The Power of Three


February 19, 2003

It’s amazing what can happen when Jewish organizations pull together for a common cause. Just ask Dr. Wallace Green, director of Educational services at the UJA-Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson, New Jersey.

Dr. Green recently became involved with an urgent fundraising appeal for a young woman from Buenos Aires desperately in need of funds for a complex urological and gynecological reconstructive surgical procedure to be performed this week in New York. Managing the appeal in the U.S., he says support has come from across the Jewish spectrum and across the world.

The young woman, Carolina—in her 20s today, was diagnosed with a complex urological disorder at the age of four. Her parents scraped together funds for two complicated and costly procedures that she underwent at age four and six. Now a student at Buenos Aires’ ORT school, Carolina learned little over a month ago that in order to sustain the results of her two previous surgeries, she would have to undergo yet another one. With Argentina’s economy a shambles, the news could not have come at a more difficult time. Still, her parents managed to gather $5,000 of the $25,000 needed for the surgery, selling off nearly all of their possessions, and then, in desperation, contacted Rabbi Tzvi Grunblatt, director of Chabad in Argentina, with an urgent call for help.

How to respond to such an enormous need with an already devastated economy and hundreds of requests for critical assistance pouring into Grunblatt’s office daily?

Grunblatt and Valeria Markiewicz, director of Social Programs at Chabad, decided to engage other resources toward this effort.

Rabbi Grunblatt contacted a long-time friend, Howard Cherish, President of the UJA-Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson. Prior to his current position, Cherish spent several years as director of the Argentina desk at the UJC. Frequent trips to Argentina gave him the opportunity to meet with Rabbi Grunblatt and the two formed a close friendship.

On his own, Grunblatt raised $5,000 for the procedure, and officials at the Joint Distribution Committee in Buenos Aires came through with an additional $2500. But the date for the surgery was fast approaching and the US embassy was denying Carolina a medical entry visa to the U.S. unless she could prove her ability to pay for the surgery.

Cherish and his assistant, Wallace Green, threw themselves to the task. “Individual fundraising appeals are not the norm here,” Green admits, “but this situation is very serious and a lot of people have been touched by it.”

The notion that Carolina’s surgery may be her only chance to bear children has moved to people to contribute generously to the campaign, he says. “An individual campaign touches people in a different way than a large scale appeal” and the response has been overwhelmingly generous.

Combined efforts of the Joint, Chabad of Argentina, and the UJA of Bergen County have so far brought in enough funds to guarantee the procedure and entry visas for Carolina and her parents. But the campaign--only one month old--is still very much alive in an effort to raise thousands more dollars still needed to fully cover the costs.

Grunblatt, who is coordinating the transfer of collected funds from Argentina and the U.S. to the family, and arranging for the family’s needs during their stay in the U.S., says he is hopeful the remainder of the money will be raised in time. “We have a good partnership going on here,” he says.

Wallace Green agrees. “This is a good example of community cooperation. “So often something that seems difficult to accomplish on our own can be so successful if we combine forces.”

Contributions to the Carolina Fund can be made in the US through the UJA Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson, 111 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge, NJ 07661. Credit card donations can be sent via email to

Reported by R. Wineberg

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