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Efrat: A Heroine’s Circle of Support

By Rifki Orzech

Chazal say we were redeemed in the merit of nashim tzidkaniyos: Miriam and Yocheved, as well as all the women of Am Yisrael who birthed children, even when they were experiencing slavery and despair. Three millennia later, Israeli women are facing the choice of bringing life into a world overshadowed by a war, and holding their homefront island together, alone. 

EFRAT will be there to support a woman’s decision to welcome new life despite her circumstances, and we will see a soul born for each we have lost. 

Years ago, EFRAT identified that Israeli women might see another child as a financial burden she could not possibly take on. This led to EFRAT devising a case management system of moral support, counseling, and financial assistance. The latter, an initial package of crib, stroller, bathtub, infant seat, layette, is followed by monthly deliveries of diapers, wipes, infant formula, and, where necessary, staple food items for the whole family. This strategy has facilitated the births of over 86,000 Jewish babies in the last 47 years. 

Great Leaders Inspire Leadership and Mission

EFRAT founder Dr. Eli Schussheim, zt”l,  took a leaf from Miriam’s book, speaking up for those without a voice – Israel’s unborn babies. The doctor took his mantra all over the world: Money should never be the reason for ending life! 

This passion and his great love for the Jewish people inspired others, as well. One of those was Rabbi Baruj Garzon, Rabbi of Madrid, and the first chief rabbi of Spain since the Spanish Inquisition. In the wake of Dr. Schussheim’s 2008 visit to Madrid, Rav Garzon mobilized Spanish communities nationwide to fundraise for EFRAT. 

Rabbi Garzon’s volunteers worked tirelessly to rally Spanish Jews to the cause, translating EFRAT’s promotional material into Spanish and organizing one-on-one fundraising encounters. Rav Garzon looks back fondly; every year, their efforts would generate a generous sum, which they considered their way of “supporting Israel from within.” Rav Garzon subsequently made aliyah to Ra’anana in 2018, where he now leads a community of Spanish expatriates. He continues to visit Madrid, repeating his own mantra that it is our zechus to support EFRAT’s beneficiaries. 

EFRAT’s volunteers are continuing their holy work to prioritize resilience by meeting the needs of any woman who chooses our age-old response of Am Yisrael Chai. 

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