Fulfilling the Mitzvah of Bikkur Cholim


Emily Wasserman - Fulfilling the Mitzvah of <i>Bikkur Cholim</I>


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Emily Wasserman - the Youngest Volunteer

By Lindsey M. Brothers

Thirteen-year old Emily Wasserman has met and socialized with Fortune 500 senior VIP's, escorted Congressional leaders and military generals, regularly talked with military officers, but, most important to her, she has shown compassion towards injured Service Members and their families at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.

As Emily's friends spent their afternoons participating in sports and dance class, Emily traveled to the National Naval Medical Center on a regular basis in fulfilling the mitzvah of bikkur cholim - visiting the sick and injured. She became a regular volunteer with the Armed Forces Foundation (AFF) and quickly earned the status of AFF's youngest and most dedicated volunteer.

Emily compassionately visited one on one with severely injured patients and their families and made sure they knew their service was appreciated. Emily's desire to volunteer with the AFF sparked when she considered different organizations to volunteer with to complete part of her Bat Mitzvah requirements.

"I was drawn to the Foundation because I wanted to fulfill a mitzvah of visiting the sick and injured while also serving my country. There are many ways to support our Service Members during this turbulent time and my way was to personally show them compassion and appreciation. I wanted to be patriotic and fulfill a mitzvah at the same time," explained Emily.

Emily didn't just visit with the patients, she wanted to do more which drove her to raise $7,000 for the AFF to assist Service Members and military families in need as well as a hefty collection of care package items to be sent to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"When I met Emily I knew she was a kid that meant business. She never missed our regular dinner parties with the patients and I was impressed to learn that she was raising money and collecting care package items on the side," explained Armed Forces Foundation President, Patricia Driscoll. "Some of these heroes spend day after day in the hospital with no family to care and support them. It is up to us and volunteers like Emily to make it known that America does care."

AFF's youngest volunteer made clear that, "it is not easy seeing the patients in the condition they are in." Emily experienced the sight of open wounds, empty eye sockets, missing limbs, fresh stitches, and the emotional pain many of the patients and family members exhibited.

"This was the hardest part of my project because the soldiers have injuries that require surgery, hospitalization, and physical therapy... I told them that I thought they were very brave and that I appreciated their service to our country. I got nervous and had trouble speaking to them because their injuries were so severe. They had prosthetic legs and arms...sometimes the soldiers couldn't hear me because their eardrums had been injured by explosions at close range, so I talked to their parents instead. Even though I was nervous while at the Naval Medical Center, I felt good about fulfilling the mitzvah of bikkur cholim...This part of my project has changed me forever."

Emily's father, Dr. Jay Wasserman, escorted her each time to the hospital and also became a regular volunteer.

"I had a strong interest in becoming a volunteer for the AFF because I hadn't served in Vietnam since my lottery number was high. However, I have always wanted to serve and felt the need to give something back to my country. Despite monetary contributions our family made, I wanted to give more of myself which brought me to spend quality time with these brave men and women and their families. They thanked me for being there but it was the least I could do for these families that sacrificed so much for our country."

Emily encouraged her classmates to become involved in supporting the troops, especially those injured by writing "thank you" and "get well" cards for them. Emily managed to get a grocery bag full of cards which she then turned over to the AFF to distribute to Service Members overseas, patients at Landsthul Hospital in Germany, patients at Walter Reed, as well as patients at the National Naval Medical Center.

Although Emily recently completed her Bat Mitzvah requirements at B'nei Israel in Rockville, MD including her volunteer project with the AFF, she has already taken on the responsibility of continuing to support the Foundation and America's troops with her regular visits to the National Naval Medical Center.

The Armed Forces Foundation, which is based out of Washington, D.C., works to promote the morale, welfare, and quality of life of the Unites States Armed Forces community. Since 2001, the AFF has given away millions of dollars to the military community by paying lodging expenses at the Navy Lodge, making homes handicapped accessible for injured Vets, purchasing plane tickets for families visiting an injured loved one in the hospital, providing gifts for children of military families during the holidays, paying bills, and much more.


from the August 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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