TEANECK Anita Jacobs did not know much about a nonprofit organization called Reuth (Hebrew for "friendship") until she was asked to become the first national executive director of Reuth USA earlier this year.
Taking the offer seriously, the township resident stole time from her professional and volunteer schedule to go to Israel and acquaint herself with the ways in which the 70-year-old group serves the elderly, soldiers, and children.
Anita Jacobs Reuth images
Her March visit included a stop at the Reuth Medical Center for chronic care and rehabilitation, founded in 1961. With 310 beds, and a day rehabilitation center and outpatient clinics, it is the largest hospital of its kind in Tel Aviv.
"The head of the medical center told me there are 41,000 acute-care beds in Israel but only 710 rehabilitation/chronic care beds, so Reuth’s 310 beds are very important to the country," said Jacobs. "I met some victims of terror who have lived in the hospital for many years. The place has become their home." A Reuth donor from England funds outings for these long-term patients.
Because so many of its patients over the years have been soldiers, Reuth has an ongoing relationship with the Israel Defense Forces, said Jacobs. The hospital recently opened a clinic specializing in the sexual health issues of wounded fighters, and soldiers also teach a new safe-driving course, begun out of the realization that many of the center’s patients are there as a result of car accidents.
Founded in 1937 by a German immigrant to distribute food and clothing to Jews escaping the Nazi terror in Europe, Reuth (reuth.org) today also sponsors three residences for the elderly and a sheltered-housing project for needy seniors.
"One of the most interesting projects to me is the Reuth-Eshel Information Line," said Jacobs. This country-wide service, started in ’00’, fields 500 calls every month regarding elder care.
"Say I’m living in Haifa or even in the United States and have an elderly parent in need of help in Afula," Jacobs said. "Within ‘4 hours, a Reuth-trained social worker in Afula will get back to me and answer my questions, and will even call once a month to see how the elderly parent is doing." The service is expensive; Jacobs estimates that it needs $180,000 to keep operating.
Jacobs, president of the award-winning National Center for Effective Speaking, has a wealth of communal experience. She has served as director of the National Campaign Training for UJA; the New Jersey-Israel Chamber of Commerce; and the Jewish National Fund of Greater New York. She studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on a Melton Foundation Senior Educator Fellowship, from which emerged her ’00’ co-written book, "Portraits in Passion: Vision and Values of American-Israeli Women."
Her new appointment was an indirect outgrowth of her local charitable work.
"I have sat on the business and professional board of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey for 15 years," Jacobs said. Sandra Divack Moss of Tenafly, the board’s current president, was involved in Reuth through her mother-in-law, the late Tova Ronni Moss. "When they decided they wanted a professional to run [the organization], Sandy came to me. I didn’t know anything about Reuth, even having lived in Israel."
Reuth has fund-raising arms in Holland and England as well as in the United States. Jacobs said her major task is to revitalize and expand Reuth USA, founded nearly 50 years ago.
"Most of the Reuth USA supporters are concentrated in Manhattan," said Jacobs. "We want to make sure people outside New York City really understand and appreciate what Reuth is. I want to branch out into other parts of country, particularly in the Florida and Eastern seaboard areas, to start with. It would be wonderful if someone would come forward in these new geographical areas to hold a reception to help more people hear about Reuth."
The Jacobs, members of Cong. Keter Torah, are the parents of Elie, ‘9, of Manhattan, and Avi, ‘6, of Hackensack. Getting more people of her sons’ age involved in Reuth is among Jacobs’ aims. She has recruited several volunteers from Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls here, and is also seeking help in writing grant proposals.
"We do have a young board, and I want to renew a Young Associates Group that was once active," she said. "I would also like to formalize the American Friends organization and our board of directors, and double our fundraising in the next year and a half."
"Right now there is a pressing need to buy a new piano for Beit Barth, the senior home in Jerusalem," she added. "The music and small performances are very meaningful to the seniors.
Jacobs is planning several events over the next six months, the first of which is a luncheon at the Manhattan home of philanthropists Inge and Ira Rennert on July ‘. (Reservations can be made by calling (‘1’) 751 9’55.) A mission to Israel is being organized for December. The trip will acquaint participants with the Reuth projects and will include a special concert by the Israel Philharmonic, which also is marking its 70th anniversary this year.
"When people go to Israel, we would love them to see the facilities, to understand what we do, and to tell others," said Jacobs. "Any groups or individuals planning a trip should call here and I can make that happen. Word of mouth very important to us."