Event will honor Cohens and Wolanows
By Deb Silverthorn
Bikur Cholim of Dallas (BCD) will honor four of their many volunteers who make their work happen. Avishag and Rabbi Sharon Cohen and Carole and Joram Wolanow will be paid tribute, and guest speaker Rabbi Shais Taub will be featured, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, at Congregation Shaare Tefilla. The organization provides support and care to the infirm.
“Anyone who has supported us in these first nine months can draw a direct line to helping another human. We’re a conduit between those who want to help and those in need,” said Joe Ravitsky, Bikur Cholim of Dallas chair.
“From the look on someone’s face because of a warm meal or the patient and volunteer conversations in the car on the way home from a doctor appointment, it’s all mitzvot,” he added.
The Cohens will receive the Nachshon Ben Aminadav award, named for the man who was the first to jump into the Red Sea even before Moses split its waters. The Cohens have served with immeasurable dedication.
More than 10 years ago, Rabbi Cohen saw a couple and young child crossing a busy street. He offered them a ride; conversation revealed they were here from Israel for medical care for the child. The Cohens lent support and, when the family returned to Israel, word of their kindness spread.
The Cohens have since helped more than 100 patient families from Israel visiting Dallas for unique surgeries or treatments. The couple purchased an apartment for families to stay in during their visits and have given rides to those needing transportation. Avishag has cooked countless meals. Both of them have financially supported many additional needs.
“These people come here and, outside of the costs for their medical procedures, we want to help however we can,” said Rabbi Cohen, who often has a waiting list of families months ahead.
At press time, three families were receiving help, with three others waiting to come to the United States. Some are children born with missing bones or distorted faces; women have come for a uterine transplant.
“We can only make their lives easier and now, with Bikur Cholim of Dallas, we can do so much more. This honor we appreciate but believe it undeserved because we come to these mitzvot by Divine demand and just doing the mitzvah is the honor,” he continued. “The volunteers have alleviated so much stress and the financial support, which is critical, allows us to help even more.”
Since the formation of Bikur Cholim of Dallas, and more than $50,000 raised, more than 150 volunteers have stepped forward and a part-time administrator, Yitty Adler Denziger, was hired. In the future, BCD hopes to build and support more families than can now be housed.
BCD volunteers now help with transportation, meals and creating and delivering Shabbos boxes with challahs, grape juice and battery-operated candles to hospitals, rehabilitation centers and homes.
“I had no idea where it came from and whoever delivered only new it was going to a Jewish patient,” said Carol Aaron. Her husband, Steve, was a recipient of a BCD Shabbos box when he was ill. “Steve’s fine now but no one knew we were at the hospital and here came this very nice gesture. I was thrilled to learn about all the help they provide. I want to support them, and I really want people to know about them. It was an unexpected gift, and a lovely one at that.”
The Wolanows, who will receive BCD’s Community Service Award, have served Dallas’ Jewish community for decades. Honoring Carole’s mother’s memory, after her passing in 2005, the couple founded the Sarah Shannahoff Memorial Medical Equipment Gemach. The self-serve shed on their property hosts wheelchairs, shower chairs, walkers, canes and more, available to borrow at no cost.
“My mother was always volunteering for Women’s American ORT and Hadassah and both of my parents helped our synagogue and community. It’s what they did, and what we do. While Mom lived here she, Joram and I were always together. If you knew us, you knew her. The gemach has been helpful to the community and we’re so happy now to share it through Bikur Cholim of Dallas,” said Carole.
“Community? That’s what we are and what we are supposed to do. Be where we’re needed and we love it,” said Joram. With Carole, he volunteers at the JFS Food Pantry and also plays piano each Friday afternoon for The Legacy Midtown Park assisted living residents. Carole, in addition to helping Jewish Family Service, has just completed training and will begin volunteering with The Legacy at Home Hospice.
“Bikur Cholim gets results, and the community is rolling up its sleeves. Volunteers par excellence are truly making a difference and whatever we do to contribute, we’re more than happy to do so,” said Joram.
Lowell Michelson’s Simcha Kosher will cater the gala; year-round Michelson provides meals to the Bikur Cholim of Dallas patients and their families. With a designated refrigerator and freezer holding meals ready for volunteers to pick up, he is glad to help.
“It’s so easy to make another 10 or 20 meals whatever event we are catering for. We absorb the cost and make it available. We have so many events where there are leftovers and now, rather than only sending it home with the client, we ask if we can share it with Bikur Cholim. Not surprisingly, most people want to give and to help,” Michelson said.
Rabbi Shais Taub, the evening’s guest speaker, has more than 50,000 followers around the world, many tuning in to his thousands of hours of lessons through SoulWords.org.
“I look forward to speaking about the importance of unity and how Dallas, in its diverse community and within its Jewish community, comes together. Your Bikur Cholim is a great equalizer serving all segments,” said Taub, who also is the scholar-in-residence at Chabad Five Towns in Cedarhurst, New York.
“Coming together to help each other, and others you never knew, transcends everything. It is why we are here,” added Taub.
To RSVP or provide sponsorship for the Feb. 26 event, visit bikurcholimofdallas.org/gala. For general information about the organization, or to make a donation, visit bikurcholimofdallas.org.