“RUTHY, I GAVE BIRTH TO THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BABY! I CAN’T BELIEVE I THOUGHT ABOUT DOING THAT.” THIS IS THE MOST COMMON PHONE CALL THAT RUTH TIDHAR, MSW, RECEIVES ALMOST DAILY IN HER CRAMPED JERUSALEM OFFICE WHERE SHE WORKS AS ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE EFRAT ORGANIZATION.
By Ruth Tidhar
The EFRAT Organization for the Encouragement of Childbirth in the Jewish People was founded by Holocaust survivor Hershel Feigenbaum. After immigrating to Israel after the war, and seeing how few Jews had survived the Nazi horror, he realized one thing: the way to the continued survival and resurgence of the Jewish people was to increase the number of Jews being born. Mr. Feigenbaum’s goal in founding the organization was to increase the birthrate in the Jewish state by preventing unnecessary abortions.
EFRAT’s unique approach states that a woman has freedom of choice and the right to information. An elective abortion is a viable option only after a woman understands the full implications of her decision. To that end, EFRAT sets up lectures and provides informative pamphlets and videos, demonstrating the different phases of fetal development and the rewards of parenthood.
Almost 20,000 legal abortions are performed yearly in Israel, the vast majority because of financial difficulties. EFRAT assists thousands of women who choose to continue their pregnancy with monthly food packages and basic baby equipment such as cribs, strollers, baby baths and layettes.
U.S. born Tidhar explains that EFRAT’s goal is to inform women faced with an unwanted pregnancy that there are choices. Not all unwanted pregnancies must end with an abortion. Their goal is to enable and empower women to make their own decision without outside pressures.
“When a woman turns to us,” she continues, “she is in a highly charged time of her life. She is faced with an unplanned pregnancy and is often under enormous pressure to abort, but her heart is telling her a different story. This woman wants her baby, even though it wasn’t planned, but she is terrified to face the difficulties alone. That is where EFRAT comes in—we connect her with one of our 3,000 volunteers, many of whom were in this exact situation not long ago. The volunteer lends a soft shoulder and a willing ear; she befriends the pregnant woman and gives her emotional support. Most of our volunteers received our help in the past and are so happy with their own babies that they want to use their experience to help other women dealing with the same dilemma. EFRAT is a real grassroots organization in this way. Every day I get phone calls from women who were referred to us by a friend who had received our help. ‘She told me not to abort before I speak to EFRAT—they helped me, they’ll help you!’ is one of the ways women hear of our assistance.”
Ruth Tidhar explains, “The phone calls that shock me the most are the ones that are the easiest—the woman has an appointment for an abortion tomorrow but a friend told her to call us. When she hangs up, preparing to send us all the necessary documents to get our help, she is in a totally different place and planning with growing excitement how the new baby will find his or her place in the family. And what if EFRAT wasn’t here to help, what if we didn’t receive the support of our donors? That baby would have been lost and that mother would have been despondent! As it is, the baby and all its future generations have been given a chance to live!”
By giving information and assistance, EFRAT has been able to save around 4,000 Jewish babies yearly in Israel, and over 50,000 since 1977. In all these years, not one of the mothers has ever regretted her decision to avoid abortion and have her baby. EFRAT’s president, Argentine-born Dr. Eli Schussheim explains, “Even though I have been a doctor since 1963, neither I nor any other doctor in the world can promise that the medicine, treatment or operation prescribed will succeed. Only in the case of a woman deliberating whether or not to abort, I can promise that if she does not abort, she will not be sorry. How do I know this? There has yet to be a case in all these years, in which the woman who decided against abortion was sorry for her decision. On the other hand, over 90% of women who have abortions express regret afterwards. No doctor who performs abortions could possibly promise what I can promise, that the woman will not regret her decision.”
The assistance package includes a crib, stroller, baby-bath and layette and monthly packages including diapers, wipes and food. Because of low overhead, EFRAT is able to save a child for only $1200.
EFRAT’s motto is: “A lack of money is not a reason to end a life.” She wants her baby—give her the choice!