I Have No Words 

22 Mar 2023

You’ve said it.   

I’ve said it.   

We’re overwhelmed and we encounter something so bizarre or so magnificent that the words don’t come. So, we say, “I have no words.” 

However, if you have pontocerebellar hypoplasia, a rare neurological disease, you never have words.   

Ever. You can’t talk. 

But you can still light up a room.  And yesterday, Chayah Rivkah lit up the room and my day. 

Chaya Rivkah Blank is 8 years old.  She’s restricted to a bed or a wheelchair.  I met Chaya and her mom, Tzivia, at Children’s Specialized Hospital, where Chaya’s been for 4 ½ months.  

The Blanks are from Boro Park, a long way from the hospital.  Tzivia spends as much time with Chaya during the week as possible, while still looking after her other three children and supportive husband, Aryeh, at night.  It’s not easy.  Leaving Chaya at the end of the day is hard. 

At the beginning of their stay, knowing OU-JLIC had a presence in nearby Rutgers University, Tzivia reached out for help.  Could anyone volunteer to visit Chaya in the late afternoons?  Could anyone keep this beautiful young lady, who silently sits with a smile, company? 

Meet Ahuvah Strauss, a Rutgers student and active member of OU-JLIC.  Under the guidance of OU-JLIC Director Rabbi Avi Schwartz, Ahuvah dove in.  Hard.

Ahuvah created a WhatsApp group of OU-JLIC students to sign up for visitation shifts.  In fact, many students not only visited Chaya, but stayed the night. 

I asked Ahuvah, “What did you do all night?” 

“I read to Chayah.  I sang to her.  I hummed. She loves songs.  My visit often ended with my saying ‘Modeh Ani’ to Chayah while she smiled.” 

 The Blanks hope that Chaya will be released by Pesach.  However, one can never be sure as the home setup necessary to support Chaya is complex.   

Volunteers to visit in the evenings (6-9PM) are still needed. Visits can be coordinated by calling Tzviva Blank at (718) 744-7127. 

Ahuvah and Chaya, two young women intricately connected without ever a normative conversation.  One hums a tune, and the other beams a smile. 

This is OU-JLIC at its best. I have no words. 

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.