The Chinese proverb states that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Over 100 cancer survivors and the people who love them – spouses and parents – took the first step in creating a uniquely Jewish network of survivors and their families at the inaugural event of R-Mission.org, the new Jewish survivor network.
They tasted a variety of wines and enjoyed delicious barbecue fare in an elegant setting, but no one forgot why they were there.
“To borrow from Al Hanissim, this event is a moment l’hodot ul’haleil l’shimcha hagadol, to give thanks and praise to Your great Name,” said psychologist Cheryl Greenberger, Ph.D., who created the program at Chai Lifeline, the international children’s health network. “Each person individually has his or her own personal Hodaah, thanks to give for where they are now. And yet, in seeing this crowd together, bonding, talking and just sitting in this safe, secure world that was formed through the creation of R-Mission.org, there is aHallel statement broadcast across the world that together, with the support of one another, we can move forward.
“Cancer changes people. People who haven’t had the illness, or haven’t been a caregiver for someone who had cancer, often expect life to go on as normal after a cancer patient finishes treatment. But for most survivors, normal is something new. R-Mission.org allows them to acknowledge and explore the changes while celebrating their survival.”
R-Mission.org is believed to be the first Jewish survivor network. “While there are other survivor programs, this is the first one that includes a Torah viewpoint. It allows survivors to acknowledge the spiritual components of their experience,” Greenberger continued, adding that the program is non-denominational. “We’re looking to be relevant to the entire spectrum of Jews.”
Greenberger stated that the event, held in a private home in Woodmere, was a success. “There was a feeling of comfort, a collective sigh of relief, as survivors and their family members began to feel that they had finally found a place where they could be understood.”
The evening included presentations by Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro, the morah d’asrah of Congregation Shaarey Tefilah, North Miami Beach, and psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz, professor of psychology and education at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School.
Rabbi Shapiro spoke of the emunah that allows us to endure treatment and to begin life anew after cancer ends. “We can all learn a lesson from the deer,” he told the rapt crowd.” Before a deer jumps forward, it looks back. Before we can move forward, we also need to look back at what we’ve been through. It gives us a greater appreciation of what’s happened in our lives. The act of looking back gives one the power to spring forward.”
“Why do we need to remind ourselves of the hard times?” Dr. Pelcovitz asked. “We thank Hashem when we have passed through them, and we want to put it behind us. But we can’t because who part of who we are comes from the lessons that we’ve learned during the hard times. It is our mission in life to integrate those lessons into the ‘good times.’” He suggested practical, hands-on ways to cope with the myriad emotions that arise after cancer treatment is completed.
Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chai Lifeline’s executive vice president, agreed. “We are different people because of the different experience we have had. We need to address those different and unique needs that come about post cancer treatment”.
The presentations were simulcast through the R-Mission.org website, allowing participation from survivors across the globe. They can be seen in full at www.r-mission.org.
“This evening, and the beginning of R-Mission.org, is a statement broadcast around the world that together, with the support of one another, we can move forward with a spring in our step like the deer described by Rabbi Shapiro,” said Dr. Greenberger.
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)