An ongoing commitment

An ongoing commitment

By RUTH BELOFF
September 26, 2009 04:49
3 minute read.

 
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T he phone rings at 3 a.m., and Mindee Levinger is out of her house like a shot, on her way to the hospital to help a young woman give birth. Not a midwife but the Jerusalem regional coordinator for the OneFamily Fund, Levinger is dedicated to helping victims of terrorism in whatever way she can. The woman in question is one of Levinger's clientele, who worked on Jaffa Road and has survived three terrorist attacks - one at the Sbarro Restaurant, one on Rehov Ben-Yehuda, and one on Jaffa Road itself. Available 24/7 to listen, talk or take affirmative action Levinger, 44, has been working with OneFamily since its inception in 2001. She is married and has four children, all of whom are involved with OneFamily as well. "I lost a brother in the First Lebanon War," she says, "so I can relate to the grief and sense of loss these people are suffering." When the intifada began in 2001, she went from hospital to hospital, bed to bed, house to house to offer her assistance and support. She became very close with the people who had either lost a family member or had been in a terrorist attack themselves. "At the root of the word 'terrorism' is 'terror,'" says Yehuda Poch, OneFamily's director of communications. "And that terror doesn't go away as soon as the attack is over. Victims of terror need help for a long time," he says. Be it physical injuries, bereavement, post-traumatic stress disorder, illness that develops from the trauma, or financial setbacks due to any or all of the above, OneFamily's mandate is to alleviate the anguish and, as its motto says, "help rebuild shattered lives." The organization, founded by Marc and Chantal Belzberg of Jerusalem, does this by providing financial assistance, food and clothing, therapy, support groups, personal visits, concerts, retreats and holiday events to terror victims nationwide. Even though the issue has dropped off the radar for many people, "who are more worried about swine flu than about terrorism," says Poch, the needs of the victims and their families are still as urgent as ever. And our bout with terrorism is not over at all, he adds. Jews have been stabbed and rockets are still being fired on Sderot - these attacks just don't make the headlines anymore. "Even though you lost your loved one, there are people who know what you went through so you can live in this country," Levinger tells the families. She cites the example of a Russian woman who had lost her son in a terrorist attack. The grieving mother kept his room intact for a long time and couldn't bring herself to even put away his clothes. Levinger helped her clear out the room, and together they went to give his clothing to an orphanage. She showed the mother that she was doing an act of kindness in her son's name. "I go with them to the cemetery on their memorial days," says Levinger. "And if any of them need to talk, they can call me anytime, even at midnight. They need to know that someone is always there to listen to them. We don't let them feel alone." Many of them cannot work due to their injuries or severe emotional state; others have lost their jobs because they have to take care of an incapacitated family member. "Some are very poor," says Levinger, "so we bring them food and clothes. And we make sure they have food for the holidays." By the same token, Levinger says it's "beautiful to go to their simhas [celebrations]. I even walked down the aisle with a hatan [bridegroom] who had lost his mother. They are very special people, and they need us." On every holiday, OneFamily holds special festive events. This gives the victims of terror and their families an opportunity to get together in a relaxed atmosphere at a celebratory event with people like them and share their pain or their joy. It also gives them a chance to reconnect with the organization, which lets them know they have not been forgotten.

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