For six straight years, Riki Deutscher and Yelli Koenig have teamed up to bring the Kew Gardens Hills community a warm and delightful Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society pre-auction event. Although the hosts never asked for recognition or applause, it is appropriate to acknowledge that the evening was hosted at the Koenig residence and dedicated in memory of Deutscher’s mother, Raizel Rivkah bas R’ Moshe Yechiel a”h. Together they rallied the women of our community in unison, to respond to those hit with sudden misfortunate. Since 1997, RCCS has been on a mission to help suffering Jewish families. This year’s auction, The Mission, was designed with a mysterious adventure in search of hope.
When diagnosed with the unthinkable, a family’s life is overturned with feelings of grief, as they watch a cruel disease ravage the health and life of their dear one. This follows with the torment of an uncertain future, not knowing when the pain will cease, and finally the heartache of living in suffering and darkness.
Shlomo Kalchman and his wife Shoshana were inspired at a previous RCCS event at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, where they learned of the plethora of services offered and were eager to give back. Two neighborhood sisters noted that they wanted “to give back to a worthy cause that works often anonymously and without recognition for those suffering.” Rena Hershkowitz joined the house party alongside her daughter Chaya Diamanstein in giving back to a source solely devoted to helping patients heal.
The search for hope is unwavering as the upended family must discover its glimmer within the pain. A door will soon unlock, and the mystery will be solved. The RCCS mission remains to unearth this ray of hope intertwined with support, and recover into a healthy being revealing a life filled with joy. Hope, once feeble and small, is found, replacing harrowing memories with times of happiness from just in a simple check or phone call at the hands of RCCS.
When glancing over the lists of neighborhood stores that rose to the occasion to donate their wares for a private auction for the evening’s participants, one can only step back and think, “Mi k’amcha Yisrael – Who is like Your nation, the Jewish people,” mentioned Deutscher, whose father previously worked at the organization.
Raizy Weiss has been a longtime supporter of the auction’s mission and participated as a source of chizuk “to give those in need the opportunity to receive top-notch healthcare and treatments.” Her brother-in-law Nachum Sherman is the Chairman of the Financial Approval Committee for RCCS, and felt close ties to the evening’s agenda. His wife Rifky Sherman was elated to partake in spreading cheer to the women in attendance. In his introductory remarks, Sherman explained that RCCS goes well beyond providing financial help for insurance and medical subsidies, as their vibrant team affords emotional support and direction alongside urgent doctor and the best specialist recommendations throughout the tri-state area and around the country.
For the first time, the organizers invited noted community rav and magid shiur Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum to deliver divrei chizuk. The rav revealed that the s’gulah remedy to avoid pain is to simply remove the agony of others. As a close friend of RCCS Founder and President Rabbi Hershel Kohn, the rav reminded the crowd that the array of RCCS’ amenities benefit the entire family where a diagnosis was given. Oftentimes, when a parent who is the breadwinner or homemaker is given a sour diagnosis, the family is left in disarray. RCCS steps in to collectively take their hands and guide the family.
Rabbi Oelbaum related a story of an Israeli gentleman who was diagnosed with an eye alignment and was told he required an operation. On a short stroll after receiving this news, the man happened upon an empty shul and immediately opened his heart, crying to Hashem at the aron kodesh. He profusely thanked his Creator for each aspect of his body that properly functions, taking none for granted. He recognized the kindness of Hashem to allow each limb to operate, and only then asked the Almighty to assist with the current issue he faced – his eye. The doctors were dumbfounded when they found his condition completely nonexistent. The rav elaborated: “If we each take a moment to say, ‘Thank you, Hashem,’ never taking what is around us for granted, we will soon find midah k’neged midah that y’shuos and blessing will enter our homes.”
In the same vein, there is a Far Rockaway flower vendor who waited each week for a boy, below bar mitzvah age, to purchase a bouquet for his mother. One week, this child stood before the merchant, time and time again, until he finally made a purchase. When questioned by the puzzled salesman, the youth explained that each occasion he approached there was another boy, who unfortunately was an orphan and had no mother for whom to give flowers. The boy then enlightened the peddler how he could not bring himself to cause anguish to this orphan as he would witness the transaction. Rabbi Oelbaum stated how the concept of sensitivity can be learned from someone of any age where, if we give up on something we truly want, Hashem will find a way to pay us back. Rabbi Oelbaum recalled Rabbi Yankel Galinsky’s special attention to the notion of midah k’neged midah on a visit to his k’hilah, explaining that the manner a person behaves and leads his life will eventually boomerang back.
Another account the rav discussed was of an engaged couple who found the groom diagnosed with the inevitable. The family came before a sacred Rebbe and asked for advice. The sage quickly sought the couple’s opinion, only to find that the man did not want to proceed with the engagement as he felt the woman should not begin a life with uncertainty, while she did not want to cancel the wedding, as it would add pain atop his diagnosis. The Rebbe sent the situation before HaGaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who ultimately sent the couple to their chupah. Rav Chaim is known to hold every moment precious, and often does not attend celebrations within his own family. Nonetheless, the gadol not only attended the wedding, but in a very rare occurrence, danced with the groom as if he was his own son. On the return trip, Rabbi Eliyahu Mann, a shamash of the Gaon, requested a deeper understanding of the events from his mentor. At home, Rav Chaim took a Midrash Rabbah and opened to Parshas Noach, where the narrative is told of Alexander the Great coming before King Kasia “in the dark mountains” to discuss how to divide a treasure and field amongst two individuals who each claim they belong to the other. The king asked the disputers to marry their children and give over the treasure as a gift, while Alexander the Great would have killed everyone and taken the bounty for himself. Rav Chaim expounded, “If you are ready, willing, and able to give up for another, then there is no possible scenario where you can lose out.”
Sherman noted that RCCS’ monumental work has led to endless success stories. “Two decades ago, a diagnosis was terminal, but today these individuals are healthy and active members of our community.”
KGH resident Esther Rosenkranz summed up the annual evening best: “We gathered for a special organization at a special event hosted in a special home for a special cause.”
By Shabsie Saphirstein