Having said several kapitlach of Tehillim, I decided it was time to check out my surroundings. Here I was sitting in a posh heimishe dental office in Williamsburg, serenaded by soft music, and surrounded by proper reading material. Thanking Hashem one more time that it was my friend in the dental chair and not myself (such a loyal friend that I am), I decided to indulge in some reading. The first periodical that I picked up had an article that caught my eye and heart. It was entitled Orphans No More. I could not put it down!
“They’ve lost their families, have seen their mothers slaughtered, and they come here (the orphanage) filled with aggression – devastated, broken, and grieving. They suffer from nightmares and sleeplessness…Gay Bradshaw, (a psychologist from Oregon) says (that) ‘the extreme psychological and physical trauma of witnessing their family members interferes with…normal development.’ Allan Schore, an expert on human trauma disorders at UCLA explains: ‘The emotional relationship between the mother and her offspring impacts the wiring of the infants’ developing brain. When early experiences are traumatic, there is a thinning down of the developing brain circuits, especially in the areas that process emotional information and regulate stress. That means less resilience and an enduring deficit in aggression regulation, social communication, and empathy.’”
I had wanted to read something light, but now, there was no stopping until I could learn more about this orphanage.
“…the majority of the orphans that survive recover to become fully functional… Whenever we get a new baby here, the others will come around and lovingly …comfort it. To date, S——‘s nursery has raised more than one hundred orphan(s)…It all stems from the… (Orphan’s) desire to please someone they love. It’s amazing and beautiful to see. With (orphans) you reap what you sow, and the way you get the most out of them is through love. ….the orphan that had been found with a spear lodged in her head…they didn’t expect her to make it through the first night…and she’s healed psychologically…she was extremely traumatized…but slowly she began to trust again, and after about a month she wasn’t just fine about people she was seeking them out.”
“Well” I mused to myself, “If the institution that cares for these orphans sent me a brochure with an appeal for help, my answer would be NO! I wouldn’t even give them one red cent!”
“Now that is cruel,” a voice inside me said. “How can you claim to be part of Klal Yisroel if you show no mercy?”
“The answer is still NO! I would give them absolutely nothing!”
“You should be ashamed of yourself. Anyone reading this heart rending article about those traumatized orphans would take out a loan – if they were short of money – to do this chesed.”
“Still I would not give them anything!”
“Yes, really. You see there is something I neglected to mention.”
“The article is talking about elephants!”
“ELEPHANTS? Did you say elephants?”
“Yes. It’s all about the elephants in Kenya. Here, look: National Geographic, the September 2011 issue, Orphans No More: After the trauma of attack and loss comes healing-and a richer understanding of the emotions and intelligence of elephants. The article’s author is Charles Siebert and it begins on page 40. Let me admit that the photographer Michael Nichols did an outstanding job of depicting the emotions of the elephants. Anyway, the mayse is azoi (the story is): there is a terrible situation where poachers come and kill parent elephants for their tusks leaving behind many orphans. Daphney Shedrick established a nursery for the orphaned elephants back in 1987. She is a fourth generation Kenyan. Her husband David was a renowned naturalist and warden of Tsavo East National Park. They established the Nairobi nursery and the vast network of rescue sites and orphanages for elephants in Kenya.”
“Still. Doesn’t it say that Hashem’s Mercy is upon all His creatures! Aren’t you supposed to emulate His ways?”
“I wouldn’t give a cent to the cause. The only image elephants conjure up in my mind is the horrible description my teachers gave of the Greeks using them to trample the Yidden in the time of the Chashmonaim. And when Morah -I forget her name- but, when she described how Shimon HaMaccabe was trampled to death by one of them- well I still get nightmares whenever I think about it…No, not one cent!”
“Now now, don’t you think you are holding this grudge a bit too long?”
“No. You see they say you always have to be wary of people who worry about animals more than people. Do you know how many starving Kenyans there are? The majority of the country is actually starving! The best profession for a Kenyan that guarantees abundant food, generous medical benefits, and a great salary is not being a doctor, lawyer, police officer, Judge, or engineer. The best thing for a Kenyan to become is an elephant baby sitter! Do you know how much money this foundation, the David Shedrick Wildlife Trust, has for elephants and not for people? The article says their budget is close to a billion dollars! Now I know you can’t mish tzedakah (mix charity) funds but really, don’t you think the starving Kenyans should get something?”
“Well, what are you doing for the Kenyans?”
“Not much, but there is a good reason why I can’t! You see there is an old time resident of Kenya (I said resident and not someone born there) who has a prominent position in the White House. He said the United Nations will take care of the poor of Kenya. So you see there is no way I can help them.”
“O.K. But don’t you think you should have a bit of sympathy for the Kenyans – Oops! I meant to say “the elephants?”
“No, absolutely not.”
“There you go again, Mrs. Cruelty.”
“That’s not my name. Now hear me out. Not that long ago there existed a sophisticated nation that was very concerned about the wellbeing of their dogs. They passed many laws to protect them. Now they had a bit of a problem in their relations with a very small minority of people that lived amongst them. In fact, they were much nicer to their dogs then they were to those people. They were called Nazis.”
“Let me share with you something more recent. About three years ago the Richmond Times Dispatch reported (August 27, 2009) that, Robin Starr, CEO of the SPCA, (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) left blind and deaf Louie in the car unattended for over four hours as she enjoyed shopping at the mall. It was 85 degrees in Richmond and experts explained that the temperature inside the closed car reached above 130 degrees that day. Louie died. He was a sixteen-year-old blind and deaf dog that Robin had adopted. Now in her defense, her husband Ed explained that it was all his fault. He had placed Louie in the car without telling her. She didn’t notice him. If you ask me, most probably the deaf/ blind dog was also mute and somewhat invisible at sixteen years of age. Now she didn’t need my svoros (thoughts) to defend herself. Ed Sayers, President of the SPCA sided with Robin stating that: ‘While some might unfortunately call for Robin’s resignation as a result of this horrible accident, it is imperative that we focus on the thousands of animal she has saved through her work with the Richmond SPCA.’
“What can I tell you? If you take care of animals, even if you are fatally negligent with them, they still defend you. Annie Grier, Chairwoman of the Board of Richmond’s SPCA even taynid in a lomdishe oyfen (gave sound legal arguments) against those that who felt that ‘She (Robin Starr) doesn’t have much credibility any more’ and those that said, ‘Just because it was a mistake doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay for it.’ Annie claimed that the dog’s death would boost Robin’s position as an animal advocate because ‘it enhances her ability to communicate and educate the public about humane issues. I think if this can happen to her, it can happen to any of us.’
Turns out she got out of the mess without any problems and she continues in her position at the SPCA at Richmond! It reminds me that somehow, Judge Linda Reade did not factor in all the chesed that Sholom Rubashkin did for all people – Jews and non-Jews alike- when she sentenced him to 27 years. Imagine if Robin Starr was in Sholom Rubashkin’s shoes. Let’s say she would have been convicted of all the stuff Rubashkin supposedly did. I bet you that Ed Sayers, Anne Grier, the SPCA and Judge Linda Reade would have stood by her! In the zechus (merit) of Robin’s helige (holy) work for animals, her judgment would have been that she continue her heilige work and not waste even one day in jail. You see, certain professions have it made with lots of side benefits too!”
“I see your point.”
“Finally! Right now I am taking out my checkbook and am writing a check, a generous one, for Sholom Rubashkin. For that matter here’s another for Jacob Ostreicher who is still in Bolivia and for Alan Gross who has lost over one hundred pounds languishing in a Cuban jail.
“As for Jonathan Pollard, I don’t know if there is a fund for him. That decision is in the hands of…
“What can I say? You see the ‘orphans’ that are truly suffering are the children who miss the presence of their father at the Pesach Seder, at the Shabbos table, and could not receive their father’s bracha on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They sat without their father in the sukkah and were denied the ability to dance with him on Simchas Torah. They are called Rubashkins! What a genuine trauma for them and their mother. And now that the Supreme Court has rejected his appeal, their torment has worsened!
“What about the pain of the families of Jacob Ostriecher and Alan Gross who try to make it through each day, every Shabbos and Yom Tov knowing that their husband/father is still in prison? And what about the physical pain, critical condition, and loneliness of the ailing Jonathan Pollard and the anguish of his wife? That’s where our sympathies must be. Their names must become important parts of be our collective davening and Tehillim until the news comes that they have each returned to their families safely. If there are legal costs to contribute to or if our monies can alleviate any of their suffering we must do so.
“May HaKadosh Baruch Hu hear our united tefilos and see our outpouring of tzeddakah and in that zechus release them immediately.”
“Amen, Kayn Yehi Ratzon.”
Please continue to daven for the release of:
Yehonasan Ben Malka, Jonathan Pollard
Sholom Mordechai HaLevi ben Rifka, Sholom Rubashkin
Yaakov Yehuda ben Sheindel, Jacob Ostreicher
Contributions to the Jonathan Pollard Fund allowing him to purchase food and /or other items at the vending machine in Federal prison can be send to: National Council of Young Israel, 111 John Street, Ste. 450, New York, New York 10038.
Contributions to cover the staggering costs for the legal defense of Sholom Rubashkin can be sent to: Klal Yisroel Fund, 53 Olympia Lane, Monsey, New York 10952.
To sign the petition asking for urgent action in the case of Alan Gross visit:
To take part in the fight to bring Jacob Ostriecher home visit: http://freejacobblog.com/Breindy Reiss
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