(Additional photo by clicking HERE.) “[Of our] many responsibilities, none [are] more important than [protecting] children who otherwise would not be born…….” This was the sentiment strongly felt by all at the 30th Anniversary Luncheon of Efrat on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, April 25, 2007.
While expressing these heartfelt words, Senator Mel Martinez (R- Fla), echoed the theme that resounded through the afternoon, of our duty to protect the sanctity of life, and the inestimable value of every single child. As the senator declared, you, who “value and cherish life, and who take action from faith, enlighten us, who make [the] law.”
In his invocation, Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz of Silver Spring, MD a law professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on medical ethics, spoke of the connection between Pesach, the holiday of freedom, and Shavuos, the Yom Tov of Matan Torah. “Freedom only has meaning when it is linked to the law. Freedom without responsibility is destructive. Responsibility is the hallmark of the dignity of a human being.
Dr. Eli Schussheim enjoys relationships with several US Senators who respect his innovative approach to the issue of saving lives in Israel and in honor of the Luncheon both Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Senator Richard Lugar stopped by to congratulate Dr. Schussheim on this most important milestone in EFRAT’s history.
The story of Efrat is one of an organization which has undertaken the responsibility to preserve the dignity of the human being, and one that is engaged in constant hatzalas nefashos. Based in Eretz Yisroel, Efrat has saved over 25,000 Jewish lives by providing financial and emotional support to expectant women in distress.
The afternoon was a tribute to Dr. Eli Schussheim, the president of Efrat. Dr. Schussheim, who, after embarking on a career as a surgeon, decided to volunteer much of his time to Efrat because he “felt he could save more lives” that way- also spoke movingly of the value of each individual life. “Just as peoples` faces are different, so too they’re opinions are different. However, we all agree that life has sanctity. He who saves a single Jewish life is considered to have saved the entire world.”
Dr. Schussheim delivered heartfelt thanks to the many friends and supporters of Efrat, including luncheon Chairman Woli Stern, who has been instrumental in galvanizing support for Efrat in Brazil; prominent Efrat supporter Hirsh Wolf who has dedicated himself to EFRAT in the United States; Aaron Teitelbaum, Director of the American organization Efrat C.R.I.B. (Committee for the Rescue of Israel’s Babies); Eduardo Ezban, Mexican Representative of Efrat; and Ezra Friedlander of the Friedlander Group, “who worked to make this event such a success.” Dr. Schussheim thanked Congress for “giving us the strength and power to continue. God bless America, a true friend of Israel.”
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Director of Agudath Israel of America’s Washington office, brought greetings from the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, and poignantly reminded all “life is never a burden.”
“The strength of our nation depends on the strength of our communities and our friends,” exclaimed Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R- Nebraska). Rep. Fortenberry, emphasized the importance of “a culture that celebrates the gift of life.”
Mike Schwartz, Chief of Staff for Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), spoke passionately of Efrat`s lifesaving work. Mr. Schwartz read a letter from Senator Coburn- one of Efrat`s greatest friends on Capitol Hill- who could not personally attend due to his involvement in a vote on the Senate floor during the luncheon. “Efrat has a special importance for those of us who care about Israel,” read Mr. Schwartz.” I believe that every human life is precious. But in these times of peril, the lives of Jewish babies in Israel are particularly precious. Thousands of Jewish babies and children – indeed, a significant share of the future of their country- owe their very lives to your work. What greater thing can a person accomplish in this life?”
Upon being introduced as the ‘Ambassador of the Jewish world” in Washington DC, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Director of the Washington office of American Friends of Lubavitch praised the work of EFRAT, saying:
“One who saves one neshama is as if they saved the whole world. And every neshama that comes so close to entering this world and has people enabling their mother to financially survive and endure the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth, is then another life able to sanctify this world with Torah and mitzvos, bringing the entire world closer to Hashem.”
In a nod to the lifesaving Israeli-American collaboration that is Efrat, Rep. Trent Franks (R- Arizona) spoke of the importance of understanding the link between the respective wars on terror fought by Israel and The United States. “The Israeli war is our war, [because] we both stand for freedom and life. Our war on terror is intrinsically tied with Israel`s. The peace of the world is directly related to the peace of Jerusalem, far beyond politics. [I pray] that the light of God`s Hope will shine down on the streets of Jerusalem.
Other distinguished speakers included William Daroff, Vice President of United Jewish Communities, and Morton Klein, President of Zionist Organization of America, who lobbied for the Ashcroft – Solomon Bill, which provided rewards for the capture of Palestinian terrorists with American blood on their hands, among many other bills. Indeed, Mr. Klein was introduced by MC Tzvi Binn as one of the “most important Jewish activists on Capitol Hill. Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the kashrut division of the OU and friend of Efrat, proclaimed, “the vital work of Efrat- one of hatzalos nefashos mamash- can not be overstated. All of us here have an obligation to do whatever we can to further the support and growth of Efrat.”
Those who attended this historic event left with a renewed understanding of the vital importance of ensuring the continuance of this lifesaving organization. All echoed the sentiment of Senator Jim DeMint (R- South Carolina), “Thank You for helping remind us of all the good that can be done.”