Veterans: Jeremy’s Circle – A healing legacy

Dealing with her own feelings of trauma from her husband’s illness, Pamela Becker realized a support group for her children was sorely missing.

Pamela Becker (photo credit: Courtesy)
Pamela Becker
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When Pamela Becker was coping with the terminal illness of her husband, Jeremy Coleman, she saw how painful the experience was for her three children – especially her oldest child, who was then six.
“I was able to attend a support group at the Wellness Center, but my daughter had nothing,” recalls Becker.
“She asked if she could come with me, just so she would not be alone with the thought that her father was going to die.”
Becker realized that for a child, having someone in the same situation could be a lifesaver. After much searching she found her daughter a friend, another child whose father was desperately ill, too.
“I watched them play together and it was as if they were the only two children in the universe,” she says.
“I could see it had a huge impact – the feeling that even though her father was very sick, it was OK to play and have fun, that there were other children in the same situation.”
Out of this realization, the idea of Jeremy’s Circle was born. It is a busy nonprofit which lends support to the families of the very sick – in particular, the children.
Founded six years ago, it bears the name of her husband, who tragically died in 2008 after a long battle with cancer.
“Jeremy had wanted to show his gratitude to all the friends and family who were supportive during his ordeal.
Together we came up with the idea, which was quite revolutionary here in Israel: of providing activities for the children, to give a sense of normalcy in a far-from-normal situation,” Becker explains.
From that modest beginning, Jeremy’s Circle has grown in every direction, and now takes care of 257 families. For Becker, it is a far cry from the life of the carefree young woman who made aliya in 1994 to find a new life in Israel.
Becker was born in upstate New York and studied creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. She had already published five short stories when she was invited to join the Arad Arts Project, a subsidized residency which brought over creative young people from around the world to encourage aliya.
In 1994 she made aliya, quickly realizing she was not going to be able to survive on writing alone. She got a job at an advertising agency, and at the same time registered for an MBA at Tel Aviv University.
“I did eventually get my degree, with blood, sweat and tears,” says the petite Becker with a smile. Jeremy was studying in the same course, but they actually met through the introduction of a mutual friend.
In 1999, they married in a joyful ceremony at the Hamam in Jaffa; their three children were born soon thereafter. The couple continued to work – she as a marketing director at a number of hi-tech firms, he as a business strategy consultant; his expertise was in how to raise performance and competitiveness, penetrate new markets and develop cross-border deals. At one point, the two even worked together in a start-up, MyThings, and were as happy at work as they were at home.
But this was not to last: Jeremy fell ill and was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer. He underwent surgery at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, and was hospitalized for a month.
“I was still nursing the baby but I was allowed to stay overnight with him,” recounts Becker. “It was an incredibly difficult time for all of us, but especially the little one – it was like both his parents had disappeared.”
Friends were amazing – taking care of the children, amusing them with fun days and excursions. The baby often came back already bathed and ready for bed.
“They were all Jeremy’s friends from his youth movement, Hanoar Hatzioni, and today they are still involved, sitting on the board of Jeremy’s Circle,” says Becker.
Jeremy’s situation worsened, but he continued to fight.
“We went for second, third opinions – to Boston, to New York,” recalls Pamela. “At New York’s Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center, one doctor gave slight hope and we continued the treatment he suggested, medication and radiation.
Jeremy had to fight; he just wouldn’t accept that he was going to die.”
But in 2008, he succumbed – and Becker was left with three small children to pick up the pieces. She continued to work in hi-tech and currently works at a company called ironSource, which connects software developers and users and is the world’s leading delivery platform for mobile and desktop applications.
“I am rebuilding my life,” she says of a new relationship she is now in. “It’s not about moving on, it’s moving forward.”
But Jeremy’s Circle is still a very important part of her life, and has been part of the way she has coped with her loss.
“We can’t stop it even if we want to, which we don’t,” she says. “I see that what we are doing is so important to the families involved.
“And I get so much out of it,” she notes. “For my children, having an organization which bears their father’s name is his legacy.
“Jeremy’s Circle has helped us all to heal.”