When Stefan came to America from Romania four years ago, he got a green card and found work as a handyman. Things were looking up—until he found out he had cancer. As a recent immigrant, he wasn’t eligible for Medicaid or other public benefits; unable to work, he lost his apartment. Homeless—and alone—he came to The ARK.
His ARK social worker arranged for Stefan to move into The ARK’s Sarnoff Levin Residence for the Homeless, and to see a doctor in our Medical Clinic. As the cancer progressed, Stefan sometimes needed to go to the hospital by ambulance. But on days when he was well enough, he attended the daily minyan and Torah classes, and The ARK became his family. “They adopted me,” he said proudly. When Stefan died last week, The ARK’s Rabbi Shlomo Tenenbaum officiated at his funeral.
The ARK was able to pay for the funeral and cemetery expenses, thanks to general donations from the community, along with financial support for burials from JUF’s Rabbinic Community Discretionary Fund. Even with support from JUF and the Chicago Board of Rabbis, The ARK pays tens of thousands of dollars each year for funerals.
The ARK has always made sure that Chicagoland Jews in need have dignified burials. While losing a client is always painful, it was particularly touching to discover that Stefan had listed Rabbi Tenenbaum and Dr. Vicki Hass, The ARK’s Clinical Director, as his “next of kin.”
“Except for the few people Stefan got to know here, he was alone in the world,” said Rabbi Tenenbaum. “But because of this support from the thousands of people who support our community, when he was buried, it’s as if all of us were there.”