2017-08-02 / Voice at the Shore

YI Founders’ Dinner celebrates new Bikur Cholim project to care for sick and needy

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor

IZZY EZAGUIIZZY EZAGUIThere’s a lot to celebrate at Young Israel (YI) of Margate’s Annual Founders Day Dinner on Sunday, August 27, at 6 p.m. at the Margate JCC, said YI Rabbi Yaacov Orimland. Not only will the dinner honor many exceptional congregants; it will also feature an inspirational talk by Izzy Ezagui, an American-born Israeli Defense Forces squad commander who lost his arm in combat in 2008 and defied the odds by retraining himself to return to combat shortly thereafter.

But perhaps the most special aspect of this year’s Founder’s Day dinner, said Orimland, is Young Israel’s announcement of its new Bikur Cholim project— through which a committee of volunteers will assist the rabbi in tending to the needs of the sick and needy, “helping them out in any way we can,” said Orimland.

“Bikur Cholim will be the theme of our dinner,” he added. Notably, the evening’s speaker and honorees are all people who have overcome injury or illness or have made a significant personal commitment to helping those who are ill or in need.

The evening’s special guest, Izzy Ezagui, has been described by Fox News as “the one-armed warrior.” After witnessing the devastating impact of a suicide bombing in Israel as a young teen, Ezagui resolved to one day join the IDF. He ultimately learned firsthand what it meant to survive that kind of devastating explosion while serving as a soldier on the Gaza border, where his arm was blown off in a

2008 attack.

Rather than giving in to despair or acknowledging limitation from his injury, the young soldier retrained himself to do everything with one hand so well that he passed the test to return to front-line combat in 2010. According to his website, izzy-speaks.com, Ezagui is now a reservist for the IDF who has given inspirational talks to diverse audiences in the U.S., Israel, Canada and Australia. He is also a blogger who appears frequently in international media.

“Izzy is very inspirational,” said Rabbi Orimland. “He didn’t give up.”

Also inspirational are Dr. Eric and Lori Miller, YI congregants from Cherry Hill, who will be honored as Couple of the Year at the Founders Dinner. When Dr. Miller developed throat cancer, he and his family determined that they would overcome. Rather than dwelling upon loss, they have gone on to live life to the fullest extent possible, said the rabbi.

“The way the family handled the whole situation is an inspiration to everyone who knows them. Both are my inspiration! They are very, very special people,” said Orimland.

Young Israel President Alan Bierig and his wife, Susan, will receive the Chessed Award for their community leadership. “When Alan and his wife know there’s someone in need, they take care of them,” said the rabbi. Moreover, they do this “in a very modest and quiet way.”

Congregant Sally Mitlas and her daughter Ilana will receive the Women of Valor Award. Mitlas, a singer and musician who owns an entertainment company, is devoted to many Jewish causes. Despite her busy schedule, said Orimland, “she’s always willing to help and do for others.” She too does this in a quiet way, he added.

Mitlas was very eager to help with Young Israel’s Bikur Cholim project, noted Orimland. “She jumped on the idea. She will be there for anything I need, from volunteering to delivering.”

YI’s Bikur Cholim committee will help the sick, elderly, needy and disabled in many ways, such as providing food when needed, giving out-of-town families of the sick a place to stay or other types of assistance, taking people to doctor appointments, and offering a 24-hour phone line that people can call for help with medical needs.

“It’s more than a rabbi walking into the hospital and saying, ‘Hi, how are you?’ It’s complex,” he noted. Volunteers will help people “feel like they are somebody and that they are worth someone taking time and doing something for them,” Orimland explained.

“For example, I met a guy at Shore Memorial who looked completely depressed. I spent an hour schmoozing and talking to him. He had a leg amputated. I asked what I could do for him. He said he wanted a corned beef sandwich—that’s all he wanted! But he had no one there to help him.”

At present, our local communities “don’t have an official Bikur Cholim,” noted Orimland. “We are figuring out how to do this. Most communities have this.” The project will go beyond making the rounds at local hospitals, as is currently done by local clergy, or making contributions to the needy, as Jewish Family Service does, he explained.

Tickets to the YI Founders Day dinner cost $180 per person. Reservations are requested by August 15; please call Rabbi Orimland at (609) 823-3630 or email yimdinner@gmail.com. 

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