Shuk Machane Pittsburgh aids Jerusalem’s destitute by supporting local small business

Shuk Machane Pittsburgh aids Jerusalem’s destitute by supporting local small business

The father, who was diagnosed with brain cancer and needed radiation and chemotherapy, couldn’t work. His wife couldn’t keep up financially, and they fell behind on their mortgage.

A young mother of four needed special surgery, only available outside Israel, to save her leg from amputation.

A wife had to quit her job as a teacher to care for her husband with Parkinson’s disease.

All of these families and many more had situations that required help beyond what the Israeli national health insurance provider was able to offer. They turned to an organization called Matan B’Seter Bambi, which recently held a fundraiser here in Pittsburgh.

Matan B’Seter Bambi provides financial assistance to hundreds of Jerusalem families whose needs fall outside of the Israeli government programs. The recipients are suffering from a medical condition or social crisis: widows or widowers, single-parent families, families with children who have serious or chronic illnesses.

This international organization is run completely by volunteers. Across the United States and North America, in South America, Europe and South Africa, volunteers are quietly raising money. There are no slick brochures, no massive mailings, no persistent phone calls, no expensive advertising, no costly offices. Virtually 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to the needy.

Matan B’Seter means anonymous giving. The organization was started, and is run, by Rebbetzin Rachel Bamberger Chalkowski, universally known as Bambi and formerly a nurse and chief midwife at Shaare Tzedek Hospital.

Aviva Fort, a young mother of two and married to a Pittsburgher, moved here from Israel. Chalkowski’s husband, Rabbi Moshe Chalkowski, the rosh yeshiva of Neve Yerushalayim, was Fort’s rabbinic adviser. Fort explains that she “used to go to their very humble home. I was there when people would come knocking all the time asking for help. I know who [Bambi] is; I know that what she is doing is real.”

When Fort realized that Pittsburgh had no local support for Matan B’Seter Bambi, she sprang into action.

“I decided to talk to everybody I know who had small businesses. A lot of the small businesses don’t yet have an audience; they’re striving to make it. They don’t yet have a place to ‘be known.’ I figured, why not make an event to support our small businesses and support Jerusalem’s poor.”

Fort called the event Shuk Machane Pittsburgh, and it was held at Shaare Torah Congregation on Sunday, Sept. 6. A combination raffle and boutique (with vendors selling everything from ice cream to jewelry and books to clothes), 11 local vendors displayed their wares and also donated an object or service to be raffled off. A percentage of the proceeds went to the charity.

“Almost everybody I asked came on board,” said Fort. “It is a merit for me to bring this merit to the community of Pittsburgh.”

Simone Shapiro can be reached at