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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Thank you, Agudat Efrat

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“My daughter had lost the will to live; it was you who breathed life into her once more,” recounted Chaya, Natalie’s mother. Here is her story:

Natalie was married a mere two months when she discovered that she was pregnant. Surprisingly, instead of being ecstatic, her husband reacted with mixed emotions. Then, one day with no prior warning, he simply left home and disappeared, leaving no indication of his whereabouts. All attempts to locate him were met with failure.

My daughter, Natalie, was now alone.

Grappling with her new status and the accompanying emotional turmoil, Natalie could not face the prospect of becoming a single mother. She was determined to have an abortion – and the sooner the better. We, her parents, felt helpless. Though we welcomed her back into our home, we could not provide for a new baby. We ourselves were struggling financially, having amassed large debts.

Luckily, years earlier, my dear friend and neighbor had been introduced to Agudat Efrat. She credited them with having “saved” her baby. In her understanding manner she suggested that before we do anything drastic, we speak to Agudat Efrat’s director, Dr. Shusshiem, and seek his opinion and advice regarding abortion.

With nothing to lose, we agreed to do so. The man turned out to be a lifesaver. Our meeting proved to be a turning point for Natalie. With his warm encouragement, she regained her confidence and made a commitment to proceed with the pregnancy despite being alone.

During this period, my husband never despaired of finding Natalie’s husband. He wanted him to know that Agudat Efrat had promised to help Natalie after she gave birth by shouldering the cost of the baby’s needs. My husband truly believed that Natalie’s husband had been afraid of this new responsibility, and if he knew that they were not alone he’d gladly come home. Still, he could not be found.

Some months later Natalie gave birth to a healthy baby boy. A message was somehow given to her husband, informing him of his new status as a father. We made it clear that despite the fact that he’d abandoned our daughter at such a pivotal time in her life, we did not intend to settle scores.

We went ahead with the preparations for the bris milah without him; it was scheduled for first thing in the morning at the shul where my husband always davens. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Natalie’s husband appeared. After our initial shock at seeing him, we gave him the baby to hold and watched as he clutched the baby close to his heart – crying tears of joy and regret. There was no need for words. Looking at his baby, he understood the magnitude of his actions and how close he was to discarding the people most precious to him.

Naturally, there were hurt feelings that needed to be dealt with. But now husband and wife are living together, raising their baby with enthusiasm and commitment. There is not even a shadow of doubt that without Agudat Efrat’s help, this child would not have been born.

Every care package that arrived from Agudat Efrat renewed Natalie’s commitment to forge ahead with life. It gave her the strength to cope with her difficult situation.

Thank you, Agudat Efrat, for being true to its word in every possible way.

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There is not even a shadow of doubt that without Agudat Efrat’s help, this child would not have been born.

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The highway was packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and there I sat with hands gripped tightly on the steering wheel, begging the cars to move. My heart swelled at the thought of seeing my son, who was just coming back from his year of learning in Eretz Yisrael. How I had missed him! Though I was used to him being away (if you can ever really get used to a child being away), a special space in my heart was empty – as I waited for him.

We live in a world that is often too cruel and unkind. Living in Israel for the last 30 years, I have attended too many funerals for those whose lives were taken through incomprehensible acts of terror. During the years of the second intifada there were many days that I found it impossible to continue teaching, as a student would burst into my classroom and announce that there had been another terrorist attack. How could I just go on with a regular lesson when lives were lost?

Once a week or so some of my friends and I get together for activities and a little socializing. Over time I have gone through some personal changes and growth, and I sometimes feel out of place with these girls, some of whom I have known for years. I experienced a real struggle during a recent get-together that will surely have a long-lasting impact on me.

The Schwartzes had three vehicles but only two drivers. At any given time the third vehicle, the 2005 red Ford van, could be seen on different driveways throughout the neighborhood – and sometimes even in Miami Beach and Hollywood, Florida. The Schwartzes kept a third vehicle, knowing that not everyone had a car.

In 2001, the year of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my husband and I were both in mourning for close relatives. As a woman, I did not have the responsibility of attending a minyan to recite Kaddish. So I never realized how complicated it could get.

Note to readers: When I heard the words, “You give us seven minutes and we’ll give you the world” on the radio at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, July 13, I never thought that what I was about to hear would shake me to the core and change my world forever. I could not come to myself – and I’m sure most of klal Yisraelcouldn’t either. So I sat down and the following poem spilled forth. Because it is written in a simple style, simple enough for any child to understand, I hope it does not seem to trivialize what happened; it is just my humble reaction to an earth-shattering event.

My husband of 40 years is always ready to help people. He is also very kind to his family and is always eager to embark on a family outing. However, he has one stipulation. He would rather not drive long distances at night, as he has had challenging experiences driving in the dark in fog, rain and other inclement weather.

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