Photo Credit: Milka's Fund
Sara Leah

As you navigate the impossibly narrow streets of Jerusalem and Safed, you get to meet people who are usually hidden from our view and living lives of real deprivation and pain.

Jerusalem, and the rest of Israel is filled with grandeur and beauty and some of the most wonderful individuals in the world.

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But, there is another side to Israel, the side that walks into Yad Eliezer’s office daily, asking for food and help with their troubles.

Welcome to Milka’s world.   Milka Benziman sits at the front desk of Yad Eliezer.  She negotiates with beggars, dries the tears of people who struggle to get by each day, and advises, comforts and visits with our neediest.   She gives out food coupons to those who need them, coats and blankets for those who are cold, a shoulder to cry on for those who are alone, and baby formula for hungry babies.

But there is so much more that she/we can do.

Milka’s Fund is here to introduce you to her world. To a place where need is a constant.  But it is also a place where goodness and kindness can surmount these challenges.  We will introduce you to the real individuals who inhabit Mika’s world.  These are people whose needs extend beyond our regular programs…

Meet Sara Leah, an adorable, smiling toddler. At one and a half years old, she loves to do the things that most babies do: play with toys, scribble with a crayon, explore her surroundings on little feet that have just discovered the miracle of walking…

About two weeks ago, instead of exploring in her family’s makeshift apartment, she learned to explore the hallways of the hospital.

Sara Leah lives with her parents Peretz and Zelda R., and her three older siblings in a Jerusalem home that would not be considered average by any definition. The place they call home is actually just an underground storage room, and the family of five has gotten used to living in the shabby, cramped, freezing cold space, as this is the most they can afford.

To try and get an idea of what their home is like, see if you can picture the following, Zelda has no oven, so heats up whatever food she can in a toaster oven they received years ago. When the children want to see what’s going on outside, they take turns looking out the one window that was hastily installed at some point. When the rain leaks in, Peretz does his best to creatively devise ways to keep it out. But despite his efforts, the frigid water gets through, drenching the floor and saturating the walls and ceiling. The mold is everywhere, and the result is a mildewy, dark, wet and arctic home in which to raise a family.

Even though the R. family has accepted their living quarters as “livable” they have never been acceptable by any means (the conditions would shock most people) and for Sara Leah the home is now life-threatening. Just two weeks ago she was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma (a cancer occurring most often in infants and young children) and any form of mold or germ is a lethal danger to this very sick child.

The doctors made the startling diagnosis after a month of Sara Leah’s recurring high fevers and other symptoms. Until that point Peretz and Zelda found themselves constantly dropping their other children off at their grandparents’ home at a moment’s notice, to rush Sara Leah to the hospital to get some care for their sick baby.

By the time the disease was detected, it had already spread to multiple locations throughout her little body, so five sessions of aggressive chemotherapy were scheduled to begin right away. Each round lasts 3 days, during which Peretz and Zelda take turns staying with Sara Leah in the hospital. This is in addition to the spontaneous hospitalizations and antibiotics she needs the minute her temperature rises above 100 degrees. A port was surgically inserted into her chest to administer medications. Zelda and Peretz themselves have become experts at doing this too, as they are required to give Sara Leah separate injections of antibiotics twice a week and an immune system booster.

One must try to imagine the chaos this situation has thrown the family into. Despite their ambitious efforts to support themselves (Zelda has a part time job and Peretz gets whatever work he can, including tutoring and washing the shul floors) the R. family was already severely struggling, financially. But now there is no home life at all, as it has turned into a whirlwind of appointments and hospitalizations. Neither parent has been able to go back to work. The living space, already run down, is in worse condition than ever. The older children rarely see their parents or baby sister. If they are lucky to get a day or two together, the minute someone coughs or sneezes, they must separate immediately.

Doctors do not know what Sara Leah’s prognosis will be. They hope the chemotherapy treatments will attack the main mass of the cancer, and subsequent surgeries will remove the “roots”. They don’t yet know if her bone marrow has been affected but if it were (G-d forbid), a transplant would be required.

This is a heartbreaking story on several levels so we are turning to you with a request for your urgent, generous help. Getting the R. family out of their terrible apartment is paramount, and though we have found an appropriate place for them to move to, we can’t get them out until we raise the funds for moving expenses. With $10,000 we will cover costs of the move, the difference in monthly rental fees for a year, and basic appliances for the home. Their high transportation costs and last minute taxis to emergency hospital visits are overwhelming the family, so money raised will help with that, too. With your donation, we can take care of all of these, doing our best to save this child’s life.

There is one more thing, an additional request: Please say a tefilla for the family of Zelda and Peretz, and of course, for sweet Sara Leah bat Zelda.

Please ClLick: Milkas Fund, founded and managed by Yad Eliezer is a safe and secure way of donating money to help individuals with compassion and enable them to live a life with their problems solved.

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