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A HOME WITH A HEART: GIRLS TOWN JERUSALEM

By: Miriam Sasson



Why Two Men, Rabbi Joey Haber and Mr. Allan Massry, Chose to Sponsor Children at a Jerusalem Orphanage

How did it come to pass that a community rabbi and his follower undertook to sponsor the needs of two children belonging to a Jerusalem Orphanage? Rabbi Joey Haber and Mr. Allan Massry share their experiences.

Mr. Allan Massry

It began the week of Parashat Mishpatim this past February. Following first minyan prayers at Magen David Synagogue, Rabbi Joey Haber gave what I consider to be one of his most inspiring classes ever. He explained that Hashem possesses a special regard for widows and orphans. In fact, he said, the Torah commands us to ensure that they are provided for. He then related his own experience of several months ago.

Rabbi Joey Haber

            Several months ago, a Chassidic rabbi approached me. “I have an orphanage in Israel called Bayit Lepletot, with a large branch referred to as Girls Town Jerusalem,” he said. He described the heart-wrenching circumstances that brought the downtrodden children there and added, “Next time you’re in Israel, stop by for a visit.”

            At the time, I had no immediate plans to visit Israel; however, the following week, Divine orchestration facilitated my arrival in Jerusalem with my wife. Naturally, I called the rabbi, and, together, we visited one of the four Bayit Lepletot buildings in the heart of Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim. These were children of severely unfortunate backgrounds – children of terror victims, children of financial destitution or neglect children far too acquainted with loss and suffering. And so, we were uncertain as to what lay behind the doors of this institution. What we saw, however, impacted us beyond description.

            When I entered, I was greeted by the sight of smiling girls running around. There were counselors, “angels,” caring for them just as a mother would. The facility was gorgeous, pleasant and inviting, featuring a toy room and an arts and crafts room. I paid a visit to the clothing room, where everything was folded and hanging neatly like in a department store. Secondhand clothes are distributed to the girls upon their arrival to the home, since they usually come with little or none of their own. Beyond the clothing room was another large closet enclosed by glass walls. The time the girls spend in that special room is an experience they anticipate for years. The glass room is stocked with a selection of 30 crisp white gowns for brides to choose from in anticipation of their wedding day. Seeing this beautiful home, its warm and loving atmosphere, and its professional and caring staff stirred something inside of me.

            The rabbi commented that while these girls receive hand-me-downs and have their needs provided for, some have a sponsor who sets aside a sum of money each month for new clothing and other “extras” that make them feel truly special. Each sponsored girl has a designated shopper who puts away the funds or oversees purchases on her behalf. Moreover, the sponsor (whom the children call “mensch”) establishes a relationship with the sponsored child, some even marching them down the aisle to the huppah.

            By then, I was awed. “You’ve got to be kidding!” I exclaimed.

            He smiled.

            “You mean, anyone can sponsor a girl?”

            “Absolutely.”

            “Like, I can sponsor a girl right now?!”

            “Right now.”

            I was amazed by the concept.

            Fifteen minutes later we were sponsoring eleven-year-old Batya. Born on March 16, 2004, young Batya has seen much sadness in her life. Her father passed away suddenly following Kiddush one Friday night. Unable to cope with the tragic loss of her husband, Batya’s mother suffered from a nervous breakdown and was unable to care for her children any longer. Batya arrived at Bayit Lepletot and her little sisters were sent to live with adoptive families. (Only recently did Batya’s sisters join her at Bayit Lepletot.)

            “Can we meet Batya?” I inquired, still reeling from the awesomeness of our act.

            “Of course!”

            When Batya came down to meet us, my wife gave her a tight hug and I handed her fifty shekels as pocket money. I knew then that it wouldn’t end there and that we’d be providing her with a need of every human being:  love

            What an experience it was!

Mr. Allan Massry

            I was so inspired by Rabbi Haber’s story, and he absolutely sold me onto the amazing concept of sponsoring an orphan girl at Girls Town. Knowing I would soon be traveling to Israel to attend a nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, I discussed the idea with my wife, Danielle, who was totally supportive and very excited about performing this particular hesed.

            Rabbi Haber hooked me up with Rabbi Velvel Goldstein, a director of the facility, who gave me a briefing on the orphanage. I asked Rabbi Haber if he wanted me to deliver anything to Batya on my visit. His wife came to my office with a pretty necklace to give to her.

            Once in Israel, my wife and I visited Girls Town on Wednesday, March 9. A Mrs. Zeidenfeld graciously gave us a tour of the institution. She walked us through rooms of immaculate linens, stuffed animals, and skirts for each girl. The magnum opus and highlight of the tour was the wedding gown room meant for the girls to enjoy when they met their destined ones. I could not hold back my tears in seeing how girls who came in with nothing were given their respect and identity back. The obvious camaraderie they shared with one another touched a place deep inside of us.

            Mrs. Zeidenfeld introduced us to eleven-year-old Malchut. A close friend of Batya’s, Malchut arrived at Girls Town with her sister, Iska, when her father could no longer afford to keep them. Instantly, she captivated us with her sweet smile and personality, and we resolved to become her sponsors until, G-d willing, her marriage. I just had one request of Mrs. Zeidenfeld: I wanted her to ensure that Iska, Malchut’s younger sister, would be next on the list to be sponsored, so she should not feel badly.

Upon our arrival, there was evidently some kind of celebration taking place in the form of a skit put on by the girls and a special lunch. Incredibly, it was Batya’s Bat Mitzvah that day, and the festivities were in her honor! Recognizing the hand of Hashem, I emotionally reached for the Habers’ necklace and offered it to Batya. She smiled from ear to ear as she fastened it around her neck.What cherished moments these were!

Since our original visit, my wife and I have sent Malchut photos and a letter saying how much we miss her and how much we anticipate seeing her again soon. We feel privileged to have established a relationship with Malchut.

Rabbi Joey Haber

            On the last day of that original trip, we wanted to visit “our” Batya once more. We obtained permission to take her out for 45 minutes. Dodging raindrops, I asked her where we would find the nearest candy shop.

            “I don’t know,” Batya replied simply.

            This poor girl has never been to a candy store!I realized with a pang. In fact, she’d  never had reason to traverse any of the main streets with their large shops, as she’d never possessed so much as ten shekels in her pocket. We somehow reached the store and watched with delight as Batya hoarded loads of candy from the canisters.  “Share it with your friends,” we urged her as she grasped her plastic bag tightly. We then proceeded to the bookstore where she chose a beautiful siddur, which we had monogrammed. She clutched the precious item, and we exchanged promises to pray for one another. My wife hugged her some five more times before we parted.

            Over these last few months, my wife, my children and I have been sending our love to Batya via letters, photos, small gifts and candy packages. My daughter took her on an outing once when she was in Israel. On our repeated trips to Israel, we have had the opportunity to visit her, too. Ultimately, we have become really close.

Mr. Allan Massry

            Parting the facility was, to say the least, difficult.

            When we returned home, Danielle and I received unfortunate news that a family member was suffering from pancreatic cancer, r”l. I immediately thought to contact Rabbi Goldstein, of Girls Town, to request that the girls say Tehillim as a merit for a refuah shelemah. I knew instinctively that Hashem would surely heed the prayers of those pure and innocent girls. They galvanized into action, reciting Tehillim for our family member daily. Thank Gd, we are already noticing signs of improvement. Spontaneously, our ill family member’s spouse and children went to Girls Town and presented them with a sizable donation in gratitude for what they have done.

            Parenthetically, I recently suggested to a cousin of mine that she visit Girls Town. Later, she texted me about her special experience: “Guess what?  Everything I tried to do on my itinerary for today didn’t work out, so we went to the orphanage. Now I know whymy day went wrong; I was meant to be HERE today!”

Rabbi Joey Haber

            I cannot describe how rich I felt after stepping out of Girls Town. The ability to take a disadvantaged girl and give her what she so desperately needs – a warm bond – is an unbelievable feeling. The opportunity to give, to help, to know that there is a girl across the world that we are helping, is so special. The fact that we know her name and she knows ours adds a dimension of warmth and light to the lives of me and my family.

            I can easily say that this was the most unique experience I have ever had in my life!

Mr. Allan Massry

            I realize, now, how fortunate we are to have all our needs taken care of by the Boreh Olam. I also have a newfound level of appreciation for those who dedicate their lives to helping those unfortunately in need. From Mr. Michael Cohen, the Mitzvah Man, who sincerely cares about each person, to Mr. Jackie Azar and Mr. Gabe Haber who devote themselves to the sick in Maimonides Hospital and their coping families, and to Morris Gindi who selflessly donated a kidney to an unknown recipient (who turned out to be my mother!) I feel blessed to belong to a wonderful community where thousands of individuals perform endless acts of kindness and give with full hearts.

Rabbi Joey Haber

            Love is not expensive, and you don’t have to be a millionaire to give it. There are so many downtrodden individuals sitting on the sidelines, so to speak, feeling a void in their lives. While Batya, the child I sponsor, lives across the world, there are so many others in need right around the corner. Whether they include lonely women, financially stressed men, children of broken homes or a single girl awaiting her match, there are thousands of people awaiting a helping hand. They may live on your street, attend your children’s school, or pray in your shul, but the void is still there regardless. When you open up your heart and fill it, the feeling is priceless.