The Ezra LeMarpeh Association, founded by Rabbi A. E. Firer, provides assistance to the sick and needy.
History and the Future Vision
Even a thousand-mile long voyage, begins with one step.
The "Ezra Lemarpeh" Organization began simply with good intentions; Rabbi Firer, who at the time was still learning in the Beis Midrash (Talmudic Academy), had one aspiration only. A fellow student was finding it difficult to acquire a certain medical equipment for a sick family member, and Rabbi Firer was touched by his problem. He girdled his loins and worked to raise the money for the purchase, and then made sure to import it personally, to save the difference in costs. The rumor about his help quickly spread, and a few other friends turned to him with similar requests. At this point, Rabbi Firer realized that this was probably a void that he was destined to fill.
At the same time, one of his close family members was stricken with a severe cardiac problem, and Rabbi Firer decided to take action. He went with him to consult with doctors, demanding to understand all the motives behind their recommendations. It wasn't merely an investigation to understand why. Yes; he also wanted to understand why not. Why was the offered approach preferable to the one that was abandoned.
At the end of the barrage of questions, he realized that the doctors didn't always consider the other side. For him, it was an example of the concept of "intellectual fixation".
This fact troubled him deeply, giving him no rest: How could it be, that habit and rote affected even those who were appointed as messengers to bring cure to our illnesses? And perhaps they were making mistakes on critical issues for the person who was pinning his hopes on them for recovery?
With the help of friends who had close ties with doctors, Rabbi Firer managed to open doors, ask and ask some more, not just from a thirst for knowledge. It was an investigation intended at fighting to get to the truth.
When it was decided to fly his relative for an operation in the USA (and at that time, "Ezra Lemarpeh" was still not skilled at flying patients abroad!), he decided to come along. True, he didn't speak English, but he understood the language of the heart - the same heart that shares with healthy common-sense in its decisions.
Even abroad, he didn't make life easy for the doctors; but they learned to figured him out. They also figured out that it was worth their while to let him in on their doubts.
His relative recovered, but right away many others, who felt like relatives, sprang up. And he ran around on their behalf, just like he did for his close relative, since "All Jews are brothers."
One day, a renowned doctor asked the Rabbi to be so kind as to leave him alone and close the door from the other side. Rabbi Firer got up in order to do so, but decided to add one sentence to his departure: "If Hippocrates had known you, he would have turned in his grave." For Rabbi Firer, this doctor exemplified someone who betrayed the doctors' oath, which obliges them to "have the patient's welfare as their constant guideline."
The doctor asked Rabbi Firer to sit down again, and wanted to know what his sin was. They had a long talk, and the firm handshake that concluded it was just the beginning of a close relationship between the two, throughout the coming years.
The number of medical instruments that Rabbi Firer had already managed to accumulate (when the people who had used them, no longer needed them) left him no choice. His own apartment was too small for them, and thus, with the help of a few friends from the Belz Beis Midrash, he rented a modest apartment on Shadal Street in Bnei Brak.
Time passed, and this place also became too cramped. The friends, who in the meantime had established a registered non-profit organization, rented a spacious building on Zonnenfeld Street, Bnei Brak.
The gaunt young man's fame spread far and wide. Some of the calls came as a result of the "one man brings another" system, while others came with their doctors' referral, thanks to their physicians' sharp eye that grasped this rare phenomenon for what it was.
The purchase of medical equipment continually increased, and even a workshop was opened for maintenance and upkeep of the items. (At the time, they still used to assemble walkers from iron rods that were bent according to size...) Slowly, new departments opened, in response to public needs.
An ambulance was purchased to transfer patients, as well as equipment for duplicating x-rays. First Aid courses were organized, and the department for flying patients abroad was opened. No longer was this a small corner where people come just for advice or to borrow a medical instrument. Unintentionally, Ezra Lemarpeh became a vital spot on the road map for those needing a wide range of services.
Ezra Lemarpeh gradually became an empire, but Rabbi Firer was not affected by it. He remained the same "Meilech" from Belz ; the same humility, with the same decisiveness. The same smile that reveals his sincere wish to help, with the same determination to achieve the welfare of the person who came to him for help.
The number of volunteers grew, as did the budget, while the income lagged behind. At this point, Reb Aryeh Reich o.b.m., a Bnei Brakian merchant, came to the rescue. He took upon himself the responsibility for financial management of the organization, and he did it with pride.
Like many of the Holocaust survivors, Reb Aryeh, too, would not allow any extravagance. His fist was tightly clenched, while his heart remained open. He instilled in the Ezra Lemarpeh people a lot of fundamentals for life, principles that accompany us to this day, in the management of the organization, as they keep guiding the present treasurer, Rabbi Aharon Millner, to navigate the ship in the best possible way, making the most out of each donation.
At Ezra Lemarpeh, every single Shekel that is donated is dedicated entirely to the cause that the donor chose. There is no extravagance, no wastefulness. Everything is carefully measured and weighed.
When the spacious building on Zonnefeld Street became too cramped, we worked very hard (under Reb Aryeh's watchful eye) to acquire a new dwelling. A home that would contain the extensive doing, and enable the fulfillment of the great plans that Rabbi Firer kept in his bags.
Thanks to a true friend, we found our way to the hearts of the late Mr. Pesach and his wife Chana, may she live long, Zipporen. With their generous contribution, we bought from Mr. Aboudi the building with the adjacent yard on Chida Street. As a token of appreciation and esteem, the Bnei Brak Municipality agreed to name the small street that leads to the building after Reb Aryeh Reich o.b.m. Since then, the street is named "Aryeh Reich Street."
The close relationship with the Zipporen Family holds in store a most touching life story:
Pesach z"l agreed to give a substantial donation towards the purchase of the building, on one condition: That a formal document from the Land Registry Office is received, confirming the transfer of the ownership to Ezra Lemarpeh. As usual, this procedure was accompanied by endless delays, until finally the long-awaited day arrived. A delegation of Ezra Lemarpeh representatives went to the Zipporen home, to present them with the required document. Pesach and his wife handed over the promised check, cheerfully and with wide smiles, that are etched in our memory to this day.
On that same night, Pesach returned his soul to his Maker.
May his memory be eternally blessed!
At our new home, the range of services expanded and grew; a Video Conference system was purchased and installed in a special room that was adapted to this purpose. The Department for Children with Cancer was expanded, as did the department for lending medical equipment, which was completely transformed.
But this was not enough. Rabbi Firer's dream of opening a Rehabilitation Center began to materialize; however, to our great sorrow, Reb Aryeh Reich, who invested so much effort towards establishing this center, did not manage to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Only his widow, Mrs. Chaya Reich, was there with us at the festive opening ceremony that was held. Mrs. Reich still volunteers today, in fulfillment of her late husband's unwritten last will and testament.
We opened a Lecture Room for the Medical Education & Instruction Unit, and we also had the merit of opening the Special Club for children with special needs, on the basement floor that was adapted for it. We opened the Department for Second Opinion by senior doctors in Israel and abroad, with a special room that was allocated for this purpose. We appointed a professional person to help all those people who need advice regarding the successful crossing of the bureaucratic sea and attaining their rights at the National Insurance company.
We purchased one ambulance after another, as well as specially adapted cars for transporting the disabled, wanting to respond to their needs as well. Next, we opened the Guest House, a shining jewel of grace for healthy children whose parents or another family member fell ill. This Guest House is not intended as a mere "babysitting service"; rather, it offers the children warmth and attention that they crave, due to their parents' illness. Nothing more than that - which is a lot!
And what next, with the Grace of G-d?
The big plans for the future are:
To conserve the past.
To improve our services and give the callers the feeling that they are not alone in the daunting struggle that they face.
To give them hope and strengthen their crushed spirit, so that the look of worry leaves their tortured faces, and their broken hearts become whole again.
And we have many more plans:
To construct another building that would enable expanding the Special Club, the Guest House and the Rehabilitation Day Care Center.
To establish a Nursing Home for the elderly who have not been approved with the Ministry of Health "code" that entitles them admission to a nursing home.
To open a therapeutic pool for those who need it, but are unable to benefit from such services that are offered to the general public in mixed pools, without separate hours for men and women.
These are our present plans; however, Rabbi Firer has even more plans up his sleeve, that respond to the public's needs. And with the help of He Who gives strength to the weary, as well as with the active support of our loyal and precious friends, we shall yet succeed!