A letter from Mallika Viswanath
My name is Mallika Viswanath.
I am currently on a gap year in Israel, spending time focusing on Jewish studies at Midreshet Nishmat in Jerusalem, before starting Princeton University this coming fall. When I decided to take a year off, my plan had been to enhance my studies in the Torah and Talmud, while traveling and exploring the land. I was also looking forward to visit my family that lives in Israel, perhaps spend a few weekends with them.
However, when my uncle Chaim, who lives in Israel, was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, nearly eight months ago, I knew that my gap year would take on a slightly different meaning. ALS is characterized by the progressive degeneration of the neurons controlling the motor muscles, while leaving the intellectual abilities unaffected. For this reason, the disease is also known as “locked-in syndrome.” As ALS takes its course, limb movement, swallowing, speech and breathing are gradually affected in no particular order, and patients in the later stages of the disease usually become totally paralyzed.
I decided, therefore, to make an extra effort to visit them. Thankfully, I have already had the opportunity to spend much time there, celebrating Rosh Hashana and Sukkos with them, as well as visiting several other weekends.
On all of my visits, I am moved by the care and devotion my family and their friends show my uncle. He has always been very selfless, helping others in numerous ways. Their house has always been open to guests, and his kindness to strangers is admirable. When he became sick, many people came to offer their services to my family, as part of their community unity.
Due to their constant help, he has been able to stay at home, despite the many complications his disease presents. Inspired by them, I have been looking for ways to help, other than by merely visiting them. When I heard about the Jerusalem Marathon that will take place on March 1, I immediately signed up for the 10k race and decided to raise money for an organization that has truly helped my uncle during this difficult time – IsrALS, an Israeli organization that raises awareness of, and helps families affected by, ALS.
IsrALS has been a big help to my family. My uncle’s type of ALS is a vigorous one, thereby requiring (like for any ALS patient) many supplies and much medical attention, as well as being very time-consuming and emotionally draining for everyone involved. IsrALS has been providing my family (and other families affected by ALS) with physical and psychological assistance, timely information and help when there’s a problem, as well as advising in difficult decisions and scheduling speedy appointments with otherwise booked doctors. In addition, they always make sure that families don’t spend unnecessary money on unproven, extravagant therapies. IsrALS also raises public awareness of the disease and supports critical pioneering research.
Please consider supporting me by donating to this worthy cause to help my family and the broader ALS community, as well as keeping Chaim Yitzchok ben Gitl in your prayers.
I appreciate any help you can give.
For US tax-deductible contributions of at least $25 you may send a check (earmarked for IsrA.L.S) payable to P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc., 317 Madison Avenue, Suite 607, New York, NY 10017