Saving the lives of tens of thousands of unborn Jewish children
By Ilan Preskovsky
Like virtually every other civilised country in the world, the debate about abortion has been raging on in Israel ever since it was legalised in the country in 1977, but for the Efrat Organisation, rather than trying to tackle the question politically as yet another group of “pro-life” activists, they have instead taken the approach of giving mothers who are considering terminating their pregnancy due to financial problems or other outside pressures a wider selection of alternatives.
Considering the nature of the Efrat Organisation was named, incidentally, not after the town in Israel, but after the Midrashic view that Caleb’s wife, Efrat, was in fact Miriam, who, along with her mother Yocheved, risked life and limb to save the Jewish children that were marked for death by Pharaoh, thus ensuring the propagation of the Jewish people. They have their opponents, but the organisation has always stressed that they’re about empowering women to make the best possible decision, rather than being anti-abortion specifically. As Ruth Tidhar, who has been with the organisation for nearly seventeen years, makes clear, “Efrat is not a political organisation and doesn’t picket abortion clinics or involve themselves in political protests, but is there to offer empowering options to women who have been forced to consider terminating their pregnancies.”
Efrat was originally founded in the 1950s at a time when abortion was still illegal in Israel, but where tens of thousands of abortions were taking place anyway, by Herschel Feigenbaum, a Holocaust survivor who was all too painfully aware of the 1,5 million children who died during the Holocaust and wanted to do something to, so to speak, counteract the Nazi’s mission by specifically promoting the future births of unborn Jewish children.
With the passage of the law that legalised abortion in Israel (albeit under specific circumstances), Herschel was succeeded by Dr. Eli Schussheim, a senior surgeon who took the organisation to greater heights and brought Herschel’s dream to even more profound reality. Over the past forty years, Efrat has saved tens of thousands of unborn children through a mixture of education, guidance, and practical help to mothers who came in believing that abortion was their only way out.
Working with a veritable army of volunteers across Israel (many of whom are mothers who were assisted by the organisation themselves) and headed by a small paid staff, Efrat works on a number of different levels. First, they offer basic medical advice and counselling, as overseen by Ruth Tidhar, a qualified social worker, where they hear out the pregnant woman’s reason for wanting to terminate her pregnancy and offer as much information as possible about the psychological effects that abortion often has on women, as well as extensive medical advice for women who have to terminate their pregnancies for purely medical reasons.
Because abortions are so often the result of socio-economic conditions under which all too many Israelis live, obviously counselling alone is often not enough. This is where their more practical elements come in and to where the vast majority of their funds are allocated. Working purely off donations from private individuals and businesses, Efrat provides assistance to prospective mothers who show, through extensive financial checks, that they really can’t afford to care adequately for a child. As a rule, these $1200 packs usually allow for each donor to “sponsor” a child, which gives the donation a more personal dimension. Any donation of $1200 links the donor with the child saved from abortion. After the birth the donor will receive a certificate with the baby’s first name and date of birth.
Efrat’s assistance includes a brand-new crib, pram, baby bath, and layette which the new mother receives after the birth – and the support continues with monthly packages of nappies and wipes and food when necessary, for up to two years. The promise of this support gives the expectant mother the courage to go ahead with what her heart is telling her and have the baby.
According to Ms Tidhar, “not a single woman regrets her decision to keep her baby” after being assisted by Efrat, an organisation that has done true justice to Herschel Feigenbaum’s vision by not only saving tens of thousands of unborn children, but by “saving the [countless] generations that will come from these children”.
For more info, visit: http://www.efrat.org.il/english/