BY CHAYA BRURYA CHAIT
Forget the Internet! You can find what you want on the Israel-based Telegemach.
Avrohom Ellis is an "oleh" (immigrant) who arrived from Toronto 15 years ago and has made a difference in the lives of Jews around the world by operating a "gemach" from his home-phone on a farm in Israel (hence Telegemach). A "gemach is an acronym for "gemilut chesed" which means acts of kindness in hebrew. A "gemach" is an organization dedicated to helping people without red tape. Although some "gemachim" specialize in a particular item that they provide (bridel gowns, food donations, sick-funds, medical equipment and financial free-loan societies for example) Avrohom Ellis' "gemach" specializes in everything!
His skill as a musician (he plays guitar, harmonica, organ, and sings, too) first brought him to entertain at weddings for Russian immigrants and other Israelis who appreciated his charming talents With his occupation in graphic art and teaching and his desire to help people, Avrohom had a good background for creating his public service Telegemach.
Eventually Avrohom settled on Moshav Yesodot, a dairy farm in Emek Sorek dedicated to the Torah way of life. His wife and children enjoy the life there, and Avrohom does, too. But the solitude of working as a dairy farmer made him hungry to communicate with people, and to be more involved with the world. He prayed for ideas, "...and Hashem answered. One day I concentrated on my telephone, here I am in farm country in the Holy Land, away from the civilized world but only a telephone call away from anyone on the globe. Hidden away in the office was a dusty old answering machine and it hitt me Combine the two for Telegemach-the information gemach. The idea is simple and inexpensive, but the results are priceless.
People began to call in for every kind of need from employment opportunities to apartment seekers. Needers and givers found Ellis number.When a widower in Tel Aviv needed help in caring for his retarded son, a phone-call to telegmach resulted in a male volunteer in the neighborhood to help with the boy. After all, the volunteer needed help, too. He had asked to be provided with an opportunity to make a difference for someone.
A distraught mother partially paralyzed in a car accident was denied conpensation from the insurance company involved. She told friends that she intended to commit suicide in a particular location. When she arrived, police officers were waiting for her, on a tip from her friends. A female officer provided the woman with an article about Telegemach from Israel's leading newspaper, Yediot Achronot. She reassured her that there is someone in this world who cares. The mother decided not to jump, and called Avrohom Ellis with thanks for saving her life. Ellis then connected her to his Ashkelon branch of Telegemach, which provided for her needs, including volunteer lawyers.
Orthodox single Israelis, visitors to israel and observant Jews in the Diaspora are referred by Telegemach to international Shidduch Services to access names of potential partners they would not have heard of otherwise. A ten-dollar donation to the cost of the gemach with an accompanying description of the searching single and what they're looking for in a spouse enrolls the applicant in the service. Information is entered into the shidduch files, and a volunteer searches for compatible applicants. Then, a list of possible matches is mailed to the sender. It is up to the marriage-minded people involved to check out their potential mates and three refences are suggested The voice mail number in Israel is 972-8-9411907, 24 hours a day. The address is at the end of the article.
Since the All-American Garage Sale is a novelty only on this side of the globe. Israel folks with stuff they want to lose find countrymen who want the stuff they offer through the Telegmach. "A women in Haifa with two sick daughters was able to secure a washing machine and a gift of money, as well as other necessities," Avrohom Ellis proudly recalls "A caller with an extra stove to donate interrupted a caller who needed one. It goes on like that"
The Telegemach has a lost and found service, too. It is a precept in Jewish Law to return lost objects to their rightful owners. It is also forbidden to charge interest on loans. Along with the Toraitic injunction to deal kindly with others it is no wonder that "gemach" activities abound in Jewish communities. Telegemach stands out from the rest by being comprehensive. Specifically, it is for those who have items to donate or to sell, for those in need, for those who want to volunteer time and/or expertise, for lost and found articles, for match-making, housewares, furniture, employment, living accomodations, et cetra. There are also some unique programs entitled Candle in the Night and Adopt a Family in Israel. The First program lends Hebrew or English cassettes on Jewish guidance through emotionl pain. Poverty and sickness breed emotional upheaval, as do loneliness and the daily strain of life. Avrohom uses a special technique which he developed on his own and calls "Spiritual Psychology" for counselling stressed- out caallers. "I can prove that all the modern emotional psychological techniques are found in the Torah, Which has even more to offer," he declares. " the second program links wealthier families outside Israel with poorer families within Israel. Donors send financial aid and correspond with the individuals receiving their help. "I'd like to expand the adopt a Family program, because we have a growing number of families who need help," Avrohom points out. There is a pressing need for financial donations to that particular program.
The used eyeglasses and previously loved toy gemachim are also a help to many individuals. Thirty branches of telegemach throughout Israel pair up the people and the things they need.
A.C.E.O. of a dynamic dynasty on a shoestring budget, Avrohom Ellis has promoted Telegemach branches in other spots on the globe. Commuters can find rides to share in Israel or in England through Telegemach's Galgelei Chesed (Wheels of kindness). A branch specializing in carpools for Manchester, London & Gateshead, known as the Travelgemach U.K. can be contacted via Ansaphone 016-792-8787 and Telegemaach England's fax number 0181-458-1515. Also in England is the Telegemach branch Torah Observant Citizens Advice Bureau. This is an information exchange bureau connecting hundreds of people trying to help each other at no cost. It can be reached in London 24 hours a day at telephone number N16:0171-690-4827, or by fax at NW11: 0181-458-1515. There is also the Israel-based Luach HaChesed Bulletin which advertises other "gemachs", the Refuat HaNefesh anonymous counselling "gemach", and Telegemach Worldwide, which organizes branches of the original Telegemach around the Jewish world. Volunteers are welcome to participate, and to turn their home into a place where loving-kindness is dispensed. More information-sharing Telegemach branches are needed world-wide. The only necessary equipment is a tlephone and an open heart. "For minimal financial cost, a person can provide Chesed themselves, and have fun doing it," Avrohom says.
Avrohom Ellis cheerfully explains the structure of a "Gemach" organization as having "...at least three prerequisites: publicity of the services offered to the people who could benefit from it, financial backing, and dedication to the successful operation of the gemach." But being a dairy farmer on a settlement in the Sorek Valley, he has some drawbacks to overcome. "I'm pretty lame at offering publicity. I have to win the lottery to offer better financial support, but I have lots of stamina and desire to do this work." He relies on the generosity of the media and other do-gooders to spread the word for him. Especially so in the case of a recent offer of scuba gear and some weights, all in decent shape. "Somebody might appreciate this stuff," he smiles.
Utilizing modern advertising techniques, employing the mediaa, and relying on telephones, Telegemach is putting chesed on the technological mitzva map.
From the Chief Rabbi of Moscow to children around the world, Telegemach receives assistance and sparks interest. Mailing addresses, 24-hour-a-day phone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses are listed at the end of this article. Bear in mind that regular mail from the U.S.A. takes approximately two weeks to reach its destination. There is a six to seven hour difference in the time-zones, depending on the caller's American location, so there might be a small delay in receiving an answer to electronic communication.
The heavenly reward (after 120 years) for his endeavors is exciting and incalculable, but a measure of recognition down here is nice, too. Avrohom is justifiably proud to mention his letter of recommendation from the Rabbi of his moshav. It reads:
"To Whom it May Concern,
I hereby affirm that I know Avrohom Ellis well, who is a member of Moshav Yesodot. Avrohom is G'd fearing and works for the sake of Heaven.
Avrohom helps others by making connections primarily by telephone. Many who have nowhere else to turn, find help from him.
As our sages have taught, 'The whole world is built on loving-kindness'. May G'd grant Avrohom success in his efforts.
Dovid Bentzion Klein, Rabbi of Moshav Yesodot, Israel"
Telegemach, its various programs and branches can be reached as follows:
Telegemach Worldwide, Candle in the Night, Luaach HaChesed, Refuat HaNefesh, International Shidduch Service and Adopt a Family in Israel Programs
c/o Avraham Ellis
D.N. Emek Sorek
Telephone: 972-8-941-2337 Fax: 972-8-941-1907
A $10.00 fee is required for the use of tapes from the Candle in the Night Program. Tapes are available in Hebrew or in English.
All of the above can be accessed by E-mail at FREE@ATCOM.CO.IL
Thanks to Adam Tenenbaum, an improvement on Telegemach's Website is in the works at www.shemaysirael.co.il, under "Torah Institutions." Check it out!