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July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
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Brief Lives, Lasting Legacies

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The friendship of two women, Chana Devorah Goldberg and Miriam Greenfeld, began in the most horrifying place for a parent: Sloan Kettering Hospital’s Pediatric Cancer Unit. Their bond solidified when Miriam’s 16-year-old son, Meir, passed away ten hours before one-year-old Chaya Tzirel Goldberg. Mutual tragedy overcame the differences in the women’s ages and background. Two mothers, sharing a unique pain, turned to each other for the support no one else could quite provide.

Realizing the importance of their friendship and caring, they resolved to share it with others in similar heartbreaking circumstances. Together they turned their pain into action. On the first anniversary of their children’s passing, they distributed the first edition of a magazine, Our Tapestry, to over fifty bereaved families, sharing their stories with those who could fully relate to their agonizing ordeal.

These two special women utilized their incredibly painful experience as an opportunity to assist others. Today Our Tapestry is distributed free of charge to over 300 subscribers.

Other families have also turned their personal grief into a vehicle for helping others by starting projects in memory of their children. There is a mother who loans out electric nursing pumps in memory of her infant son who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at four months of age. The Routberg Medical Supply Gemach lends out medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, free of charge to whoever cannot afford to purchase them. This gemach was founded by the mother of Esther Tehela Routberg who suffered from cerebral palsy and died at age 19.

The lives of Seth and Sherri Mandell, an American couple who had settled in Israel, were cruelly shattered in May 2001 when their 13-year-old son Koby was brutally murdered by Arab terrorists while hiking with his friend in a canyon near their home.

Koby’s father, Rabbi Seth Mandell, explained, “Even during the first week after our son’s murder, I knew I wanted to do something to remember him and to help people understand what had happened.”

The Mandells, who have three younger children, knew they must transmute the violent cruelty of Koby’s death into acts of compassion and courage.

For that reason they created the Koby Mandell Foundation to provide healing programs for other families struck by terrorism.

His mother Sherri, a journalist, added, “Everything we do is connected with his name. I believe that gives me a real connection to Koby’s soul.”

They firmly believe that the Jewish response to anguish is to live a fuller, more engaged life. Their programs help others suffering from the trauma of loss to overcome their feelings of isolation. Participants are enabled to find meaning in their tragedy and to grow stronger in spite of it. In this way, they preserve Koby’s spirit in this world.

The Koby Mandell Foundation runs beneficial healing programs for families who have lost a loved one to the horror of terrorism. Overnight camps and retreats assist these grief-stricken people, enabling them to transform their heart-rending pain into life-affirming growth and enduring friendships.

There is also a marathon called Kilometers for Koby and Comedy for Koby, a bi-annual tour of Israel. Some of America’s top stand-up comedians come to benefit The Koby Mandell Foundation.  The Mandells welcomed the concept as a suitable memorial for their son who enjoyed comedy and was blessed with a great sense of humor.

Last year I heard Sherri speak at a writer’s conference. She talked about her son and the book she has written called The Blessing of a Broken Heart (Toby Press, London). As she explained that her broken heart will never be the same, she said that “when you touch broken hearts together, a new heart emerges, one that is more open and compassionate, able to touch others, a heart that seeks G-d.’

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