Monday, October 13, 2014

A Tikun Olam of High Caliber

Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg and some of his Kids Kicking Cancer students
There are some Orthodox Jews that balk at the term Tikun Olam. As if to say that this concept is not a Torah concept. They will point derisively to other Jewish denominations that use that term as the near total definition what Judaism truly is. But Tikun Olam is in fact a very Jewish concept. And it is not nor should it be the sole province of non Orthodox denominations. It belongs to all of us. And there is one man who has taken up the call in ways that should humble most of us. His name is Elimelech Goldberg.

What an inspiring individual this man is! There are very few Jews like him in any denomination or Hashkafa. Rabbi Goldberg has by sheer determination to serve his fellow man in distress created one gigantic Kiddush HeShem. A Kiddush HaShem of the type few people can lay claim to.

With all of the sordid stories about religious Jews in the media who have done wrong and made one Chilul HaShem after another – giving observant Judiasm a bad name, it is so refreshing to see a story like this. I believe Rabbi Goldberg is Charedi. Which gives lie to the canard that Charedim are only interested  in building up their own world. 

I first saw his name mentioned in a brief post on Cross Currents. Curious about why this man warranted such effusive praise from Rabbi Adlerstein, I did some quick research and now I completely understand.

Rabbi Goldberg was the Rav of the Young Israel of Southfield, Michigan. His 2 year old daughter died of a type of cancer of the blood called Leukemia. I can certainly relate to that as my young grandson Reuven died of cancer too.  The pain of losing a child can bring down the best of us. But in some cases it does the opposite. It emboldens people to turn that negative energy into something positive. This is what Rabbi Goldstein did in spades.

Elimelech Goldstein is not only a Rabbi. He is an expert in the martial arts holding a black belt in Choi Kwang Do. And he used that talent to create something  huge. Working at Camp Simcha a religiously based camp for children with cancer he managed to help a 5 year old patients suffering from treatments ease his pain via techniques used in the martial arts. That incident inspired Rabbi Goldstein to bring this success story to other children suffering from cancer. He calls his program Kids Kicking Cancer. From the Forward:
“We use martial arts as a platform for meditation,” Goldberg explained, “and to allow children to gain these tools so that much of the fear, the anger and trauma that accompanies pain is tolerable.”
The breathing exercises, specifically, are to teach the kids to hold on to happy memories and let go of negative feelings, nine-year-old Haley Wallace, a member of Kids Kick Cancer, explained in CNN’s video documentary. “When the children demonstrate that they can bring in the light and let out the darkness through a series of breathing exercises, it changes people,” Goldberg said.
Rabbi Goldberg has thus far brought his program to New York, Los Angeles and Florida and internationally to Italy, Israel and Canada - and helped more than 5000 kids.

It is amazing what one man can do if the will is there. How widely is he considered a hero? Well as Rabbi Adlerstein notes:
In a large mosque in Detroit hangs a plaque honoring Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg. 
That an Orthodox Rabbi is honored by religious Musilms in Detroit speaks volumes.  But the Kiddush Hashem does not end in a mosque. Rabbi Goldberg is up for the ‘Hero of the Year’ award given by CNN. He is already in their top 10 category. I urge everyone to vote for him at their website as I just did. If he wins - Kids Kicking Cancer will be awarded a  $125,000 prize. If you want to get an inkling of what this man does, watch the video below: