A Smile For A Sunny Day

lMany may not have heard of a new project in our city "Give a child a smile". Founders of the project: the Russian youth movement Ezra USA, and its always on the move general director David Roitman.
I am making this reportage from the office of this project in the "Ezra USA" building, which operates with support from the American Forum of Russian Jewry at 311 Sea Breeze Avenue in Brooklyn (commit this address to memory, I'll be glad if it proves useful). I derived much satisfaction from my conversation with Anna and Amanda, the two charming young ladies who manage and run the project, its volunteers. Anna and Amanda told me all about how this project came into being, and now it is up to me to inform my readers.

Apart from Ezra USA, the project is supported by another organization, called Larger Than Life (LTL). I can already tell you, that it was this organization, which helped making the contact with Israeli children's cancer hospitals.
So, it all started when the two inseparable friends Anne and Amanda decided to spend their leisure time on something useful and meaningful. Anne's attention was caught by the lot of children with cancer, whose numbers, unfortunately, are growing worldwide.

Anna shared her idea with Amanda, who gladly supported it. There were many options how to help, but the two girls decided to gather toys for the children, and send them to Israel. Their wish to help sick children was shared by their schoolmates and friends from the young leadership class "Aviv", also organized by Ezra USA.

And so a group of twenty worthy representatives of Russian-speaking youth of 18 years and older got together. Ezra USA connected them with similar volunteer organizations in Israel, and off they took. At the same time, each of this amazing group got the opportunity to travel to Israel, and meet with the sick children and their, mostly low-income parents, and with the land that is dear to all Jews. The girls told me, that they spoke the universally understood Russian-English language.

A year passed from the beginning of the project. The participant got together regularly, brought in toys, and celebrated holidays together. In this relatively short period of time, these youngsters contacted New York toy stores, who were glad to be of assistance. Sometimes, complete strangers would bring toys right to their office, stipulating that their names not be mentioned. A worthy tzedakah, for sure. There should be more such people!

Ezra USA's Boston young-leaders also joined the collecting of toys. And slowly but surely the New York office of the project became its unofficial American center.

To gather toys in New York and Boston is not as simple as it seems. According to the requirements of the medical staff of the Israeli children's cancer hospitals, the gifts have to be new, and in manufacturer packaging. Soft toys, children's favorites, are categorically ruled out, as they might carry bacteria, which would be extremely dangerous to the weakened immune-system of sick children.

The non-profit organization Larger Than Life, contacted by Anna and Amanda, has braches not only in Israel, where they are headquartered, but also in America and other countries. The group-members took part in seminars in Poland and Israel. Four hospitals received presents last year.

December 17 there will be a meeting of all group-members who are active in raising funds and help for gravely ill Israeli children. They will distribute posters, flayers. Those were brought from Israel, where they met the children, gave them toys, spent time with them. There are more then two hundred such children who benefit from the project... They know that their toys came from America, and they love to play with them. Anna remembers how the hospital livened up with helicopter toys flying in it, how much joy there was, and smiling children...

When I left the synagogue, I already wanted to come back there, because the good that our children do, call out my respect for them, and for the parents who raised them.
During the 1988 Spitak earthquake, is witnessed how all selflessly helped the Armenian people. From neighboring Georgian village people brought fruit and water, and of course Israel also took part in the relief efforts. Israeli doctors helped children mutilated by the raging disaster.
I know how much the president of the American Forum of Russian Jewry, Dr. Igor Branovan, donates for the treatment of children, who fell victim to Palestinian bomb-attacks. That the command "Give a child a smile" may be followed allover and by all!