Aishel House, a project of Chabad at Texas Medical Center,, will be honoring three outstanding volunteers on Sunday, October 31. The event is to be a 10:30am brunch at the center, 1955 University Blvd.
Allan and Joyce Camhi will be acknowledged as volunteers of the year and Dr. Jordan Gutterman will be presented with the Rofeh Yedid award.
Born in Guatemala, Allan Camhi reflects, “When I turned 19, I had a plan to go to Israel for half a year. Three months before the trip my family got an early morning call. My older brother, who was studying in Mexico, had been in a car accident and was suspended between life and death.
“Our lives were turned upside down. I canceled my trip, and for the next five months my parents and I were with my brother, first in Monterey, Mexico, where he went through many difficult operations, and then in Houston, where he was transferred for rehabilitation.
“I first met Rabbi Lazer Lazaroff (director of Aishel House) when he visited us at Methodist Hospital. Over time, we grew close. I was all by myself here and we would spend many hours talking. My brother’s accident really had an impact on my life. I was looking for meaning and eventually we started learning together.”
Allan got involved with the work Aishel House was doing. He would deliver meals to the hospitals and was of particular help with patients from Latin America who apoke no English. He would translate and help them acclimate. A graduate of Louisiana State University Allan is in the Latin American sales department for BMC software in Houston.
Allan’s wife, Joyce, grew up in Colombia and Miami. She adds, “When I met Allan, the volunteering work he did for Aishel House was a part of his life, so it was natural for me to get involved as well. Once I moved here, I told them that I was available whenever they needed help. They would call me to bring over dinners, or to take people to or from the airport. I guess I learned this from my mom; her home always had an open door. In Columbia, whenever there was a wedding, everybody in the community would help out by cooking some of the food, since we didn’t have a kosher caterer. Even though our apartment [in Houston] was small, we constantly had guests over for Shabbat and holidays”.
Shortly before Allen and Joyce’s wedding, his mother, Michel, was diagnosed with cancer. Grateful for the help they received from Aishel House, Allan says,They were always looking out for us, giving us meals. The day my mother was getting diagnosed she had to be in the hospital all day, and I was not able to be with her. Rochel Lazaroff went to the hospital and stayed all day with my mom.”
Allan says his essential duty to “make things a little easier for people coming from the outside… I know what it is to be alone… Seriously, I’m becoming addicted to helping people. There’s a true satisfaction you get when you help smooth the way for someone.”
Dr. Gutterman is a professor and chief of section of cellular and molecular growth regulation at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The name “Rofeh Yedid” means Doctor-Friend. “Dr. Gutterman is renowned in his field for his cutting edge cancer research and has been a true friend to Aishel House and to the many patients and their families who have come through its doors,” says Rabbi Lazer Lazaroff. “Despite his heavy workload, he always makes himself available with suggestions, guidance and wise counsel.”
“One of the problems in high powered medicine is the detachment from family; the uprooting to come to a city like Houston,” explains Dr. Gutterman. “But for these people, not only do they have Aishel House in close proximity – right by the medical center, but they have these incredible human beings by their side, which I think is pretty unique. It must actually play a role in helping them heal. It has to,” he concludes.
The community is invited to participate in the brunch which will also pay tribute to the many volunteers who have helped out at various times throughout the year. “It is through their work, every one pitching in a little, that Aishel House is able to make a difference for so many people,” says Rochel. “The Brunch is also an opportunity for those who want to find out more about the work that Aishel House does to see how they too can be a part of it.”