Noga’s Chesed for Her Missing Cousin

Noga’s Chesed for Her Missing Cousin

Today, my neighbor, Noga Malki, told me the following heart-wrenching as well as inspiring story:
“I made aliya with my family when I was 10, and my aunt and uncle stayed in America, in Atlanta. Their daughter, my cousin Jenna, came to Israel several times. She was a sweet girl, on the autistic spectrum. She attended public school, didn’t get much of a Jewish education. And as a teenager, she fell in with a bad crowd. A sweet but lost soul.
“2 years ago, when she was 25, from one moment to the next, Jenna disappeared. She had been pet-sitting for the family’s cat while her parents were on vacation, when, one day, she evaporated into thin air. When they returned home, the parents found some strange clues, and suspected that Jenna she was in danger But the police did nothing. She was over 18, they said, and America is a free country. She could go wherever she wanted, with whomever she wanted, whenever she wanted.

“Last March, my uncle, Jenna’s father, came to visit Israel. He and my aunt have been, of course, devastated by Jenna’s disappearance. And after I saw him, I was in touch with my 2 sisters and said that we have to do something. We are Jenna’s only cousins. We have to do something in her merit!
“My husband works in high-tech and I work in the pharmaceutical industry. Most of the people we work with are secular and both of us have noticed a disturbing trend. We see men who grew up religious, attended yeshiva, and then, in middle age, take off their kippahs. Or women who grew up religious and then, as they grow older, start leaving halacha behind.
“My husband and I have 8 kids, ranging between the ages of 3 and 17. We see how the religious schools are doing an amazing job in some areas, but are seriously lacking in others. So many kids end up going through religious schools and don’t feel any excitement or passion for learning Torah, for living a religious life.
“In the religious community, we pour so much money into programs for kids at risk, and that’s amazing. But what about programs to keep solid, stable, religious kids from becoming kids at risk in the first place?
“So a few years ago my husband went to the local community center to request funding to initiate programs that create that kind of excitement among the local kids. And he started a bunch of different fun, innovative learning programs.
“And then this past February, my husband and I were sitting down with a local rabbanit to brainstorm. We told her, “We have the money for a new program, what can we do to get kids excited about learning Torah?” We were looking for something small–in terms of budget and time commitment–that manages to leave a big impression on the kids. When the rabbanit suggested starting a Shabbat-morning learning program for neighborhood mothers and daughters, I thought that sounded like just what we were looking for. It would get mothers and daughters connecting deeply, with each other, and with our amazing Torah.
“That meeting happened right before my uncle’s visit last spring. And I decided that for me, in my heart, I would be doing this new program my cousin Jenna. In her merit.
It took about a month to get the logistics of MifgaShabbat sorted out, and then we were up and running. That first Shabbat, about 20 mothers came along with their daughters. And most of those mothers have continued coming, regularly. Since then, the program has grown and grown, way beyond my expectations. Today, every Shabbat over 50 mothers and 100 girls come together [JewishMOM: Including my daughter Tsofia and me!] to learn Torah.
And every week, when I see all of them, I pray that in the merit of all these girls and women learning Torah together, Jenna’s grieving parents will soon have Yetta Ruth bat Shoshana home again, safe and sound.

For more information about joining MifgaShabbat, or starting a MifgaShabbat in your community please contact Noga at dnmalki@gmail.com

2 comments

  1. May Yetta Ruth bat Shoshana soon return home again, safe and sound.

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