The news was devastating. Sandi Frank and her husband, Kenneth, had just been told that a rare form of cancer was spreading through the body of their 9-month-old son, Max.
Beside themselves, they reached out to family and friends for support. One of those friends turned to Lori Hardoon, director of the Partners in Dignity Program, who immediately drove from her office in Syosset to Schneider Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park, where the Franks were caring for their son.
In the belief that there is an "untapped potential" in terms of synagogue volunteers who wish to help the Jewish poor in their communities but don't know how to start, UJA-Federation is encouraging its agencies to team up with synagogue volunteers. It recently awarded $750,000 to facilitate eight such partnerships.
At-risk Orthodox Jewish teenagers in Brooklyn (involved in everything from credit card fraud to sexual promiscuity and drug abuse) have created their own informal support network that attracts similarly troubled youngsters from across the city and seeks to recruit "regular youngsters" to their ranks.
Simy, a 75-year-old woman who was "well off" financially until four years ago, found herself alone and virtually penniless when her husband of 50 years dumped her for their 20-year-old housekeeper.
"I couldn't believe he would throw away 50 years for a young kid," she says of her husband, a retired engineer. "And she had an infant. ... He's 85 years old!"
Kicked out of her Queens home, Simy found a room in a private home on Long Island. "My Social Security payment covers the rent," she says.
In a synagogue library in northern Westchester, a dozen senior citizens sit around a long table discussing current events. In a temple conference room on the Upper West Side, a young family talks about the tensions raised by a child’s serious illness. In the meeting room of a Long Island JCC, a group of recent widows share photographs and memories of their late husbands.