On February 9, we were privileged to honor Mona Charen as our 2019 Mother of Valor. Today’s her birthday, so it’s a fitting day to share what our founder, Erica Pelman shared at the Gala.
FEBRUARY 9 – SPEECH BY ERICA PELMAN
In Shifra’s Arms would not exist without Mona Charen. But before I explain why this is the case, I want to invite you to pick up a real phone call In Shifra’s Arms received this year.
The area code is in Los Angeles. Miriam says she is eleven weeks pregnant. Her husband doesn’t think it is responsible to have a baby right now because they are both broke students in highly demanding four-year graduate programs. If we have to borrow money for food & rent- how could we possibly pay for a baby? What about our grueling long workdays? Would they even be able to see the baby? Her husband is open to adoption but Miriam says it would crush her. He’s pushing abortion as the only real option.
As she shares her story, you can hear Miriam’s worries. She afraid her family will also say it’s irresponsible to have a baby now, she knows they don’t have money to help. Her heart is telling her that she deeply wants to protect her baby- she doesn’t want to abort. But she also doesn’t have the answers to many worries.
She feels trapped.
So she has reluctantly allowed her husband to schedule an abortion for March 29th, 2018.
Before I share what happened next, I must mention that before ISA… there was no American-Jewish organization designed to take a call like Miriam’s. Not in New York, Not in LA, not anywhere.
Sadly, it wasn’t simply an accident that no Jewish help was available.
Two Jewish organizations in Israel had been helping pregnant women in crisis since the 1970s- before I was even born. Yet, no one in the Jewish community here was making a parallel effort.
Even though the Jewish community is so often innovators and leaders in caring for people in need, this has been a blind spot.
Tragically, to many in our community, this need has been invisible. Both from a lack of ethical vision and gap in moral imagination. Many just can’t understand why crisis pregnancy help would be needed at all, why medical clinics were not enough.
Sadly, as soon as the news got out that our small group of women were coming together to create In Shifra’s Arms- multiple Jewish media outlets and Jewish leaders directly attacked us.
Thank God we had Mona. Her wise counsel, her brave attitude and her generosity lifted In Shifra’s Arms off the ground when there was a lot working against us. Without Mona believing in our work, our founder (that would be me) would have quit close to the beginning. In Shifra’s Arms would have just been an unfulfilled wish.
Thank God, Mona showed up and we set on our journey into uncharted territory. Uncharted because while we could study what Jewish organizations did in Israel and what Christian organizations did here… but we have discover for ourselves how to meet the needs of Jewish women in a Jewish way and how to reach them before it’s too late.
That brings us back to Miriam. Her heart is telling her to protect her developing baby, but her husband is telling her- that’s impossible, impractical, irresponsible. She desperately wants to win him over but doesn’t know the answers.
The stakes are high. Our counselor can’t make life easy for her, but she can make our offer. Lean on us. We are not some bureaucratic agency or entitlement program.
Miriam is touched. She leaves the first conversation with hope, researching creative childcare solutions. Her love for her developing baby has been honored– But the abortion is still scheduled and her husband is still pushing back.
A few days later, Miriam’s husband agrees to speak together with my counselor and Miriam. He asks guarded questions. Is this manipulation or are you help for real?
Our counselor is reassuring but asks pointed questions of her own. You’ve found out the costs of having this baby- $60,000 in additional loans to pay for an oper over the next three years. Have you considered what the costs are if you push your wife to do something she regrets- now, later, forever?
The scale is wobbling: Love on one side. Fear on the other.
When our counselor gets off the phone with them, she is still not sure what they are going to do.
A few days later, Miriam calls. They canceled the appointment. Love has triumphed. One perfect Friday, last October, they welcomed their baby boy Yosef into our world. Between that first call and now, they found answers to troubles that had seemed almost insurmountable.
With every snuggle and every smile, they reap rewards infinitely more precious than the costs.
In your Gala program, we have a few pictures of some of the babies we helped this past year- including one of our Moms embracing her daughter.
Not one of those babies is replaceable to our world, nor should anyone of them have been disposable.
We helped twice as many women in 2018 as last, with your help tonight, we will double or more again this year. Our help has touched women in EIGHT different states and one Canadian province.
Because for every “Miriam Or Hannah or Maya” we miss the opportunity to embrace, we should we weep.
But if in all our almost 10 years, Miriam had been the only one we helped- all of our effort would have been worth it. Because every life is a world.
In her most recent book, Sex Matters, Mona writes “the best and most important sources of identity, meaning, and joy, for men and women, are to be found not in the world of work but in our homes and families.”
Miriam and her husband are now living that truth.
For Mona’s devotion and leadership in advocating the primacy of family for both human happiness and success,
for her modeling that principle as a devoted mother and
for her dedicated support has ensured In Shifra’s Arms existence
We are thrilled to honor her as our 2019 Mona of Valor with this special pendant. It includes our logo Siloheete with engrave- for Mona Our Mother of Valor, Feb 9 2019.