Rabbi Katz explains that the success of Just One Life comes from the network they have created in Israel of “top of the top” professionals, including Dr. Shimon Glick from Ben Gurion University Medical School in Be’er Sheva. Gitelman had to “knock on a lot of doors,” as Rabbi Kats puts it, until she and Just One Life earned respect from the medical community. Now, 90 percent of referrals come from social workers at the local welfare department or women’s health clinics throughout Israel. “Madelaine Gitelman is the grandmother and great-grandmother of these children,” says Rabbi Katz.
Often called upon to speak at Universities and to other social workers and students of social work, Gitelman is very well respected in her field. Rabbi Katz explained how she knows how to approach and speak to expectant mothers of all backgrounds and cultures. “She never makes them feel guilty – the choice is made by the mother.”
Gitelman’s caring, understanding, and professionalism are the keys to her success in connecting with women in distress. While some women may feel that termination is something they could never consider, Gitelman explains that for others, “an untimely pregnancy can upset the fragile balance in their lives and leave them feeling overwhelmed and lonely. An on-going supportive relationship is the key to strengthening the pregnant woman and preparing her to receive her new baby with improved self-esteem and a renewed sense that she is capable to succeed in welcoming a new addition to her family. No two women are alike, nor is their ability to cope with a difficult pregnancy.”
Yael and Rachel, along with countless other mothers, depend on the voices Ms. Gitelman and her team of social workers not only during the pregnancy but after delivery as well. Just One Life has established a Mother and Infant Center in Jerusalem. The center offers workshops, lectures, and support groups to new moms. Workshops such as baby massage, time management, and parenting are very popular. “Each activity is accompanied by a healthy breakfast and time devoted to interaction between mothers and staff. For the participants it is the highlight of their week,” says Gittleman. She further explains, “Many of the women we help were not the beneficiaries of positive and caring mothers. Many are eager to learn new and different ways of relating to their infant. The purpose of the activities is to enable and teach mothers some of the skills that will enable them to feel confident in their role.”
While most nonprofit organizations try to contact beneficiaries for testimonials, JOL realizes that due to the sensitive nature of the issues they deal with, many mothers do not want to talk about that difficult period in their life. They also don’t want their children to know that they had considered termination. One mother, who had been in a Jerusalem building along with her husband when it collapsed, openly shared her gratitude to JOL at a fund raising dinner held in Israel. According to Rabbi Katz, “they were basket cases,” unsure that they would be able to cope with a pregnancy and baby while dealing with surgeries and recovery from the trauma they experienced. At the dinner, the photographer took a picture of Rabbi Katz holding their baby and he has kept it in his jacket pocket ever since. “When other people complain about the bad economy, I show them that picture and tell them that, ‘my dividends keep going up.’ ”
According to Rabbi Katz, the cost of helping bring one baby into the world is about $1,800. JOL is available as a resource to women everywhere. Their social workers have been known to travel in difficult times to difficult places in Israel to visit clients and bring them supplies. Whether in a bomb shelters, or on the phone from the United States, women know they can speak to the social workers from JOL and get the support they need in confidence and without judgment.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.justonelife.org.
*Names of families and individuals who have benefited from JOL have been changed to protect their privacy.
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