On June 15, 2017 dozens of Jewish leaders from Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Israel, and the U.S., along with Christian leaders and legislators, gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in honor of the 40th anniversary of EFRAT, an innovative Israeli organization dedicated to helping Israeli women choose life for their babies.
Characterizing itself as a modern-day Miriam, EFRAT aims to saving the lives of Jewish babies whose mothers think they have no other option but abortion by providing them with access to financial assistance, counseling, and other resources and forms of support.
“We at EFRAT believe that every woman has the right to make decisions regarding her body,” said EFRAT president and honoree Dr. Eli Schussheim. “Therefore we do not pressure women, nor do we make demonstrations or condone violence. We just offer our support and assistance.”
The luncheon tribute was coordinated by The Friedlander Group. While it featured speeches from U.S. legislators, the main focus of the event was to honor Schussheim and his friend and long-time nonprofit partner, Woli Stern.
When the Israeli Parliament legalized abortion in 1977, Dr. Schussheim, a surgeon, was deeply grieved that 60,000 pregnancies were being terminated each year. He teamed up with Herschel Feigenbaum, a Holocaust survivor and the founder of EFRAT, to seek an increase in the Jewish birthrate by decreasing the number of abortions.
To date, EFRAT has saved more than 70,000 lives in Israel. To get a sense of the impact of this in such a small country: this is the equivalent of saving an entire city.
After an opening prayer for the victims of the recent shooting attack at a Congressional baseball practice, U.S. Representatives Trent Franks (R-AZ), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Doug Collins (R-GA), and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) delivered remarks championing the cause of life and praising Efrat for their successes.
“We need more groups like yours,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ). Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) discussed how fundamental the right to life is, saying “it’s hard to figure out how to get to all these other rights [freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc.] when you don’t exist.”
Many of the legislators echoed Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) statement that every child “has the image of God stamped on his soul.”
Among the Jewish and Christian leaders present, Richard Hellman, Founder of the Christians’ Israel Public Action Campaign (CIPAC), described the importance of having a thriving Jewish population and that it’s “important for Israel to be a Jewish state — free, democratic, respecting the same Judeo-Christian values that we do here in the United States.”
Joshua London, the Co-Director of Government Relations for the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), underscored the significance of a growing Jewish population, saying that EFRAT is the “most effective organization at attempting to solve a holy demographic issue.”
Dr. Schussheim presented Stern, who has directly saved more than 6,300 lives, with a “Book of Life” listing all the names of the children saved through his efforts. Dr. Schussheim tearfully noted that many of these children were now having children of their own.
Dr. Schussheim said he grieves the fact that Israel is still losing about 40,000 lives to abortion each year, but he remains hopeful that EFRAT will continue to expand their work as they look to the future.
By Cheyenne Plott