Volunteer Miri Kirschenbaum

With an impressive record of nearly 25 years of volunteering, Miri is a veteran EFRAT volunteer. Her experiences and stories seem to be inexhaustible and talking to Miri gives one a small taste of her boundless energy and huge heart.

“I started volunteering for EFRAT at a time when supporting women to continue their pregnancy was not a priority. Many women were alone making the sometimes tortuous decision to terminate their pregnancies. Some of the babies born to the women I supported when I first started volunteering are now in the army or even have families of their own. It is mind-boggling.”

Listening to Miri talk about her ongoing connection with many of the women and their grown children is inspiring. While keeping all details fully confidential Miri began to tell me stories of women she had met from all over the country, north and south.

“Each woman’s story is different.”Miri explained “One may have a husband who picks up and leaves her to manage with an impossible situation; another has 3 children and can’t see how she will be able to cope with another pregnancy.”

“There are so many issues at stake; the couple relationship, financial issues, family dynamics, health… It is not just about giving them a stroller. Not at all! Supporting women means helping them rediscover their spirit and find space to think. It means helping them with housing, doctors, lawyers, assisting them in accessing benefits.”

Miri explained that women are often refused jobs due to their pregnancy. However, the law dictates that women do not need to disclose a pregnancy until their 5th month. “Women are not always aware of their rights.”

Miri recalled one situation where a woman considered ending her pregnancy because her own mother was very sick with cancer. With support, she chose to continue her pregnancy and gave birth to her daughter shortly before her mother lost her battle with the illness. This woman looks upon her daughter as a living will.

The relationship Miri has with the ladies she comes into contact with may extend far beyond birth. She is invited to celebrations and birthday parties. She has helped women locate a temporary place to live, and has often found herself identifying community support for a family.

When asked how Miri begins a conversation with a woman the first time they speak, she explained that she takes a soft approach. She respects each woman’s confidentiality and avoids adding pressure. She wants to help a woman to understand that she has options. They know that they can call her and she will be there for them. In a situation where a woman has no one to talk to, the greatest support could be giving her the chance to share her worries. Miri leaves it up to each woman to initiate how much contact they want and whether to introduce her to family or friends.

Miri told me about how her own parents, who came to Israel in 1955, speaking only French. In 1956, Miri’s mother gave birth to her in Hadassah hospital while her father was fighting in the Sinai war. Her mother asked the midwife for help selecting a name for the baby and she suggested “Hadassah, after the hospital or Miriam, which is my own name.”Miri’s mother made her choice and today Miri marvels at the closing of the circle. She, Miri, is acting like her biblical namesake Miriam, who helped save Jewish babies in Egypt.

Miri would love to write her experiences into a book, but she finds each story too emotive. Miri’s goodness exudes from her and as I put the phone down, feel privileged to have had a small window into the world of one remarkable EFRAT volunteer.