How is Bambi’s tzedaka different from other non-profit organizations who help the poor?

Matan B’Seter Bambi helps people whose poverty is accentuated by a medical or social crisis. Because it is run primarily by volunteers, it has an unusually low overhead (less than 3%), thereby directing more money to the recipients. Bambi’s lifetime of connections make her uniquely positioned to help people, and her compassion and dignified approach to distributing her funds are legendary.

What gaps exist in Israeli government assistance to needy families?

The Israeli government provides some financial assistance to widows and single-parent families, but others must be declared 65% disabled in order to receive any government aid. Even then, (s)he only receives a certain amount each month which does not cover all expenses. It is very difficult to get qualified for government assistance. The person must file an appeal, often incurring the cost of a lawyer, and the process may take up to two years. Unemployment insurance is provided for a maximum 9 months. There is NO HELP, such as food stamps, for regular low income families. Instead, government social workers refer families to private organizations like Matan B’Seter Bambi!

Why do people in Israel require Bambi’s help for medical needs? Aren’t all medical expenses covered by Kupat Cholim, Israel’s socialized medicine program?

There are many gaps in Israel’s medical coverage. For example, physical and occupational therapy coverage is very limited and the cost of many important medications, such as diabetic, cardiac, and psychiatric medicines, is only partially covered by the government. Dental work is not covered, nor is medical equipment such as wheelchairs, eye glasses, and hearing aids.

How does Bambi find families in need?

Needy families find Matan B’Seter Bambi through referrals from government social workers, doctors, teachers, rabbis, and through Bambi’s own extensive fifty-year network of personal connections.  Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people in need: the Israeli National Insurance Institute reports that 25% of Israel’s population live under the poverty line, including 36% of all Israeli children. Surprisingly, 53% of these impoverished families are working poor.

What are the criteria Bambi uses to qualify families for assistance?

Most of Bambi’s families have a medical or social crisis: one or both parents are seriously ill, or they have children with chronic diseases, such as blindness, cystic fibrosis, juvenile diabetes, or cerebral palsy. Bambi also helps abused women and agunot.  Before receiving assistance, all families must provide documentation of their situation from extensive hospital records, social worker reports, or from doctors and reliable rabbinical referrals. From her distinguished fifty-year career as a nurse and chief midwife at Shaare Tzedek Hospital, Bambi has the expertise to distill the relevant medical facts from these records.

How does Bambi prioritize whom to help given limited resources?

Children and women are given the first priority.  Bambi’s assistance is used to meet basic human needs — such as food, rent, utilities, and medical care, when other conventional sources of support have been exhausted.

Is there a committee that decides whom to help?

Bambi consults with rabbinic advisors Rabbi Binyomin Finkel and Rabbi Moshe Eisenstein when deciding on which families to help and regarding other important decisions. Rabbi Finkel is a Rosh Mesivta at the Mir Yeshiva and great-grandson of the saintly Rabbi Aryeh Levin. Rabbi Eisenstein is a respected dayan and expert in Jewish monetary matters. Bambi also works with Rachel Barzel, her financial administrator and government liaison.

How does Bambi monitor the families’ situation?

Every year each family receives a letter requesting new information which is reviewed to determine if they still qualify for assistance.

How many families does Matan B’Seter Bambi help? What is the annual budget?

Matan B’Seter Bambi helps 400 families monthly, plus an additional 600 families for Pesach and Sukkot. The annual budget is limited only by the money raised — there are many qualified families who remain without any assistance on Bambi’s “waiting list” until additional funds can be raised. Bambi distributes approximately $1.3 million annually.

What is the average monthly amount a family receives?

The average assistance is $200/month but can be as much as $1250/month in special cases.

What is the amount of time that families need assistance?

The range of time varies widely — some families need only short term assistance or have a one-time need, but other families require help for many years.

Does Bambi provide non-financial assistance to families?

Bambi often arranges for pro-bono medical care. She also distributes donated baby clothing. In addition, she works with two gemachs. One gemach is a no-interest lending fund backed by loan guarantors from which people can borrow money for housing, medical needs, weddings, etc. The other gemach funds education and job training.

What are some special projects that Bambi would initiate if she raised additional funds?

If fundraising increases, Bambi would re-start her Emergency Fund to help people with one time needs, such as the purchase of a new refrigerator or buying tefillin for a Bar Mitzvah boy. Bambi would also like to set up a Special Needs Fund dedicated to helping children with autism, cerebral palsy, and Down Syndrome with their prescriptions, diagnostic testing, psychotherapy, and medical equipment.