Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society is a lifeline for 25,000 patients around the world with a full staff around the clock, guiding patients every step of the way. They help patients with insurance advocacy, referrals, patient support, and medical direction, follow-up appointments, grants for second opinions (which in many cases is life-saving), transferring medical records, and staying on top of the situation. On Tuesday evening, August 6, local rabbanim, local politicians, and community members gathered at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills to show support to RCCS.
Rabbi Yisroel Merkin, Director of Organizational Advancement for RCCS, welcomed everyone. “This organization helps people in the most dire time.” He pointed out that the room was packed because of the RCCS Queens Committee’s work. He shared an example of what RCCS does. Six weeks ago, a volunteer called him and told him that his friend’s mother was stuck in a hospital in Brooklyn. She had stage IV lymphoma and she had no health insurance and two birth certificates, which meant she had no hope of getting health insurance. RCCS connected this friend with their amazing medical staff and, four days later, the friend called to say that because of RCCS his mother had health insurance and was on her way to a topnotch hospital to get the care she needed. Rabbi Merkin continued, “This is the work of RCCS. Everyone who calls RCCS is afforded the best medical care, no matter who they are or what their financial situation is.”
Next, the chairman of the Queens Committee of RCCS, Mr. Chaim Kurtz, shared, “Every dollar collected for RCCS will impact so many Jews.” He shared the history of RCCS. It started 20 years ago with the idea to help people procure better insurance plans so that they could receive better medical care. “The organization grew with the demands of our communities.” In 1999, it serviced 100 patients; in 2019, it is helping 2,500. Sixty of those patients live in Queens. The organization has a $10 million budget.
Following this, Mr. Aron Gordon shared how he met someone whose daughter was in the hospital in New York. The family was from Israel and the only way they were able to come to America and get expert care for their daughter was through RCCS.
After a short video presentation, Rabbi Yissocher Frand spoke. “No one in this room has a question about why he or she should support this organization. It needs no speaker or sales pitch. Most of us know someone who has suffered from this dreaded disease.” He shared a line from a letter from someone who benefited from the services of this organization. “It took a lot off my shoulders. I didn’t have to worry about insurance implications.” Rabbi Frand explained that this is the central issue of what RCCS is about. Those words say it all. There is a mitzvah d’Oraisa of nosei b’ol im chaveiro. Though it is not specifically mentioned in the Torah, it is a mitzvah d’Oraisa because it falls into the category of walking in the ways of Hashem – to emulate His characteristics. Carrying the yoke of your friend is central to who G-d is. Hashem first introduced Himself in the Burning Bush. Rashi explains that He was in the bush to show, “I am with you in your pain and in your suffering. If you are low, I am low.” When klal Yisrael received the Torah, Hashem had bricks under His throne. Rashi explains that the bricks were reminiscent of the bricks we had to build in Egypt. Hashem is saying, “You have bricks, so I also have bricks. I am with you in your trouble.”
We can see from the thank you letters that the organization receives that the families who benefit from RCCS appreciate that there are real people who care and share their burden. “Sharing their burden means letting the person know that he or she is not alone.” He elaborated: “The worst thing is to feel alone. One of the most comforting things is to feel that you are not alone.”
He spoke about the blessing of HaTov v’HaMeitiv, which came about when Jews discovered that the bodies in Beitar had not decomposed and they were able to bury them. The reason they said the blessing was that they realized that Hashem had not abandoned them. They were not alone. He added that the Plague of Darkness in Egypt was the second to worst because the pasuk says that they could not commiserate with each other. Everyone was alone in darkness. “To be alone is terrible. Not feeling alone is great. RCCS accomplishes this. You are not fighting these insurance companies alone.” When you say the blessing in the morning thanking Hashem for not making you a “goy,” think of how we raise millions of dollars for people we don’t know, and that says a lot about a Yid.
He concluded with a teaching of the Baal HaTurim that when you care about others and share the pain of others, then Hashem rewards such people. “We hope that, being partners with this organization, we merit the abundance of the Ribbono shel Olam.”
To donate to RCCS, please visit www.rccscancer.org.
By Susie Garber