Coinciding with a month of events nationwide shining a light on breast cancer, its toll on countless families, and the research being done to combat it, several hundred women in suburban New York are gathering at a local synagogue for the chance to honor relatives of friends affected by the disease.

The inaugural Journey for a Purpose event at the Sephardic Temple in Cedarhurst will raise funds for the Circle of Hope, a new project of the Chabad-Lubavitch Center for Jewish Life in nearby Merrick that aims to increase support for breast cancer patients and survivors, raise community awareness, and provide aid to families in need. Oncologist Dr. Ruth Oratz will address the Oct. 25 event, which will also feature a performance from 17-year-old rising singer Julien Harris.

Circle of Hope, in partnership with women-focused non-profit Sharsheret, looks to help women with breast cancer and their families, providing financial, emotional and educational assistance so they can focus on recovery. The Cedarhurst evening will follow by a day a Feminine Link Breast Cancer Awareness Dinner in South Florida sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch of Fort Lauderdale.


Gail Stamler of Merrick got involved because her husband was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

“We financially lost a lot, and Chabad came to our house,” she said. “Chabad helped my son go to camp, they helped us get food and helped me do the paperwork.”

Now she’s on board for the project, helping her friend Cindy Knoll and giving back to the community in a way that means people receiving treatment won’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from or if their kids’ needs are being met.

“We’re taking the worry away from the person who’s going through this,” she said. “They have enough on their plate and should concentrate on healing, becoming well and having an amazing life.”

For Knoll, herself a breast cancer survivor, getting involved was a natural progression. She’d helped out at the Chabad Center’s Chanukah event and Purim party when she and Chani Kramer, co-director of the center, decided a woman’s night event was in order.

“And then it just escalated,” explained Knoll.

Among the services they’re aiming to offer are hair and makeup, a wig bank for women to borrow and donate wigs, support groups and summer camp assistance for the kids.

“I just wanted to be the party planner for this thing, because I think it could raise a lot of money,” said Knoll.

Rabbi Shimon Kramer said that breast cancer awareness is a big communal need.

“Everybody here has a friend, mother or sister who is affected,” he said. “We felt it needed extra attention. There’s nothing more important than saving a life.”

Merrick resident Nancy Iscowitz, who is volunteering with the program ahead of the kickoff, said she’s impressed by the collective efforts of the community members and also the Chabad staff.

“What they’re doing is extraordinarily amazing,” she said. “It’s from the heart. They’re just giving to help people who are having hard times.”