It Takes a Village: Doctors and Social Workers Team Up at Israel’s Sha’are Zedek Hospital

August 5, 2018

3 min read

Non-profit Just One Life and Israeli medical center Sha’are Zedek have teamed up to expedite medical testing on fetuses to help couples make quick and well-informed decisions regarding pregnancy.  

After immigrating to Israel from New York, social worker Chaya Katzin began working for Just One Life, a boutique non-profit based in Jerusalem that serves to empower women who encounter medical complications during their pregnancies.

When Ultra-Orthodox Jews make important decisions, Katzin explained to Breaking Israel News, they often consult their Rabbis. But when it comes to important medical decisions about pregnancy, she said, they also need well-informed doctors as well as emotional support.

“When Sha’are Zedek goes through routine testing and finds birth defects, the doctors meet with the couples and explain any problems with the fetus – this can be very difficult emotionally and there is only so much doctors can offer when a couple is going through a hard time,” said Katzin.

“In addition, according to Jewish Law,” Katzin explained, “Ultra-Orthodox couples cannot terminate pregnancies up until a certain week, requiring quick testing and checkups that are often expensive as they are not always covered by insurance. So we offer financial aid to help couples acquire the medical information they need to make important decisions, and if they choose to go through with the pregnancy, we help them make a plan.”

For these reasons, Sha’are Zedek, the fastest growing hospital in Jerusalem, asked Just One Life to partner with them, offering guidance, counseling, and therapy for couples going through difficult times.

So far, they have helped over 16,000 families through their programs, which include a 24/7 call-in service, parenting and self-help classes, home visits, clothing distribution, therapy and counseling and up-to-date resources for pregnant mothers.

Katzin spoke of recently helping a mother with seven children who found out that her eighth would be born with Downs Syndrome. “We worked with her to plan for the upcoming birth. When you have support and are able to talk about your emotions, it’s easier to make a plan.”

In some cases, Just One Life must help couples cope when they decide to go through with a pregnancy in which they know the life of the baby is not sustainable.   

Planning for the unexpected is preventive, said Katzin. “When dealing with pregnancies, disabilities, children and medical issues, it’s important to process emotions in advance and make a plan of who will support them, take care of any children in the home, and how to make a difficult situation easier by planning ahead.”

She compared the process of planning for the unexpected to planning a trip to France and learning French, only to find out that Holland is the real destination. “Holland is also very nice, but I learned French to prepare for France, and now I have to learn Dutch to prepare for Holland,” said Katzin. “So you have to reorganize yourself and plan a trip to Holland.

Although often dealing with tragic circumstances, Katzin is proud of her work of helping people in difficult situations, which she finds especially meaningful.

“It’s a mission,” she said, maintaining that even though she would do this work for any population, she is proud to be living in Israel and working with the Jewish people who have a unique value for life and chesed (loving-kindness) and helping others. 

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