I felt it important to respond to the essay by Avram Mlotek, a caring, wonderful young man who has brightened my ailing, frail brother’s life through his songs, warmth and Yiddish communication (“My Lunch Breaks With Joe,” Back of the Book, Dec. 30).
All in all Avram has added to my brother’s quality of life and has been one of the very few to do so. It is a very sad comment on the status of gemilut chesed [acts of kindness] and bikkur cholim [visiting the sick] that we find it so repulsive to visit the less fortunate and easily keep them at a mental and physical distance.
Fifty years ago my brother was a healthy young student at Yeshiva University. He became ill and never recovered. My family’s world was turned upside down, and every effort was made to reach my brother, to no avail.
Our lives were devoted to keeping him safe in a very precarious, often dangerous situation where his being religious with a kippah was quite a handicap at getting care from often hostile aides and hospital workers. He often was a direct target of anti-Semitism and not-so-subtle neglect and abuse.
This was not a pleasant time for my parents or me, but life goes on and we need to be there for those less fortunate and not abandon them, no matter how pathetic their lot in life.
My brother’s faith and love of Hashem never waivered even in the deepest and darkest hours. Maybe that is how we can learn from the less fortunate and garner strength from their travails, and truly do gemilut chesed as young Avram did in reaching out to my brother on a weekly basis with gentleness and true ahavat Yisrael (love of Jewish people).