she pulled me aside and whispered urgently in my ear, “Esther iz aza gutte; oib zie darf amol epes, helft ihr zu!”  I nodded to her, understanding the Yiddish well.  “Esther is a good person; if she ever needs anything, help her.”

Of course, understanding what she said and why she said it are two different things.  Esther was fine.  She was confident, creative and bright.  A wonderful and highly-thought of teacher.  What could she possibly need from me?

Now, I know.

* * *

Since she was a young girl, Esther dreamed of a much better life than the life her mother had experienced.  She dreamed of a satisfying career, a loving husband and, of course, a family of wonderful children whom she could love and raise in a caring, Jewish home.   She never imagined herself reaching out to friends and strangers, desperate not for herself but for her children.

She kept her end of the “bargain”.  She was a good and caring person.  She met and married a wonderful man.  They established a good, Jewish home.  They started a family.  One child.  Then another.  A third and then a fourth.

Blessings upon blessings had been heaped upon her!  To her credit, she was aware of her blessings and was grateful for them.  But there has come a time when she has felt the burdens of life more than its blessings.

Tziporah, now twenty-two years old, suddenly changed her gait at eleven years of age.  She began to fall, but not like a toddler falls, but as one whose body completely betrays her falls.  She was diagnosed with a type of muscular dystrophy called CMT.

She is barely able to walk.

A terrible blow!  One that would cause any loving parent to toss and turn through the night in emotional anguish.  To have a child suffer is a terrible thing.  But there was more pain to come.  Through some terrible genetic pathway, her other children came to suffer from the same disease!

Tzvi, now eighteen, hasn’t been able to walk since just after his Bar Mitzvah.  Racheli, only fifteen, walks, but with great difficulty, for only short distances, and only holding on to her parents’ hands.

Three children!  Each suffering!  It seemed that only their eldest, Rivka, had escaped the disease.  But then, a phone call came while she was on her gap year.  “Mom!  I’m scared.”

“What is it, Rivka?  What’s the matter?”

Through tears, Rivka managed to speak the words that she, too, had begun to fall.

* * *

Hearing Esther’s story made me ask myself, “What can I do to help?”

What can you do?

Are we not all called upon to help one another, to be gomlei chasadim?  But what can I do?

* * *

Many people now know of the challenges that Esther and her family face.  There has been a good amount of publicity, much of it the result of Esther’s entering an annual contest sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.  Although her family did not win the contest, their entry caught the attention of prominent California philanthropist Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, founder and CEO of Brius Healthcare Service.  He took it upon himself to provide the family members with the van they had hoped to win in the contest.

That gift has proven to be a real “game changer” for the family.  Even so, we need much more!

In Esther’s own words, “We are looking for a clinical trial, an experimental drug, or drug therapy.  We are hoping that stem cell research will provide a cure. We are running out of time, though. Each child gets weaker every day, losing more muscle tone and the capability to accomplish everyday tasks. We need a drug or treatment that can stave off further deterioration and bring about muscle regeneration and function.”

In other words, We need a cure!

That there is a cure is beyond a doubt.  God is the Borei refuos.  He has created and continues to create the cure for each and every ailment bedeviling mankind, even the most rare.  There is a cure.  The challenge is for us to find it.

I am asking that each and every one of you – doctors, researchers, biomedical professionals… everyone in the medical field and everyone else – does something that moves us to finding that cure and healing this family!  Use every tool at your disposal.  Medical laboratories.  Libraries and research centers.  Every kind of social media, from Facebook and Twitter to Instant Messaging.  Let’s get the word out there!

Esther and her husband, Arthur, daven for a cure every day.  One doctor they’d seen predicted a cure for CMT in five years but that was over ten years ago!  We must find a cure for this terrible disease and give succor to this wonderful family that has been visited by such a profound burden!

There is a cure out there.

Our task is to find it.

Please.  Please help.  Get the word out!  If you can help, or know someone who can, please help!  If there is anything you can do, please contact Esther directly at: or be in touch with me at: We eagerly await your responses, with profound thanks.

While the Herzfelds continue to search for a comprehensive diagnosis and cure for the disease that is afflicting the children, their medical bills continue to rise. Medical insurance covers just a fraction of the bills that they have incurred, and sometimes, unbelievably, they are denied coverage for bills as varied as health aide payments and various therapies, equipment and accommodations to make the children more comfortable and sager.  Several funds have been established to help the Herzfelds.

Donations can be made HERE or GoFundMe/HerzfeldFamilyFund. Tax deductible checks may be made out to Bergen County’s United Way with the words “Herzfeld Family Fund” inserted in the memo line and mailed to Bergen United Way, 6 Forest Avenue, Paramus, NJ 07652 or to Congregation Beth Aaaron, 950 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666.

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