By Yochanan Gordon
Alexander Olshanetsky composed the famous Klezmer tune Mayn Shtetele Belz sometime during the 1850s, a song that possesses strong yearnings for an era that, despite the affluence of the age we live in, many still long to return to. Presumably, Olshanetsky hailed from the town of Belz, which influenced him to write about the days of his youth which were then a distant memory. Sadly, the problems of infertility plaguing young couples seeking to build a microcosmic shtetl of their own do not discriminate between Belz, Satmar, Lubavitch, Brooklyn, Lakewood, or Lawrence.
Whatever your ethnic background, the issues of infertility are common, pressing, and exorbitant to address on an individual basis. This is where Bonei Olam has stepped in to deliver salvation to suffering couples.
It’s this awareness together with the great panache and style that have become the hallmark of the Bonei Olam Fulton Street fair, led by the inimitable party maker and designer Gitty Lowinger, that has brought upwards of 1,000 men and women to this year’s event to help Bonei Olam literally build worlds.
The Gemara says: “Anyone who saves one Jewish soul is credited with having saved the entire world.” This means that the great expense and effort that goes into funding and treating just one case of infertility would be justifiable, as an entire world is at stake. However, the hundreds and thousands of couples on a local and national level who turn to Bonei Olam for financial and moral support to get through some of the most trying situations that a young couple, with the world ahead of them, can encounter can only be addressed with the continued and concerted involvement of all of us who either lived through these issues or know a close friend or family member who did.
Just to give you an idea of the enormity of the Bonei Olam network: They operate in five countries, have eleven regional chapters, and through their tireless efforts are directly responsible for the birth of 8,118 children to date.
The cost of a single advanced treatment, per couple, averages between $15,000 and $35,000. Most couples must undergo multiple treatment cycles before achieving success. The costs are astronomical, and to make matters more complicated, insurance companies rarely cover these expenses, leaving couples serious about parenting their own children with bills in the tens of thousands of dollars before they are blessed with a child. This is not a one-time process whereby once a couple is blessed with a child they no longer have to go through this again when they are ready to bring another child into the world. In many cases this same process would repeat itself, with all the expenses and emotional stress.
Due to the sensitivity of infertility, many couples hesitate to share their problems with family and close friends. However, even in cases where they are transparent about the issues they are suffering through, aside from emotional support and perhaps helping with financial burden, there is little their family can do to ameliorate the situation.
It is the simple goal of Bonei Olam to never allow the absence of funds to deprive couples of their chance to build a family of their own. The organization is well-known and every day its roster of applicants grows. Today, in almost all cases these families can be helped through Bonei Olam’s excellent contacts with leading infertility centers at major hospitals. There is a staff of counselors available to guide couples through the various options open to them.
Each couple is given every possible option to have a healthy child of their own. Bonei Olam knows all too well the statistics, possibilities, and probabilities, yet couples are granted opportunity after costly opportunity, without ever being asked to repay or even donate towards the cost. Payments for doctors’ appointments, specialists, pharmacy invoices, hospital bills, and second opinions are all funded by Bonei Olam, so couples can focus on treatment without the anxieties associated with financial obligations.
This year’s event was a bridge between Lawrence and the Shtetl, serving up some of Jewish life’s timeless fare such as liver, kishka, farfel, and potato knishes. It’s debatable whether they had carving stations back in Belz, and for that matter they probably only had one variation of farfel as opposed to the six that were featured, but that’s why this year’s event featured a confluence of both milieus.
And while musical headliner Shulem Lemmer did not grow up in Belz, he does hail from a Belzer family, fitting seamlessly within my temporary fixation on the town of Belz. Lemmer, accompanied by Chassidic guitarist Ari Hill, served up a repertoire of old Chassidic tunes and new popular Jewish music as well as his now famous rendition of “A Million Dreams” from “The Greatest Showman.”
But while this event was a success by everyone’s estimation, it is a far cry from where an organization of this magnitude needs to be in order to meet the financial obligations for cases associated with our community alone, not to mention the other chapters. If you’ve been to the annual events and you, a loved one, or a friend has been helped by the magnanimity and care of this great organization, please consider partnering with them in order for them to continue their holy work. To learn more about Bonei Olam, please visit BoneiOlam.org.