On August 9th, 2001, the Belzberg family was in California listening to reports of the Sbarro pizza restaurant attack that killed fifteen, many children among them.
Being a Jewish family, news of the tragic outrage affected them personally: The attack occurred on the very day of their daughter's 12th birthday, marking her passage into the responsibility of adulthood and planned to be celebrated in a trip to Israel just two days hence.
The family unanimously agreed that a Jerusalem party during the week of mourning the attack victims would be out of the question, but rather than allow the designs of the wicked to snuff out continued Jewish life, they decided to act on the need created by the attack and let its proximity to their family celebration be a sign that their destinies would forever be bound up with those of the bereaved and wounded.
OneFamily Chairman and Founder Marc Belzberg spoke to Arutz Sheva about his organization that provides support, treatment, and guidance to Israeli families victimized by terror.
"We were coming back to Israel two days later for her Bat Mitzvah party. Our whole family was supposed to be coming with us from the States. We'd already visited them all in the summer, and they all said 'We're not coming. We just saw you last week; why should we risk our lives and come to Israel for the Bat Mitzvah?'
"I said to each of them, 'You're not coming? You're saving x amount of dollars by not coming, flying, hotels, etc.; give me the money.' I go to the next one, same thing, 'Give me the money, give me the money,' and I said I'll put up the same amount of money, and we put $100,000 in the bank, basically. And we decided what we're going to do instead of my daughter having a party, my daughter would have a project. And the project will be: Go visit every shiva house of those who were killed, go visit every young person in the hospital, and see what you can do to help these people out. And that's how it began."
Some would say: Bat Mitzvah, it should all be just flowers and balloons; tell us about that decision to take the tragedy into the story of raising your daughter.
"It was very difficult; this particular daughter was hoping to have a Bat Mitzvah in Eilat on the beach... We sat around together, we all cried about what happened, and it was obvious: You can't make a party in Jerusalem when such a horrible thing happened downtown. And it was really quite obvious to everybody that we have to do something else.
"My daughter loved the idea. It was partly her idea, partly our idea, and it was clear, it was obvious."
So what did you learn then when you started to see what help the terror victims needed; what you learned then and what you know as we're sitting here in the offices of OneFamily?
"Back then I knew nothing; absolutely nothing. And we learned so much over the years; I'd say that at the time we thought a little bit of money could help for here and there. We found out over time that the most important thing was not money, what's most important is having them meet each other.
"It turns out that a psychiatrist that you sit with or a psychologist you sit with doesn't ever really understand you; he never went through it. The person who can help you the most is someone who went through exactly the same thing you're going through, but maybe they went through it two months earlier, or a half-a-year earlier, and they have so much advice to share - number one.
"Number two - we learned that not only sharing advice, but purely the company of one of the other, that you can actually in the middle of the night call somebody - and say who becomes your best friend - bawl your eyes out, and laugh, have some dark humor, black humor, and that is the most comforting, healing process that you could ever go through."