Endowing those in need to help themselves

By Chaya Greenberg

I first arrived to Montreal from New Jersey as a newlywed.  My husband is from here so we were lucky to have his family nearby to assist us.   Despite having family, I felt very alone in a strange place with a strange language (French) and strange weather.   After two years in Montreal, the opportunity presented itself for us to travel to Russia and become the Jewish communal leaders in a remote city.  With our one-year-old daughter in tow, off we went, forced once again to fend for ourselves without knowing the language, the culture, the people or the city. Though it was difficult in the beginning, it was the most amazing experience of my life, giving of ourselves to the community.

As abruptly as we had arrived, it was time to go. The authorities showed up at our house and took my husband to the police station.   For political reasons, the Russians decided to deport a number of rabbis and unfortunately, we were among them. Less than twenty-four hours later, we were on a plane with just a couple of suitcases.

We returned to Montreal with our two kids; I was pregnant with my third.  My husband started to look for work and I had to readjust to life in Montreal.  My husband’s work situation was terrible, moving from one bad job to another. We could hardly make ends meet.

The first time I heard about Ometz was when I decided to apply for my permanent residency. I sat down with an immigration counsellor who guided me through the entire process with respect and patience.   As our situation worsened, I turned to Ometz again at my friend’s suggestion. I thought that they would just provide some financial support but then I had the most wonderful fortune of meeting Ruth.

At the first meeting, I cried to Ruth, unburdening all of the troubles that had engulfed me and my family. I told her about the debts, the lack of funds to pay rent or groceries, the difficulties of being pregnant and having no Medicare, about my husband not having a regular job, of not having status in Canada, of not knowing where to turn or what to do. She listened and empathized but more than anything, she helped me pull myself together. She woke me up and showed me how to take responsibility for my life.

Ruth helped us in numerous ways, be it about payment plans or French language courses, providing funds to buy winter gear and grocery coupons, organizing wonderful food baskets before the holidays and broaching the idea of going to school and having a career. I can honestly say that that afternoon, in Ruth’s office, my life was turned around. I started to think about the future instead of bemoaning the past. She gave me courage and hope and presented me with fresh options and new dreams.

Ometz has sent so many angels our way. Tom, our kind, non-judgmental, financial advisor who voluntarily took time out of his life to come to our home and help us make a budget and a plan to pay off our debts. Tzu-Yung, who sat with my husband and me, separately, for hours helping us find our career paths. Emmanuelle, our play therapist, who meets with us every week to listen to our challenges and present us and our kids with the necessary tools needed to meet life’s challenges head on.

We have been so fortunate to have benefited immensely from the magnificent work that Ometz does. The Torah teaches us that the highest level of tzedakah is not to give someone money, but to help them find a job. Ometz offers love, financial support and emotional assistance. More than anything, they endow those in need with the tools to help themselves and rebuild their own lives. Thanks to Ometz, we have paid off half of our debt and are living within our means. Thanks to Ometz, my husband has a steady job and I am in the Human Relations program at Concordia University. Thanks to Ometz, our kids are happy, well-adjusted and well cared for. Thanks to Ometz, I finally feel happy and at home in Montreal.

  • Rony says:

    Very well written. you should go from strength to strength.

  • Audra says:

    wow! What a journey! It has been wonderful watching you grow and become more comfortable and confident in every way Chayale. Mazel tov to you and your mishpucha on all your wonderful progress! Great work Ometz!!!

  • Bashie says:

    Way to go Chayal’e and Zvi!! We feel the same way about Ometz too :) You write very well!!

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