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Israeli aid effort helps Haitians — and Israel’s image                     

Haiti hits home for some, others spearhead fund-raising

As the world watched the catastrophe unfolding in Haiti, the tragic events hit home at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, where some distraught members of the staff, originally from that earthquake-ravaged nation, have been trying to track down relatives and friends there. JHR’s Rabbi Simon Feld led a service in the chapel last Thursday and asked attendees to pray for survivors and loved ones. “Our hearts go out to those who are missing and injured,” he said. He also recited a prayer for those who had died as a result of the earthquake.

Snerte Leger, a Haitian-born member of JHR’s kitchen staff, also spoke to the group, saying, “Everyone here knows what is going on in Haiti. We need to help the Haitian people.”

A second service was held the following day for those who were unable to attend the first.

Chuck Berkowitz, JHR’s executive vice president, noted that its residents had contributed to a fund established by the Jewish Home Foundation to aid victims and their families, as had members of the staff and the board of directors. A meeting was held after the service to discuss where to direct the funds — a little over $4,000 as of Tuesday, according to Melanie Cohen, JHR’s vice president of development and public relations.

“A significant number of staff members are native Haitians,” she noted, “and we felt it was very important to show our support in their time of need.” The employees and residents will decide where to send the donations.

As of Wednesday, UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey had accumulated pledges and donations through its Website, http://www.ujannj.org/haiti, and by mail, amounting to more than $56,000, not counting several large gifts, one of $25,000. Money continues to come in, said Alan Scharfstein, the federation’s president, and100 percent of the donations will go to the American Joint Distribution Committee, except for the $25,000 supplementary gift that has been designated for Partners in Health, which is also sending aid to Haiti.

Scharstein said, “It’s important for the world to see how much Jews care, not only about Jews but about all of those in need. And I think it’s also heart-warming to see the generosity of our community.”

Jewish Artists for Haiti will stage a benefit concert Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 W. 68th St., in Manhattan. The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring and the New Yiddish Repertory Theater are the lead sponsors of the three-hour concert, which will feature, among others, Frank London and The Klezmer Brass AllStars, Greg Wall, Soulfarm, Neshama Carlebach and The Green Pastures Baptist Choir, Basya Schaechter and Pharoah’s Daughter, Alicia Svigals, Judith Sloan (the evening’s emcee), Gary Lucas, Maracatu New York, Cantor Dan Singer, and others with styles ranging from klezmer to Jewish hip hop.

Zalmen Mlotek of Teaneck, artistic director of the NationalYiddish Theater/Folksbiene, will be among the performers.

Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Admission is a minimum donation of $18. All proceeds will go directly to the American Jewish World Service Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.

For more information, call Workmen’s Circle at (212) 889-6800, ext. 212, or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Among the many funds to aid the earthquake victims is the MDA Emergency Disaster Fund of American Friends of Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross.

Jake Hirsch of New City, N.Y., a junior at Solomon Schechter School of Westchester in Harts-dale, N.Y., became interested in Haiti long before last week’s earthquake. He started the school’s Hope for Haiti Club this year after researching a term paper about the country for his history class.

Jake organized an art sale at the school on Jan. 31 with the Vassar-Haiti Project, a volunteer organization that buys and imports Haitian art, with the proceeds sustaining the education, medical program, and other essentials of a village in northern Haiti that was not affected by the earthquake. Proceeds from the art sale will be given to the project as well as for earthquake relief.

The school has put Jake in charge of all Haiti-related relief efforts. Those not attending the sale can send checks made out to the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester (with Haitian relief in the memo), 555 West Hartsdale Ave., Hartsdale, NY 10530; 100 percent of the donations will be sent to Haiti. For information, call (914) 948-8333.

 
 

Israeli aid effort helps Haitians — and Israel’s image                     

Jewish community mobilizes giving to Haiti

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The IDF medical team in Haiti was joined on Monday by nine volunteers from Los Angeles. IDF

The Haitian earthquake has galvanized fund raising at the Krieger Schechter Day School in suburban Baltimore.

The Jewish elementary school normally collects about $200 per week from its 420 students, and the money goes to various charities. But when the school’s headmaster, Paul Schneider, decided to direct last week’s giving to the American Red Cross to help the Haitian relief effort, the weekly tally jumped to $4,600.

“A fair amount of it was from children cracking open their piggybanks,” Schneider told JTA.

Over the past week, the American Jewish community has cracked open its collective piggybank as Jewish organizations small and large have raised millions of dollars to help in the relief effort following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shattered Port-au-Prince last week, killing an estimated tens of thousands in Haiti.

Dozens of Jewish organizations from the Reform movement to the Orthodox Union have set up links on their Websites for constituents to donate money toward the relief effort.

Most have directed their giving to the American Jewish World Service and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee — two U.S.-based organizations that do work in the developing world — or to IsraAid, the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, a coordinating organization for 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups that has sent a team of rescue workers to Haiti. (For a list of resources, see page 22.)

As of Tuesday morning, AJWS had raised an estimated $2.4 million to distribute to the grassroots economic development organizations it already works with in Haiti.

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Lt. Col. Dr. Avi Abergel, a gynecologist with the Israeli aid mission to Haiti, holds a premature baby delivered in the IDF field hospital in Haiti on Sunday. IDF

The JDC, the foreign aid agency backed by the Jewish Federations of North America, has brought in nearly $1.5 million that it will direct to the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, which is sending money to the Israeli field hospitals in Haiti. The coalition is composed of some 30 organizations, including the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, World ORT, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, AJWS and the American Jewish Committee.

While some relief efforts have been slow to reach Haiti in the aftermath of the quake, on the ground Jewish dollars already are at work. The AJWS says that all of the 10 organizations with which it normally works in Haiti are now in emergency mode and have shifted focus to help in the aid effort.

For instance, one AJWS-funded group in the Dominican Republic that normally focuses on helping Haitians in the Dominican Republic has formed a caravan from that country to Port-au-Prince to bring feminine hygiene supplies, diapers, and other needed items into Haiti.

Aside from providing funding for the Israel Defense Forces and IsraAid field hospitals in Haiti, which Israeli officials say can treat up to 500 patients per day, the money from JDC and the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief is going to organizations such as Heart to Heart International and Partners in Health to provide emergency medical supplies.

If past experience is any guide, some of the money the Jewish community raises in the coming weeks for Haiti relief will not be spent for months or even years. In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, B’nai B’rith International raised $900,000, which it spent on relief and rebuilding efforts over the next four years. Similarly, the JDC took five years to spend the $18 million it raised following the tsunami.

The immediate days following a disaster tend to be the most critical for fund-raising. About 90 percent of the $18 million the JDC raised for Southeast Asia was raised in the month immediately following the tsunami.

The president of AJWS, Ruth Messinger, said it becomes more difficult to raise money when the issue disappears from the headlines.

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Certified Nursing Assistant Lise Malivert lights a candle at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh for victims of the earthquake. Courtesy JHR

“This is when most people get alerted to the situation,” she said. “They want to know who is raising money and who has a plan for what is being raised and what they are doing and who can explain to us what is different and discrete about what we are doing.”

Meanwhile, organizations and donors large and small are pitching in. Billionaire George Soros, who is Jewish, gave $4 million to the relief effort through his Open Society Institute. The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring and the New Yiddish Repertory are organizing a benefit concert later this month with the goal of raising $20,000.

The swiftness of the response is due in part to the Internet and the flourishing of online giving.

By Tuesday, AJWS raised $1.8 million from more than 16,000 people via its Website. The JUF-Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago raised $283,000 in five days from 2,200 donors. Almost all of it — nearly $260,000 – came in online, from 2,058 individuals. UJA-Federation of Greater Toronto raised $173,240 so far, much of it online.

As of Wednesday, UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey had accumulated pledges and donations through its Website and by mail, amounting to more than $56,000, not counting several large gifts, one of $25,000. (See related story.)

Those involved in the fund-raising effort say the Jewish community’s gifts to the people of Haiti stem from Jewish values.

“Here is a vast group of people in desperate need, and we are committed to helping them, and in helping them we are bettering the world,” said the executive director of the Workmen’s Circle, Ann Toback. “It combines our cultural identity with our commitment to social justice and improving the world.”

Giving also provides a teaching opportunity, said the Krieger Schechter school’s Schneider.

“I think some of the older children understand what is happening in Haiti. I have talked to them about it. They are concerned. They wonder how these people are going to survive, what will they eat? Will they still be alive when someone finally comes to try to find them?” he said. “We talk to the children all of the time the importance of human life and ‘pikuach nefesh’” — saving lives. “The children know all human life is sacred, not just Jewish life. This is an opportunity to teach that.”

JTA

 
 

Israeli aid effort helps Haitians — and Israel’s image

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Members of the IsraAid medical team offered treatment on Monday to earthquake survivors at a soccer stadium in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The text messages started coming in to Shachar Zahavi’s cell phone in the middle of the night: “What are we going to do about Haiti?”

Zahavi, chairman of IsraAid, a coordinating organization for 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups, hadn’t even heard yet about the earthquake that had rocked Port-au-Prince, leaving untold thousands dead.

By morning, preparations already were under way to dispatch an Israeli relief team to the devastated Caribbean nation. Consisting of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and logistics experts, the 15-person group arrived Saturday in Port-au-Prince and immediately set to work treating wounded Haitians at the site of a collapsed hospital near the city center.

On Monday, deep into the thick of coordinating logistics for a second aid team to replace the first, Zahavi received a heartening text message from one of his team members in Haiti: “A 6-year-old girl, Jessica Hartelin, was just pulled from the rubble by locals nearly six days after the earthquake, was rushed to our clinic, and treated by the IsraAID/FIRST medical team. She was saved. She will be transferred in the next few minutes to the Israeli Defense Force field hospital for further treatment.”

It was one bright spot in a week that aid workers described as alternately heartbreaking and exhilarating.

The IsraAid team, composed fully of volunteers, was just one component of the broad Israeli and Jewish effort to help Haiti. As soon as the magnitude of the earthquake’s destruction became apparent, humanitarian officials sprang into action.

The Israel Defense Forces was the first major Israeli team to arrive. Team members reached Haiti last Friday on a flight loaded with military and civilian medical personnel from all over Israel, rescue teams, search dogs, and supplies. While Port-au-Prince’s hospitals were rendered mostly useless by the quake, the IDF team set up a field hospital near a soccer stadium to treat survivors. It was one of the only places Haitians could receive advanced medical treatment in the city.

“The Israeli field hospital is phenomenal,” Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News told “Good Morning America.” “They were up and running on Saturday morning, way ahead of the United States hospital.”

When Besser encountered a woman in labor named Soraya in a Port-au-Prince park, he got in touch with the only medical facility he knew about in town: the one run by the Israelis.

“Before long, Soraya had an operating room waiting for her,” said Besser, who helped deliver the baby. “Ultrasounds, IVs, medications. Soraya was now getting better care than she could have ever imagined.”

On Saturday, Israeli doctors at the hospital delivered a baby boy whose grateful mother said she’d name the boy Israel.

Meanwhile, other civilian aid workers were having trouble getting into Haiti. Power was down in most of Port-au-Prince, complicating matters, and airplanes on the ground at the city’s airport lacked sufficient fuel to take off and make way for additional aid flights to land.

The airport in Santo Domingo, in the neighboring Dominican Republic, became an alternate staging area, and aid officials from around the world converged on the Dominican capital as a first step toward reaching the earthquake zone in Port-au-Prince.

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A 6-year-old girl was pulled from the rubble and treated by the IsraAID team in Port-au-Prince on Moonday. IsraAid

In Israel late last week, frustrated aid workers idled as they waited for a clear route into Haiti to be established. Reached by telephone last Friday, an official from Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, said the group still hadn’t received clearance to leave.

It took until Monday for the team of five Magen David Adom paramedics to get to Port-au-Prince, which they reached overland after landing in the Dominican Republic. Once in Haiti, the paramedics set up a field hospital in conjunction with the Norwegian Red Cross at the courtyard of the university hospital in Port-au-Prince. The hospital was up and running Tuesday morning.

A group from the Israeli disaster relief organization ZAKA was in a better position to move quickly. ZAKA had a team of rescue workers in Mexico assisting in recovery efforts following a helicopter crash there two days before the quake hit, so when the official Mexican aid delegation to Haiti left Mexico, Israeli rescue workers hitched a ride with them aboard a Mexican Air Force Hercules aircraft.

Before the week was over, ZAKA rescue workers had pulled eight students, alive, from the wreckage of a collapsed university building.

In a statement, the head of the delegation, Mati Goldstein, was quoted in an e-mail describing a “Shabbat from hell” in the earthquake-ravaged city. ZAKA is made up of Orthodox Jewish volunteers.

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An Israeli and others carry a wounded Haitian to a field hospital on Monday set up by the Israeli army in Port-au-Prince. Zaka/Flash90/JTA

“Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air. It’s just like the stories we are told of the Holocaust — thousands of bodies everywhere,” Goldstein wrote. “You have to understand that the situation is true madness, and the more time passes, there are more and more bodies, in numbers that cannot be grasped. It is beyond comprehension.”

To lift their spirits, the rescue workers from ZAKA taught Haitian survivors to sing “Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem.”

Whether clad in IDF uniforms, wearing the flag of Israel on their shoulders, or holding Shabbat prayers during a brief break from their rescue work, the Israeli aid workers’ visible presence in Haiti is helping to promote a positive image of Israel in a world more accustomed to seeing the nation negatively.

“I am sure it is good for the Israeli image, but we’re not doing it only because of this,” said Danny Biran, ambassador of logistical and administrative affairs for Israel’s mission to the United Nations and the Americas. “We are doing it because we believe in what we are doing.”

“We always carry an Israeli flag and hang it wherever we work. We don’t do anything under the radar,” said Zahavi of IsraAid. “It’s important for us to show that we come on behalf of the Israeli people, and people should know we’re there for them.”

The IsraAid coalition is made up of aid organizations — such as the Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team (FIRST), the Jerusalem AIDS Project, and Pirchey Refua-Israeli Youth Medical Cadets — as well as funding organizations including the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rtih International, and UJA-Federation of Greater Toronto.

In an interview from Port-au-Prince, one of IsraAid’s logistics volunteers, Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, said the destruction in Haiti was overwhelming.

“I’ve been to Chad, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Kenya, and Georgia on IsraAid missions, and I’ve never ever seen anything of this scale,” Schnieder said by telephone as patients receiving treatment at IsraAid’s clinic could be heard screaming in the background. “It’s like a war scene.”

JTA

 
 

In Haiti, Israel puts tikkun olam in action

Asaf SharivOp-Ed
Published: 29 January 2010
 
 

Local groups find ways to help Haiti

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Medical supplies are being collected at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center.
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Ramaz students with the “Hearts 4 Haiti” T- shirts. Courtesy of Ramaz

As the need for aid in Haiti persists, local individuals and groups continue to mobilize.

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey is still accepting donations for The Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. All monies are sent directly to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. As of Tuesday, the group had raised $123,676. Send donations through the UJA-NNJ Website, www.ujannj.org/Haiti, or by mail.

Teaneck resident and Judaic artist Deborah Ugoretz reports that her studio-mates have organized a fund-raising event entitled Small Works for a Big Cause: Artists Unite to Help Haiti. Organizers are asking people not only to attend the exhibit/sale but, if possible, to contribute a small piece of art. The event will take place on Jan. 31 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at BrassWorks, 105 Grove St. in Montclair. According to Ugoretz, the group seeks 2-D works, no larger than 12” on any side, and works will be sold for a suggested $50 minimum donation. All proceeds will go to Haiti earthquake relief organizations. Those interested in donating their artwork should send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Combine the opportunity to raise money for Haiti with Zumba, the Latin-inspired dance fitness phenomenon, at “Zumba for Haiti” at the Bergen County YJCC on Feb. 21 from 12 noon to 1:15 p.m. Minimum donation is $18, payable to UJA-NNJ and designated for its earthquake relief fund. Zumba will be led by Missy Avalo, with guest instructors Shelley Capener and Anna Alon. The YJCC is at 605 Pascack Road, Township of Washington. For more information, call (201) 666-6610, ext. 291.

Northeast Podiatry Group and the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation Bnai Israel are collecting emergency medical supplies for Haiti’s burn and orthopedic trauma victims. Their goal is to fill a tractor-trailer with donations of medical supplies or used orthopedic equipment. The nearest drop-off point is the Jewish Center, at 10-10 Norma Ave. in Fair Lawn. For more information, send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or visit www.burnadvocates.org. Donors can also choose to contribute money to help defray shipping and distribution.

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From left, Maria Pineda, Damary Collado, Eve Domercant, and Carlos Sanchez.

Former Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes has asked that those who want to donate material goods to the people of Haiti bring new or gently used clothing and baby supplies in plastic bags to his home at 250 Allison Court in Englewood. Wildes also urges people to contribute to the American Red Cross International Response Fund for Haitian Relief (www.redcross.org).

Twin brothers Seth and Philip Aronson will perform at Hamsa restaurant, 7 West Railroad Ave., in Tenafly on Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door. All proceeds will be donated toward Haitian relief efforts. The duo, dubbed the Aronson Twins, grew up in Tenafly and now live in Closter with their families. In addition to writing and arranging their own songs, they frequently perform in the New York area.

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a member of the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, met with the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Rajiv Shah, and Ambassador Craig Kelly, principal deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, to discuss the current situation on the ground in Haiti. Said Rothman, “The international response to this crisis is a promising start, but there is still much more work to be done. USAID has set up a Website at haiti.usaid.gov where the latest information can be found on the situation in Haiti. Also, in order to help family members affected by this tragedy, my offices in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. remain available to help in any way we can at (201) 646-0808 and (202) 225-5061 respectively.”

The Ramaz school in Manhattan reports that the school is collecting money to distribute to both the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the American Jewish World Service. In addition, some classes set aside time to recite tehillim, psalms, on behalf of the victims. The school held a special assembly during which students were educated about the tragedy and suggestions were made as to how students might help. Subsequently, a middle school student produced T-shirts reading “Hearts 4 Haiti” and will donate proceeds from sales to the JDC. An upper school program included the reading of a prayer specially composed by British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks to mark the tragedy. The school is also organizing relief efforts including food and clothing collections.

Palisades Medical Center staff members helped organize a medical mission and donation of medical supplies that will be delivered to Jimani on the Dominican Republic/Haitian border, to aid the victims of the earthquake. The donation will be brought to Jimani by representatives from Guardians of Healing and the Haitian-American Charitable Alliance, which scheduled medical missions for Jan. 31 through Feb. 7, and later in March. The Palisades Medical Center donation includes splints, bandages, surgical gowns, and other medical supplies and equipment.

 
 

Haitian apocalypse and a bold new world

 

Local doctors tell of ‘humbling and gratifying’ service in Haiti

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Oplan Evans displays his boots, a gift from Dr. Alan Gwertzman Dr. Alan Gwertzman

Oplan Evans has a new pair of boots — and his arms and legs.

As Dr. Alan Gwertzman tells it, the Haitian boy was in tears as he waited to be brought into the operating room in Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, about 70 miles north of Port-au-Prince.

Gwertzman, chief anesthesiologist at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, had come to Haiti, like two colleagues from Holy Name, to help in the medical emergency caused by last month’s devastating earthquake.

He had seen that “the Haitian people are very stoic. These kids, even though they had open wounds, horrible fractures, did not show much emotion — but as they got to the holding room before the operating room you could see that they were scared.

“It dawned on me,” Gwertzman told The Jewish Standard last Thursday, “that these children could see other children and adults go into the operating room with four limbs, but unfortunately many would leave with less.”

Oplan’s “injuries did not require that,” and Gwertzman “promised him that would not happen.”

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Drs. Alan Gwertzman, left, and Timothy Finley flank Holy Name CEO Michael Maron at last Thursday’s briefing at the Teaneck hospital on the medical emergency in Haiti. Nicole Russell

This was his first visit to the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, and he had noticed that “most of these children did not have shoes.” That gave him an idea.

“My boots were fairly new; they were a bright yellow and hard to miss.” Oplan had eyed the boots admiringly, “so I said I promise you will not get your leg amputated, and as a guarantee, before I leave … I will give you my boots. The morning that I was leaving I brought him the yellow boots and he was very happy.”

But for every boy like Oplan, “there are thousands” still in desperate need of medical help, said Dr. Timothy Finley, who with Gwertzman briefed staff and press at Holy Name last Thursday. Being able to provide that help — or some of it — was “very, very humbling and gratifying,” said Finley, an anesthesiologist whose recent stint in Haiti was his seventh.

In a subsequent interview with the Standard, Finley said that Milot had suffered “nothing as severe as Port-au-Prince,” and that Sacré Coeur “became a port in the storm for Haitians who could not go anywhere else. The Navy and the Coast Guard and French helicopters were constantly delivering patients” to be cared for there.

Unfortunately, the Milot hospital, which has had a relationship with Holy Name for many years and was used to handling 30 to 40 cases a week, was having to deal with 30 to 40 cases a day. Many of the injured worsened or died because of inadequate facilities, equipment, and supplies.

“The only monitor in three out of five operating rooms was your hand,” Finley told the standing-room-only gathering of mainly medical professionals. “We ran out of things like morphine. Had we had it, people would not have screamed all night.”

And “the smell of gangrene, blood everywhere, the chaos, was overwhelming.”

To combat the chaos, Finley instituted a regimen to run the hospital, and it is continuing to be followed.

“I saw the best of American medicine down there,” Finley told the gathering. “I’m proud to be an American, proud to be a doctor, proud to be a Holy Name physician because of its years of support” in Haiti.

“For $500,000, he continued, “we can build a better hospital, or at least [we can] put oxygen there. I’m asking for contributions. If we can raise this,” he said, “they’ve agreed they’ll call it Holy Name.”

He has donated $10,000 for Sacré Coeur and Michael Maron, the hospital’s president and CEO, told the gathering that he would personally double that gift. Also, Jane Fielding Ellis, the hospital’s vice president for marketing, public relations, and community, announced that the staff had raised $10,000.

“We’re hoping that people will respond,” Finley told the Standard. He said that one pressing need is for a permanent oxygen source. “A company has a unit for $250,000,” he related, “but is willing to sell it to us for $150,000.”

As for that hoped-for Holy Name Hospital in Haiti, he said, “We may try to ask some larger construction companies to help us in building — donating labor, materials, even money.”

 
 

Help and no help

 

Mission to Haiti

Dr. Joshua Hyman, a hero of Haiti

One of the UJA-NNJ “Heroes of Haiti,” Dr. Joshua Hyman is not new to volunteering his medical services for earthquake victims. As associate director of the Children for China Pediatrics Foundation, he said, he travels to China every year to “provide surgical services to Chinese orphans.” There he treats congenital and post-traumatic deformities in children, but last year he “also took care of about half dozen children who were injured in the [2009 China] earthquake.”

When he learned of the devastation due to the earthquake in Haiti, Hyman quickly arranged his trip, arriving on Jan. 18 for 10 marathon days of surgery and medical treatment of young quake victims. As a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, his skills were particularly essential as he and other team members addressed the needs of children whose limbs were crushed in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Hyman described how he joined up with other medical professionals of the Florida based Project Medishare facility at the Port-au-Prince airfield, where “four big wedding tents” held operating and other treatment facilities for the victims. During his stay he found the Israeli field hospital personnel very helpful. In order to maximize the use of medical expertise of the Medishare and Israeli physicians, “there was a fair amount of trading of patients” with the Israelis, said Hyman. “I brought patients to the Israeli facility, and brought back patients that they couldn’t manage.”

Hyman encountered challenging cases. “One patient, a 10-year-old girl, had a terrible crush injury to her arm,” said Hyman. “I spent a great deal of time trying to save the arm, and brought her to the Israelis to try to get a plastic surgeon, but they couldn’t help her.” He did manage to get the youngster transferred to a Florida hospital where she could get the needed services. Each day he spent most of his time operating on victims, but Hyman also concerned himself with finding facilities for follow-up treatment of his patients. Hyman succeeded in transferring numerous patients to the U.S.N. Comfort as well as to Florida hospitals for continued treatment.

Hyman found inspiration in “the spirit of the Haitian people who suffered tremendously — physically, spiritually — who lost their homes and businesses, yet in camps and in the hospitals they wanted to help each other.” Many Haitians volunteered as translators, or helped with equipment and patient transfers, said Hyman.

Hyman is associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of Pediatric Orthopaedic Fellowship at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian. He has lived most of his life in Englewood, where he and his wife are raising their 13-year-old twins, who will celebrate their bar and bat mitzvahs in Israel shortly, and two younger daughters who were adopted from China.

Regarding his Haiti experience, Hyman said, “My wife was completely supportive and my kids just wanted to make sure that I would be safe. They were pleased that their father was involved in trying to help.”

“I’m fortunate that I have the training to do this work,” said Hyman, who plans to return to Haiti to organize rehabilitative care and to help amputees acquire the prostheses they so desperately need. He is also planning a trip to China in the fall to continue his medical volunteer work there.

“The need for additional support in Haiti is tremendous and it will be ongoing,” concluded Hyman. “A tragedy as great as this, very, very close to home, will have to stay in the minds of people in the U.S.”

 
 

Mission to Haiti

Israeli surgeon, hero of Haiti, to speak to northern New Jersey physicians and dentists

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Dr. Guy Lin wants to adopt this 5-year-old girl whose parents died in the earthquake. COURTESY DR. LIN

Dr. Guy Lin struggled to explain why, after January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, he dropped everything to accompany Israel’s medical team of mercy.

“I am head of the trauma unit at the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya,” he began after pondering the question. “Every physician thinks he can do his job the best, but in Nahariya, if I am not there, many others could replace me. In Haiti, I felt that there was nobody else.

Lin, who served as chief surgeon at the Israeli mobile field hospital set up in Port-au-Prince, is scheduled to be the guest speaker for UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Physicians & Dentists annual dinner on May 11. The event will pay tribute to 25 “heroes of Haiti,” local medical professionals who also volunteered their services in the wake of the disaster. Many are associated with local hospitals, including Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Hackensack University Medical Center, Holy Name Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, and The Valley Hospital.

Cathi Goldfischer, a nurse at Englewood, nurse-practitioner at a private practice in Ramsey, and chief of the Fort Lee Ambulance Corps, went to Haiti with the state-sponsored New Jersey-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team of 35 professionals.

“Haiti was our first appointment overseas,” said Goldfischer, the team’s head nurse. The volunteers arrived on Friday and waited at the American embassy for a few days before being picked up by a Coast Guard helicopter and brought to a makeshift clinic. Later, they moved operations to a mobile hospital staffed by the 82nd Airborne Division.

“We saw hundreds of patients a day for 17 days,” said Goldfischer. “The sheer magnitude of the physical devastation was just unbelievable.” The team hired local translators and paid them in MRE (military Meals Ready to Eat) and bottled water. They also hired wet nurses to feed babies who were orphaned or whose mothers were too dehydrated to breastfeed. “We did great work and the people were so grateful for any type of care.”

Goldfischer said she was impressed with the Israelis, who landed in Haiti and set up their hospital in just four hours. “I was absolutely in awe. As we were sitting in the embassy, we watched this and somebody on my team said we should throw out our playbook and use theirs instead,” said Goldfischer. “I felt so proud.”

Lin had participated in Israel’s disaster relief effort after the 2001 earthquake in India that claimed some 20,000 lives. However, that experience was much different.

“In India, there was containment of the situation by the local government, and not all infrastructure was destroyed,” explained Lin. “We functioned more like a community hospital than like a disaster hospital. In Haiti, we felt alone. There were about 12 medical delegations in Port-au-Prince and we had the highest level of facilities. We had to decide ourselves what to do, and for a few days we had nowhere to transfer patients.”

Lin spent 23 years in the Israel Defense Force’s Medical Corps as a combat surgeon for paratrooper and Special Forces units. He commanded the advanced medical course at the School of Military Medicine and headed the IDF Trauma Branch, training physicians to treat combat injuries. He went on to be Chief Surgeon of the IDF Northern Command.

Yet Lin claimed that what he saw in Haiti “was the worst sight I have ever seen in my life. I would grab an hour’s sleep, and afterwards I would think, ‘How did I allow myself to waste time sleeping? I could have saved another life in that hour.’ You feel like every minute of your time equals someone’s life or someone’s quality of life.”

Lin was moved by the gratitude he heard. “Almost every patient said, ‘God bless Israel’ or ‘Thank you, Israel,’ and they cried from emotion. They really appreciated us.”

In addition to his address at the UJA dinner, to take place at 6:30 at Teaneck’s Marriott Glenpointe, Lin will make clinical presentations to trauma and emergency personnel at local hospitals.

His appearance in North Jersey was arranged by Robert Miller, director of the UJA Physicians & Dentists Division. Miller had been disappointed to discover that none of the field hospital veterans was available through organized speaker channels.

“I called Hadassah, I called Shaare Zedek, I called the IDF spokesperson’s office — I made many calls to Israel, but came up with nothing,” related Miller. Then, on a hunch, he called his Israeli colleague from the UJA-NNJ Partnership 2000 project in the northern city of Nahariya. “I asked her if anybody from Western Galilee had gone to Haiti. And within 15 minutes, we had Dr. Lin.”

Miller said he was moved by the photos Lin sent him from his time in Haiti, showing the surgeon with children. “He’s got incredible medical credentials. But this shows what a great Jew he is, too.”

Lin said that Israel’s decision to send disaster relief teams all over the world is made at the political level and he could only speculate as to why the small country, itself in a constant state of alert, is always among the first to send help.

“I want to believe the reason is that as a Jewish country you cannot stand and do nothing when other nations are in trouble,” he said. “Maybe there are other considerations involved, but this is my feeling.”

 
 
 
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