Nearly two weeks after our tour had ended, and after reading the words of Vicki, did I finaly understand why I had been so moved by our day together. On November 8th, 2011, I had the great privilege of guiding two of the most inspiring people I have ever met: Vicki and Fred Modell.
This couple, founders of the Jeffrey Modell Foundation (JMF) in honor of their son Jeffrey, may he rest in peace, were guests of the Sheba Hospital, in Israel to open a new Jeffrey Modell Research Center, one of 120 worldwide. Jeffrey passed away in 1986, at the tender age of 15, from Primary Immunodeficiency (PI). Since then, Vicki and Fred have dedicated their lives to the support of research and doctors that are looking for a cure for children suffering from PI. Her speech, delivered at Sheba Hospital, brought tears to my eyes.
“In 1986, at the age of 15, Jeffrey developed pneumocystis pneumonia. The pneumonia took his life, and he lost his fight. Throughout his life, Jeffrey would say to Fred and I, “Do something! You went to college. You’re smart!” And to his doctors he would say, “Do something! You’re smart. You went to medical school!” How heartbreaking it was to hear your child say that. Little did he know, his doctors and his parents did everything they could, but sadly, science had not caught up to Jeffrey.
When he died, he took with him our fear, our dread, our loneliness, our despair. But we could not let his life be in vain. We had to ‘do something’ to fulfill his unanswered prayers. So in the spirit of optimism and courage, Fred and I created the Jeffrey Modell Foundation – not in memory of his death, but in celebration of his life, and to give life.” – Vicki Modell
The JMF was created in order to ‘Do Something’. So in taking these remarkable people around Israel, our stops were clear. Our simple itinerary was focused on people that DID something in order to make the country what it is today. We visited Zichron Ya’acov to see how the first immigrants from Romania succeeded in building their lives in Israel with the support of Rothschild. We learned of the brave volunteers that risked their lives to save Jews in Hungary, like Hana Szenes. We learned of the courageous Sarah Aharonson and the underground network of spies she created in 1917. And I learned of Max Abrams, Vicki’s grandfather, calling American Jews to support the newborn state of Israel.
These places we visited, the stories we shared, were not of miracles. For 2000 years, the Jews of the world had hope (as in Israel’s national anthem ‘Hatikvah‘ – The Hope). But the Jewish homeland was born upon the backs of the people that DID something.
If we are to learn anything from Jeffrey’s legacy, it is this. Go out and DO SOMETHING!
Click here to learn more about the Jeffrey Modell Foundation.
Click here to learn more about the new JMF Research Center in Israel (Hebrew).