By Avi Shiff
In honor of Achiezer’s 13th year, we are conducting a multi-part series celebrating the various facets of this remarkable organization. For week #3, we spoke to Elke Rubin, executive coordinator at Achiezer.
AS: Thank you, Elke, for your time amidst your very hectic schedule. For how many years have you worked for Achiezer?
ER: I was privileged to join in 2011, so I’ve been here for about ten years.
AS: What is your role at Achiezer?
ER: I work as an assistant to our president, Boruch Ber Bender, and I’m in charge of overseeing medical recommendations with him. Many I do on my own, while the more complex diagnoses and illnesses is more of a joint effort.
AS: Tell us about your medical-referral program.
ER: Our medical-referral program is recognized by callers from the Five Towns community and well beyond for its unparalleled expert guidance. With wide-ranging knowledge born of experience, using our expansive up-to-date database of contacts and direct connections to medical experts, we are uniquely positioned to guide and link patients and their families to the most appropriate care. Achiezer advocates for patients who have difficulty obtaining appointments, reaching a medical professional, or receiving lifesaving care in a medical facility. We arrange for expedited appointments when necessary and also address hospital recommendations, admissions, and transfers.
AS: What are some real-life examples of such recommendations?
ER: On any given day, we can handle dozens of referrals ranging from a desperately needed oral surgeon, a shattered femur, or someone who requires open heart surgery. Our referrals will entail reaching out to specialists across Long Island, Manhattan, and sometimes even across the world. Our extensive research and experience will ensure that we track down the most appropriate care wherever that may be.
AS: How do you determine the best course of treatment?
ER: As mentioned, every person’s situation is unique. Even among oncologists, some specialize in brain cancer, some specialize in all areas of cancer, some specialize in immunotherapy, while some are exclusively surgical oncologists. We research each professional and have a virtual “rolodex” of doctors who we deal with and recommend.
AS: Can you comment on Achiezer’s growth over the last decade?
ER: We’ve grown by leaps and bounds. It has been incredible. When I joined, we were located in a small office on Beach 9th Street; we had not yet moved to our Central Avenue location. We had a smaller staff that was quickly outmatched which has caused us to nearly double our staff. Now, it’s a different operation. There is never a dull moment. Our phones ring off the hook with requests for assistance. In fact, someone just approached me yesterday and said that they’re looking for a shidduch for their daughter. “Can Achiezer help?” they wanted to know. I said, “Shidduchim? What does that have to do with Achiezer?” They said, in all seriousness, “Well, you do everything else, so why not shidduchim?”
It’s come to a point where people expect us to step in no matter what the crisis or need is. When the communities in Texas recently lost power, people expected Achiezer to get involved. We take that as a compliment—people count on us.
As needs come up, Achiezer does everything in its power to address them.
AS: How has COVID-19 affected Achiezer’s day-to-day operation?
ER: It was indeed difficult for us all when we couldn’t open our office due to the lockdown, because we work closely as a team, and when you’re not in the same space, it’s more difficult to coordinate services. Additionally, we were receiving hundreds of calls a day. But our staff was resilient, continuing to work from home. For those who are mothers, it was challenging, because we needed to hold down the home front while helping people and dealing with the challenges we were presented with. Now that we are back in the office, we can work more efficiently.
We were definitely overloaded with calls during the height of corona. People wanted to know where to be tested, quarantine related questions and even how to properly treat patients at home as hospitals for the first time weren’t necessarily the solution.
Of course, we still had people also calling for all types of medical needs, as usual. Should they be going to doctors, and were doctors even willing to see patients?
As a result, physicians were backlogged and we were reaching out to them, trying harder than ever to secure appointments.
AS: Any final comment?
ER: We’ve continually witnessed the outstanding chesed of Klal Yisrael. Mi k’amcha Yisrael! Our people look out for each other.
It feels good to have a job where chesed is the goal. We daven for Hashem to continue to give us the strength to continue helping others in need.