Enid Wurtman: Pillar of Strength in Need of Lifeline

A pillar of strength for thousands of former Soviet refuseniks, social worker Enid Wurtman now finds herself in need of a lifeline as well.

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Chana Ya'ar, | updated: 15:12

Enid Wurtman (circa 1970)
Enid Wurtman (circa 1970)
Israel news photo: courtesy of Enid Wurtman

In Jerusalem lives a woman who inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of former Soviet refuseniks to stay strong, stay alive, and to finally make aliyah to Israel. But social worker Enid Wurtman, today 68 years old, now finds herself in need of a lifeline as well.

Wurtman, originally from Philadelphia, made aliyah in 1977 with her husband and children after years of exhorting others to do so.

Once here, she was tireless in making sure that those who arrived were provided for. Many came too late in life to resume their careers. Poverty-stricken, they were unable to find jobs and unable obtain any income, and their pensions were too small to sustain them. Wurtman raised money and made sure they survived.

“No one spent more energy in Israel to help former refuseniks than Enid,” observed one of her oldest friends, former refusenik Natan Sharansky, today head of the Jewish Agency.

Josef Mendelevitz, former Prisoner of Zion, made Arutz Sheva aware of the situation.

But today, she herself is in desperate need of the kind of help only other human beings can give; Wurtman's kidneys failed last year, and doctors say she needs a transplant.

Given the current waiting list, she might have to be patient for at least eight years, but her medical condition won't allow it.

Wurtman needs a kidney now, doctors say.

Filmmaker Laura Bialis, who made the documentary “Refusenik,” was also helped by Wurtman. One of her closest friends, Bialis noted in an appeal she wrote that every time she came to visit after Wurtman's first serious battle with kidney failure, “different people were there... she has touched so many lives – hundreds of people must have come to visit, and some of them came day after day. We were all shocked and saddened that our pillar of support, this amazing, unstoppable force of nature was in such a serious condition.”

Readers who have information on potential kidney donors or would like to inquire about helping Enid Wurtman are asked to please contact enid@wurtman.com .