In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Yona Tillman, Rabbi Elimelech Firer’s assistant of 40 years, discussed Rabbi Firer’s lifesaving medical organization, Ezra U’Marpe, the fundraising campaign currently taking place and how Rabbi Firer views the furor surrounding the event that was canceled at his request.
“Thousands of people have already donated. Right now we are approaching NIS 3 million out of the seven million goal by tomorrow night,” says Tillman, commenting that following the recent furor, there are those who believe that Rabbi Firer’s assistance consists of solely answering queries by phone and ask if we “need so much money for phones?” In order to answer this question, Tillman expounded on Rabbi Firer’s organization.
“Ezra U’Marpe has 246 employees, 460 volunteers, 19 ambulances that are used 12,000 times annually – taking people who need treatment to hospitals and have no ability to pay for the ambulance ride to the hospital, and everything is free of charge. It loans medical equipment worth $4 million without regard to sector or gender. One day, an Arab from Gaza came and asked for medical equipment. They deliberated, asked Rabbi Firer, he said to give it to him and if he didn’t return it he probably wasn’t able to.”
“The organization has two rehabilitation centers in Sderot and Bnei Brak. The center in Sderot was set up according to the needs of the southern region, the Gaza envelope, etc. Both centers have multi-million dollar hydrotherapy pools.”
“We don’t utilize these things for public relations – it doesn’t photograph well. These are unfortunate people. Those who come to the rehabilitation centers are people who have received treatment and haven’t yet recovered. Rabbi Firer saw the terrible distress of these people and worked tirelessly to set up these two centers with the most expensive equipment and the most skilled manpower. Everything is provided free of charge.”
“We receive donations regularly during the course of the year but our activities have expanded. For example, two and a half years ago, a neurological department manager came to Rabbi Firer and said there was an assistive therapy for Parkinson’s patients that would prevent further deterioration and improve quality of life. There is one place in Italy that provides the treatment. The doctor wanted to perform the treatment in Israel but the Health Ministry said that they don’t have the budget for it. The treatment involves hospitalizing the patients for three weeks. Rabbi Firer responded that they’ll do the treatment as outpatient treatment in a rehabilitation center. 120 hours of treatment will be given to 20 patients in each round. So far, around 300 people received the treatment. This cost us NIS 1,200,000. This is why we need money.”
“We have a life-saving drug service. Cancer patients request a drug that’s not in the health basket and the doctor tells them there is such a medication in the US but it’s impossible to obtain it, and then Rabbi Firer collects money and saves these patients. We have 1,200 families that have a child with cancer and we take care of them from the time of illness to recovery. We have a “fulfill a dream” camp and other services. We provide a volunteer for each family.”
“Years ago there was a huge problem that there was no dental treatment for children. Rabbi Firer opened 10 children’s clinics. It was a huge financial burden. He was one of the promoters of the dental health law, which provides dental treatment until the age of 18. Today we are investing NIS 1 million in dental rehabilitation for needy older people.”
“Rabbi Firer provides for the gap between the needy and the government and provides assistance free of charge. That’s why I’m appealing to you to go to the website for the emergency fundraising campaign or dial *6594. Every donation is important and will help. If we don’t reach our goal we’ll have to decrease our services and the community will suffer.”
“I want to tell you a little about Rabbi Firer’s greatness. Rabbi Firer is the biggest medical information bank in the world. I’ll tell you about an incident of a woman – one of the Gush Katif evacuees – who got married and three months after the wedding she was diagnosed with cancer of the womb. The parents called and coordinated a meeting with Rabbi Firer. It was decided that the goal was to preserve the woman’s fertility by preserving one of her Fallopian tubes.”
“When the woman finished her treatments, she wanted to start a family but the doctors feared that a pregnancy could cause the cancer to reappear. The family came to Rabbi Firer and he discovered that there was a place in the US that could check any tissue to determine whether there are any potential carcinogenic cells or whether it is completely clear. Today, we already have this capability in Israel. It was determined that her Fallopian tube was clear. She gave birth to a son. This morning, I caught up with her and it turned out that she gave birth to another child and with G-d’s help, will have more children. Rabbi Firer saves lives every day with his genius and wealth of information.”
“Someone calls and says his wife is pregnant and they found a tumor on her liver. The doctors said they need to abort and instructed them to have it performed the next morning already since the pregnancy was threatening her life. Rabbi Firer called a certain doctor and told him that he’s sending him a patient tomorrow morning and he should check her immediately since he wants to save the baby. The hospital was opposed to releasing her and they made them sign a document that they’re leaving against their medical advice. She went to the other doctor who performed an operation to remove the tumor. Later, she had a healthy baby girl.”
“These stories happen all the time and this is besides his daily activities that start at six in the morning when people are waiting for counseling. He goes from place to place, makes the rounds of hospitals, answers dozens of phone calls, doctors call from abroad, he sends queries abroad and transfers medical material. Rabbi Firer is an international powerhouse in benevolence and charity.”
When asked how Rabbi Firer reacted to the controversy surrounding the canceled event, Tillman answered: “There’s no doubt that Rabbi Firer has been hurt by this, and he doesn’t deserve to be repaid like this. It’s really just a small amount of people making a lot of noise but they’re talking about him.”
Tillman emphasizes that it was not Rabbi Firer who was interested in the event. “Everything about the event is foreign to the Rabbi who is completely detached from cocktails and events. Give him a page of Talmud to learn, let him read about medical research that no one has heard about or speak to a junior doctor on new research. He has no time for these things but hard times make it necessary. The money was intended to assist the Jewish people and that’s why he agreed to the event. He wasn’t the one that organized the event.”
“He’s a human being and there’s no doubt he was hurt but he doesn’t have time to be hurt. People are waiting to speak to him and receive answers. Each person is a world.”