The Shmooze

A (Jewish) Solar Solution to Maternal Mortality

By Masha Leon

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The Jewish Women’s of New York Foundation’s 18th Benefit Luncheon at The Plaza honored writer-journalist Marilyn Berger, “Pulmonologist Dr. Marion Bergman, and investment maven Carol Eininger.

Moderated by broadcast journalist Paula Zahn, the “Chai” celebration touted its [to date] over 100 organizations and $3 million in grants that have helped transform the lives of Israeli, Ethiopian and American women.

Keynote speaker and JWFNY grantee Dr. Laura Stachel, co-founder and executive director of We Care Solar, mesmerized the guests with her amazing recitative: “ I am a doctor, an obstetrician…. following a back injury, began studying maternal care.” Her description of her 2008 “encounter with emergency obstetric care in Nigeria” was akin to a horror story. Observing the “state hospital’s labor room” she was appalled by the lack of reliable electricity. “I watched as midwives struggled to deliver mothers by kerosene lanterns or tried to start intravenous lines by candlelight…surgeries by ambient light from windows” and “C-sections as lights went out at night…. I knew I had to do something about it.”

Karen Leon
Dr. Laura Stachel

Her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar educator, responded to her mails from Africa. “The idea was to create a system that would require minimal maintenance, allow emergency obstetric care 24 hours a day…. It was his design…. We created “The Solar Suitcase” — a stand-alone solar electric system that would allow emergency obstetric care 24 hours a day. Thanks to donors like JWFNY, our programs he been able to expand to Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia and Tanzania.. Within one year maternal mortality has descreased 70% in one hospital in Nigeria.”

During the post-lunch panel discussion moderated by Zahn, honorees Berger — who had adopted a severely crippled boy she found on a street in Addis Ababa whom she refers to as her “personal miracle” — Marion Bergman— who serves as a trustee for the Global Child Dental Fund AJWS (American Jewish World Service) and Physicians for Human Rights, and Carol Eininger, whose many “hats” include Director and member of the Investment Committee of UJA-Federation — compared notes on their emergence as powerful women in what had been a totally man’s world.

There were welcoming remarks by JWFNY president Marilyn Gottlieb. Benefit luncheon co-chairs were: Madeleine Grant, Klara Silverstein and Lynn Tobias.


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