That’s how much it cost to purchase a therapeutic mattress and custom pad for Yana Gilchenok. She suffers from osteoarthritis, exacerbated by years of sleeping on a small, child-size mattress near her husband, who was confined to a hospital bed in their bedroom. Just $598 — given by the Washington Heights Y, a UJA partner — but it made an enormous difference.
Yana’s story was recently featured by The New York Times as part of the Neediest Cases Fund, a campaign that runs annually from November to January with the aim of shedding light on the lives of people coping with poverty. The campaign is now in its 107th year.
Rarely are two stories exactly alike, yet there are common themes. Sickness upending stability. Stress leading to depression. Poverty is complicated — and insidious — that way. It can affect a woman like Yana, age 90, who was a cardiologist in her native Russia, just as easily as it does Careen Williams, a 42-year-old Caribbean-born woman, raising a son with autism.
After her son’s diagnosis, Careen’s marriage, health, and job all came apart — falling one after another, like dominoes. When she couldn’t make her rent, she received money from the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, another UJA partner.
Another story focuses on Galia Sarah Solts, who faced anti-Semitism as a child in Russia and now battles lung cancer and leukemia. She received help with her rent from the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst.
We’re proud to be one of the eight organizations receiving funding from The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, which we allocate to our unparalleled network of partners on the ground. They’re charged with carefully distributing the money to people like Yana, Careen, and Galia — modest amounts that nonetheless can be the difference between crisis and stability.
And we’re grateful that The Times uses its platform to tell stories that would otherwise never reach a mass audience.
This time of year, when the days are short and the temperature plummets, we can keep our head down, forgetting that right in our own backyard, unbelievable hardship is a reality for far too many.
Or, we can choose to look up and see what’s right in front of us — people whose lives took a sharp turn and are grateful that a community hasn’t forgotten them. Our help gives them hope. In turn, their fortitude inspires us to do even more.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah