Last March in Israel, 3-year-old Adelle Biton was critically injured in a car accident caused by Arab teenagers as they threw large rocks onto a roadway near the city of Ariel.
Adelle was hospitalized for four months, and she remains at Beit Levenstein Rehabilitation Center in Ra’anana with severe brain injuries.
The story may have faded from the headlines, but dozens of volunteers in Ra’anana – including Teaneck natives Estie Feldman Agus and Shoshana Twersky Baker – make the Biton family part of their daily lives through the local OneFamily Fund terror victims support center.
“Our goal is to get them to accept a little help so they can have some semblance of a normal life,” said Ms. Agus, who moved to Israel from Tenafly with her husband and children in 2004. Her mother, Rella Feldman, still lives in Teaneck, where OneFamily’s U.S. office is headquartered.
|Shoshana Baker, standing with Adva Biton, shows off her Amsterdam marathon shirt.|
Last spring, Ms. Agus accompanied a volunteer to Schneider Children’s Medical Center, where Adva Biton – a college lecturer in statistics, chemistry, and math – spends all day with Adelle after taking her three other young daughters to school. Her husband, Rafi, takes over the bedside vigil every night.
“I was so taken with Adva and the story of the tragedy that I started visiting a couple of times a week when they moved her to Beit Levenstein,” Ms. Agus said, speaking with the Jewish Standard by phone as she drove over to the rehab hospital with the lunch she’d just prepared.
Others in Ra’anana also went into action. Members of the national religious Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva sit at Adelle’s bedside on Friday nights, freeing Adva and Rafi to have Shabbat dinner at home. Another local resident comes to the hospital to give Adva manicures. OneFamily provides the family with such services as psychological counseling and art therapy.
When Ms. Agus was heading to New Jersey for the summer, she asked her friend Shoshana Baker to fill in for her.
“She introduced me to Adva, and from the first time we met there was an inexplicable chemistry,” said Ms. Baker, who is 42 years old, the daughter of Nahum and Sivie Twersky of Teaneck, and the mother of four children, who range in age from 8 to 14. “Adva is an amazing, personable, lovely woman. I realized the food was secondary to the idea of somebody letting her know she wasn’t alone, and that it gave her the strength to face every day.”
Ms. Baker worked with OneFamily and local synagogues to put together a rotation of 40 women willing to bring meals to Adva at Beit Levenstein, and she continues to visit once or twice a week. She arranged for the municipality to provide full summer camp scholarships to the other Biton daughters. “The communal support has been phenomenal,” she said.
On October 20, Ms. Baker ran for Team OneFamily at the 38th Amsterdam TCS Marathon, raising funds and awareness for the Bitons. She had participated in the New York Marathon two years ago to help the EyeCan Childhood Eye Cancer Foundation in Israel buy early-detection equipment for Hadassah Medical Center.
“Sporting events have become a springboard for raising money,” Ms. Baker said. “The emotional component of running for a greater cause is very meaningful.”
Team OneFamily was formed in response to that trend. This multi-sports training and fundraising platform facilitates participation in endurance events to benefit the organization’s programs for Israeli terror victims.
Ms. Baker had not yet met the Bitons when her husband, Mark, surprised her with a ticket to Amsterdam. As soon as she became aware of the situation, she decided to use the event to aid the family.
“The Bitons’ lives have been turned upside down,” she said. “They get financial support from the government, but so many things need to be done.
“For instance, their house must be remodeled so that when Adelle comes home for Shabbat – and, please God, permanently – she can manage in a wheelchair. Private funding would take that to another level.”
Ms. Baker also wants to be able to hire a private-duty nurse to take some of the pressure off Adva and Rafi Biton.
“She and her husband have never left Adelle’s side since March,” she said. “The only way they may hand over the mantle is if they could have a paid private nurse, because Adelle needs 24-hour care and somebody has to be supervising it.
“We need to reach deep into our pockets to help them do this.”
At the marathon, Baker wore a shirt whose front was emblazoned with Adelle’s photograph and the OneFamily logo. On the back, it included an Israeli flag and the words “Am Yisrael Chai” – “The nation of Israel lives.”
“The race was amazing, but the physical success was secondary to the emotional empowerment I received from it,” she said. “At least 10 Israeli runners tapped me on the shoulder during the race to run with me and to say that I’d given them the strength to keep going. They wanted to know more about Adelle, so we talked as we ran.”
When she returned to Israel, she gave the shirt to Adva. “She also enjoys running, and I told her we’re going to run together someday.”
To contribute, go to www.onefamilytogether.org and click first on the “Donate Now” tab and then on the appropriate country flag. Note that the donation is for the benefit of Adelle Biton.