A message to parents: the gift of being “normal”

In the kitchen of a small, old Israeli apartment, two bearded men get themselves another cup of coffee before returning to their nightly Torah learning.

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Chana Phillip
Chana Phillip
צילום: Vaad HaRabbanim

In the kitchen of a small, old Israeli apartment, two bearded men get themselves another cup of coffee before returning to their nightly Torah learning. The men do not live here, in fact a week ago they had never heard of this family in their lives.

But the building where they typically meet was undergoing construction, and mother of 7 Mrs. Chana Phillips insisted that they open up her home to as many men as they could host. The weather outside was harsh, and she was more than happy to give of her own privacy & space to enable Torah learning.

In the freezer, several meals sat waiting to go to women in the neighborhood after birth. They were poor, but Mrs. Phillips had a talent for turning cheap ingredients into delicious family meals.

Of all of her remarkable generosity, however, there was one gift she gave to her children which was more profound and subtle than any other: The gift of normalcy.

Unbeknownst to her children and neighbors, Chana was suffering from brain cancer. She managed to undergo her treatments and severe illness without ever withdrawing from her duties as a mother. She didn’t want them to worry. Above all, she wanted them to have the chance to be normal children.

The time came this month when they had to tell the 7 Phillips kids the truth: Chana needed to be admitted to the hospital, and doctors did not think that she would come out. She smiled and sat up for pictures as her 2-year-old, a blonde and blue-eyed little boy sat on her lap. Just days later, she passed away at just 40 years old.

Rabbi Phillips has now had the horrific experience of burying his young wife, and comforting the motherless children she has left behind. Added to this is the financial stress: For three years, Chana was unable to work as she fought her silent battle. Hospital trip after hospital trip, their savings slipped away and debt overcame them. There is no money for school, clothing, books, food, or rent. They are desperately poor.

Donations are now being collected to help the Phillip family, to continue to give the Phillip children the gift that Chana fought so hard to give them for three years: A safe, normal, happy life.

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