June 02, 2008
Saving Lives, One by One
Occasionally, there are conversations that I have which remind me in the most poignant of ways of just how important our work is and how words like "small" or "insignificant" hold no relevance in the tzedakah world. I just got off the phone with Igor Feldblyum, the founder of Am Echad, a small organization based in Maryland. Igor emigrated from the FSU many years ago but has not forgotten the people who remain behind, many of them elderly, alone and sick. It was on a business trip to St. Petersburg almost ten years ago that Igor actually saw the faces of some of these (mostly) elderly Jews and felt compelled to do something. After all, he was lucky-he had been able to leave the FSU, was welcomed to the United States by American Jewry which provided him with what he needed to establish himself and his family. So many others remained behind, destined to live their last years in poverty and isolation.
How could he help? If there was a way to send small sums of money monthly to those who were most vulnerable, perhaps some people could have a better life. It was not long before others who heard of Igor’s visit agreed to be part of a plan to help these people and that was the beginning of Am Echad, a more-than-meaningful name for Igor’s vision to bring some relief to St. Petersburg’s poorest citizens. (make a visit to http://www.amechad.net to learn just how Igor accomplishes this).
As we were ending our conversation, Igor shared that Am Echad is helping almost 90 people right now, most of them single and living alone. They each receive anywhere from $20-$75. depending upon their individual circumstances. When I asked Igor to remind me what it costs to run Am Echad each year he mentioned $36,000 (there is little or no overhead) Imagine–$36,000…how many lives have changed with these modest sums of money? …sometimes we forget-changing lives, one by one is not impossible…sometimes it just takes a vision and the will.