About the Founder
Rachel Bamberger Chalkowski, affectionately known as Bambi, is the legendary midwife of Jerusalem. Over her distinguished fifty-year career at Shaare Tzedek Hospital, she has delivered more than 40,000 babies. However, Bambi’s concern for families extends far beyond the delivery room, and she has devoted her life to to helping Israeli families in crisis.
Bambi herself is no stranger to the struggle for survival. As a child in France, Bambi fled from the Nazis and spent the war in hiding. After the war, her family was “adopted” by an American family whose generosity kept them afloat.
Bambi immigrated to Israel by herself when she was still a teenager. There she began a lifetime of service devoted to her people- first as a nurse and chief midwife at Shaare Tzedek, and later as the tireless force behind the tzedaka that she founded, Matan B’Seter Bambi.
About the Organization
It all started with a phone call from friends in Lucerne, Switzerland during the Yom Kippur War (1973). Everyone was frightened by the direction that the war had taken and wanted to do something for Israel.
Bambi suggested they start a small tzedaka project because, as it says, charity saves a person from death. Their small community decided to adopt three Israeli families who were in great financial need by giving them the equivalent of 100 dollars each month. This was the beginning of the organization ‘Matan B’Seter (anonymous giving) Bambi.’
Fundraising for Israeli families in need spread from Lucerne to Milan, to Antwerp, then London, and eventually to New York. Today, there are many fundraising chapters throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and Israel.
Matan B’Seter Bambi’s current annual budget of $1.3 million helps over 400 Israeli families monthly (with an additional 600 families receiving help before the holidays) who are not only impoverished, but who are undergoing severe medical or social crises.
People are referred to us by Rabbis, doctors, and social workers. We are careful to review each person’s medical and social documents before offering assistance, and we monitor our families for changes in their circumstances. In complex cases, we seek rabbinical guidance and our tzedaka has been endorsed by many prominent rabbis. The amazing thing about Matan B’Seter Bambi is the modesty and dignity with which the money is collected and distributed.
Our families include widows and single parent families, adults and children with debilitating illnesses, (such as blindness, cardiac conditions, psychiatric disorders, cystic fibrosis, juvenile diabetes, autism, and cerebral palsy.) We also help abused women and agunot (abandoned wives).
Our families cannot afford even the basic necessities of life– food, rent, and utilities–let alone the extra costs of their medical care. For example, the cost of many important medications are not totally covered by the National Health Insurance. Dental work is also not covered, nor is medical equipment such as eye glasses, hearing aids, and wheelchairs.
We do our utmost to keep our overhead very low. Almost all of our work is done by volunteers. We work from our homes, saving the expense of an office. Out of the total donations, only 3-4% is used to cover mailing and professional accounting services.