The price of a life

'Every family has their own children to take care of, but just $1,200 we can bring another child to the world,' says ardent Efrat supporter.

Yosef Eherenfeld ,

Dr. Eli Schussheim
Dr. Eli Schussheim
EFRAT organization

When people ask Shai Gvili, 46, of Yerusahalayim, how many children he has, he hesitates. “It depends how you look at it,” he replies cryptically. “I have five children at home…and another 16 from the Efrat organization!”

Gvili’s first exposure to Efrat was over 20 years ago, when he noticed a brochure displaying a photo of a cute baby with the tagline, “Aren’t I worth $1,200?”

It was a striking message, and Gvili found himself deeply affected. As he didn’t have the means to donate the entire amount at once, he began giving all his ma’aser and tzedakah to Efrat, forging a connection that became stronger with time.

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“When my second daughter was born after a very difficult birth, we didn’t know what to name her,” he shares. “I suggested to my wife that I’d go to the Efrat office to donate tzedakah to give thanks to Hashem, and after that we could think about a name. Afterward, my wife said, ‘What about the name Efrat?’ I went to Harav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l, who was then hospitalized, and asked his gabbai, Rav Shmuel Zafrani, who immediately responded, ‘Efrat? That’s the Rav’s favorite name!’”

Gvili was elated to notice that the money he’d donated in honor of his daughter Efrat’s birth, added to all his other donations, amounted to exactly $1,200 — the cost of saving a child.

“I received a certificate with the name of the child who is alive in our zechus” says Gvili. “Incredibly, that baby’s name is Rachel, like my mother, a”h. I named my daughter after the Efrat organization and I was gifted with another ‘daughter,’ who carries the name of my beloved mother!”

The following year, Mrs. Gvili was informed that one of her savings plans had matured. “We decided to donate the ma’aser funds to Efrat, and when I checked the amount, it came out exactly to what we needed to complete the rescue of a second child,” says Gvili.

The very next day, Gvili was in the car with his two young daughters and he parked in his building’s lot, which was adjacent to a building under construction. “As soon as I took Efrat out of her baby seat, I was startled by something that crashed into the car roof. I looked up and was horrified to see that a piece of scaffolding had fallen from the building next to us! It was an open miracle that I’d moved my daughter out of harm’s way just a split second before.

“I walked into the house, shaking all over, when the phone rang. It was the secretary from Efrat calling to make sure that I hadn’t made a mistake with the amount written on my latest check. I told her that my daughter’s life had just been saved, and I was sure that it was in the zechus of the donation, midda knegged middah.”

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Since becoming an ardent supporter of Efrat, the Gvilis learned to appreciate its leader, Dr. Eli Schussheim. “He was always so enthusiastic about every individual baby saved; it was impossible not to connect to his passion!”

Mrs. Gvili also found that Dr. Schussheim’s love for Jewish children was contagious. “I am an oncological nurse by profession, but after getting to know Dr. Schussheim, I trained to become a midwife, instead.”

“Dr. Schussheim taught me a new perspective on life,” Gvili continues. “He would say, ‘People bring me pieces of paper, and another child receives life!’ I gained a new understanding into the value of each Jewish life, and the power of tzedakah. I tried to think of ways to give more. So, whenever I contemplated another big purchase, I would first calculate the price in children. I would think, Do I really need that item, or can I use the money to save another child through Efrat?”

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When he was in the process of making up the amount to save his sixth child, Gvili discovered that giving tzedakah to Efrat had the power to bring great yeshuos to couples who were still waiting for children.

“It was erev Purim, and I had gone to Dr. Schussheim with my donation zecher l’machatzis hashekel. “I told him about friends of ours who were childless and I asked him to daven for them, promising that if they would be zocheh to a yeshuah, I would donate my sixth child. Dr. Schussheim was a little taken aback by my words, but, I guess I was in a Purimdik mood because I said, ‘Look how many children you’ve rescued, Dr. Schussheim! Can Hakadosh Baruch Hu say no to you?!’

Several months later, the Gvilis were elated to hear that their friends had been blessed with a baby boy. They were told to continue davening, though; the baby was premature, and needed continuing care in the NICU. “When we heard that the baby was strong enough to be discharged, I went straight to Dr. Schussheim to donate the money that I had pledged. Suddenly it occurred to me that exactly nine months had passed since last erev Purim!”

The Gvilis have witnessed many more miracles. “Our niece, who had been without children for several years, became a mother after I took upon myself to pledge a donation to Efrat in her zechus. When word of this got out, friends of ours who had been waiting for eight years to become parents asked me to give them a brachah. I told her that they should approach Dr. Schussheim, and they also committed to rescuing a child. Nine months later, I was at the bris of their son.”

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Gvili’s last meeting with Dr. Schussheim was a little after the onset of COVID-19, when his wife was expecting their fifth child.

“He was very happy for us and gave us his brachah. I told him that I don’t envy anyone in the world, not even the richest tycoon. ‘The only person I envy is you, Dr. Schussheim. What an olam haba you will have with all those zechuyos!’”

“When my wife was at the end of her ninth month, I had a few hundred shekels to complete the rescue of another child. We had been to the hospital a few times, but she wasn’t ready yet to give birth, and the doctors were already talking about the need for a Caesarian. I went to daven Shacharis (the morning prayer - ed.), and then phoned the Schussheims. Mrs. Schussheim answered and I told what was happening, promising that if my wife would have the baby naturally, I would donate another child. By the time I went back to my wife, things were moving normally, and soon afterward, our fifth child was born, b’shaa tova.”

The Gvilis’ connection with Efrat had been mainly through Dr. Schussheim himself; however, they maintain that now, after his passing, their “partnership” with Efrat will take an even greater priority in their lives.

“There’s still plenty of work to do,” says Gvili. “It states in the Gemara that the Moshiach will not arrive until all the souls are brought down into this world. It’s up to us to continue Dr. Schussheim’s important work. Every family has their own children to take care of, but just $1,200 we can bring another child to the world. That child will live in our zechus, and every maaseh tov (good deed - ed.) they do will forever be accredited to those who enabled him to live!”

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