‘Just One Life’ Helps Israel’s Expectant Mothers

January 22, 2012  

For more than 20 years, the Jerusalem-based organization Just One Life has been helping expectant mothers who are in crisis and are considering having an abortion.

“We help mothers, for the most part who are young, married and have fallen on to bad times or some crisis in the family, and feel that they have to make a decision to abort which is something they really don’t want to do,” Rabbi Etan Tokayer, Just One Life’s Executive Vice President, told Arutz Sheva.

Just One Life was founded by Rabbi Solomon Sharfman z”l, an American rabbi who retired to Israel, where he read an article about the relatively large number of pregnancies that are terminated in Israel on a yearly basis. He felt that in the wake of the Holocaust, if there is a mother in Israel who wants to have a child but feels she cannot, everything must be done to help her have her family.

Together with founding Chairman Jack Forgash and Brooklyn-based businessman Steven Adelsberg, Rabbi Sharfman formed Just One Life.

The organization, Rabbi Tokayer explained, provides the pregnant women with social work counseling as well as financial assistance.

“We have a team of social workers, and each one of our clients gets a social worker who works with her during the course of the pregnancy as well as for several months afterward,” he said. “We also provide financial assistance, because there’s always a financial component to the issue. We also provide some other educational and life skills training for mothers after the baby is born.”

In the more than 20 years since Just One Life has been in existence, it has helped over 13,000 children to be born. Just One Life has a 100 percent retention rate, meaning, according to Rabbi Tokayer, “any mother who chooses to go forward with her pregnancy can always decide to give the child up for adoption. Our methodology is not simply to enable the mother to have a baby – which is a value in and of itself – but we’re going for the whole picture, which is that the mother should be empowered to have her child and therefore she feels confident to keep and raise the child. In 13,000 cases, we’ve never had a mother give a child up for adoption.”

Just One Life operates in essence using references or word of mouth and does not engage in any outreach activities.

“All our mothers come to us referred,” Rabbi Tokayer explained. “We do not really do public relations campaigns in that sense. Our chief social worker who runs the service in Israel, Madelaine Gitelman, a very well-respected social worker in her field, has developed a network of municipal social workers and public health nurses around the country who refer cases to Just One Life.”

“When a mother comes to a public health nurse or to the municipal social service agencies and tells the case worker she’s thinking about aborting, the social worker will tell her that there’s an organization in Jerusalem that might be able to help and she gets referred,” he added.

Rabbi Tokayer said that the phenomenon of an expectant mother thinking about an abortion is something that can affect any mother – be it religious or secular. The Torah, to whom every life is sacred, does not allow abortion for economic reasons, but rabbis have to be consulted if the problems stem from medical reasons.

“This is a challenge which crosses religious lines,” he said. “We’ve had many mothers – whether they’re secular, traditional, or even hareidi.”

“Israel is a very child-centric society,” he added, “and the truth of the matter is that many women who are facing this type of dilemma thought they’d never have to face it and are really looking for options. They think they don’t have any options but to abort, so we provide them with the options.”

Rabbi Tokayer, who is based in New York, mostly deals with marketing and education to American citizens in order to raise awareness about Just One Life and raise funds for its continued existence.

“The cost for saving one child is $1,800 which goes to financial assistance as well as for the social work services and some of the other programs,” he said. “We peg it at Chai times 100 – 1,800. It’s a rather small amount of money which is invested and lives are saved. If we just gave money without the social work services it would be just putting a band-aid on a bad problem. It’s the mental health service that we provide, in conjunction with the financial assistance, which really makes the financial assistance meaningful.”

The bottom line, said Rabbi Tokayer, is that Just One Life is helping not just the people of Israel but the State of Israel.The Israeli Jerusalem based Efrat organization works to prevent abortion as well.

“I believe a city in Israel is 15,000 people,” he said. “So we always mention that we have, in essence, created a city in Israel, with 13,000 babies born. We call it internal aliyah. There are not many organizations – except perhaps Nefesh B’Nefesh – that can say they’ve brought 13,000 Jews to Israel. At the end of the day, we always say it’s just one life at time, but altogether we’re really strengthening not only the people of Israel but the State of Israel. If you don’t have a strong population, then having borders and a land doesn’t mean too much.”

“The mission of Just One Life is not to populate Israel,” emphasized Rabbi Tokayer, “but the mission of Just One Life has had impact of strengthening the State of Israel in a really significant way.”






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