Rabbi Boruch B. Bender, 29
Five years ago, a member of the Far Rockaway Jewish community developed a minor infection. Her condition worsened in a nearby hospital. Rabbi Boruch Bender, a Far Rockaway resident who was teaching in a Brooklyn yeshiva and had earlier considered becoming a physician, used his contacts to arrange a transfer to a hospital in Manhattan.
The patient had surgery; it came too late; she died a few days later.
That haunted Rabbi Bender; he didn’t want other people to die because they had nowhere to turn.
The result is Achiezer (Hebrew for helping my brother), an independent medical referral service and crisis center he founded four years ago that unites the community’s existing organizations with professionals, rabbis and lay leaders to help families cope with the stress of crisis management.
Today, Achiezer (achiezer.org), with a staff of 10 paid workers, some 200 volunteers and an annual budget of “a couple hundred thousand” dollars, annually helps some 40,000 people, both Jews and non-Jews who live in the Far Rockaway-Five Towns area. The rabbi coordinates the organization’s health recommendations, bereavement services, legal and financial aid and other forms of help. But Achiezer’s small budget limits how much help it can offer. “I can’t help everybody,” he says. “It kills me sometimes.”
Some people send letters of thanks, he says; some, checks. Some repay in kind. The granddaughter of the patient whose hospital transfer Rabbi Bender arranged five years ago now works as a volunteer for Achiezer.
Eiffel Tower?: Since founding Achiezer, Rabbi Bender’s had no time for a vacation, besides a few days in the Catskills. He’d like to see Paris. “I heard it’s a beautiful place.” Sports fan: The rabbi is a follower of the NY Mets, catching a few seconds of the team’s broadcasts at work on the Internet. His favorite player is third baseman David Wright, who is Rabbi Bender’s exact age. “He’s a very modest person, never seeking the spotlight.”