Pamela Becker

Oryan’s story

Oryan as a boy dancing with his mom (from a family album)

Closing the Circle of Giving

Oryan Hassidim*, a third-year computer engineering student at Hebrew University, writes about coming full circle from a child who received community-based support to a graduate giving back to that same community. Fifteen years ago, when his mother fell ill with cancer, Oryan participated in Jeremy’s Circle events, and now, has returned to the organization as a volunteer. 

As I reflect on my childhood days in Jerusalem, special memories awaken within me. We had an active and energetic childhood until a family event redirected our lives onto a different path. My mother is an amazing woman who managed the family and the household with tremendous positive energy. She was very present in my childhood, full of joy, dancing and laughing at home, and active at the schools where my three siblings and I studied. She was a teacher, so her vacations were synced with ours, and she was always around when we were at home. 

Oryan and his siblings at an early Jeremy’s Circle event (family album)

Something changed in our home when I was in fourth grade when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Our parents, who wanted to soften this frightening word and its terrible connotations, preferred to use the term “growth,” but still managed to involve us in the process and help us understand what was happening. During that time, my mother suffered from pain and became weaker. There was less dancing and jumping, and generally, she had less time and energy to be with us. During vacations, we sometimes went to sleep at our uncles’ houses to give our parents some time to rest. She had several surgeries and chemotherapy caused her hair loss and even more weakness, but despite everything, she coped with the situation with her impressive mental strength. The illness affected her, and in fact, it affected our entire family and changed the course of our lives. Today, I can say that although it was not an easy time, my parents invested a lot to help us get through it with as much dignity and as many smiles as possible. 

During the time my mother struggled with cancer, we joined Jeremy’s Circle and participated in their activities. In 2008, when Jeremy’s Circle was first established, it was a very small and intimate community. The feeling was wonderful. We could participate in all sorts of activities that otherwise would have been out of the question because our parents were too busy simply coping with the disease. Everything was taken care of – a fun and interesting venue, transportation, and of course, food and snacks. The volunteers thought of everything for us. In addition, of course, we received the organization’s t-shirt and white cap with the green logo, the symbols of Jeremy’s Circle. Participating in Jeremy’s Circle events became an integral part of our family’s coping and healing process, and the feeling of warmth and care accompanied us over the years and even today.

My mother eventually recovered, and we returned to our original family lifestyle…almost. Although we left disease behind us, my mother remained weaker than before. Time passed: I finished elementary school and high school, studied in a hesder yeshiva, served in the combat engineering corps in the IDF, and started studying computer engineering at the Hebrew University. Then we found out that the cancer had returned. Now, I am much more involved with my mother’s care. Along with my studies that continue to be very intensive, and perhaps precisely because of them, I needed something else and sought out volunteer opportunities. 

Oryan serving in reserves in Gaza (credit: Ari Portnoi)

During the first two years of my studies, I volunteered mainly through the university in areas related to education and learning assistance. But something inside me needed something else. The Jeremy’s Circle cap and t-shirt still peeking at me from my closet reminded me of this wonderful group. I wanted to return to the organization and give back.

I discovered that those same good people that I remembered from my childhood are still supporting the community that has now grown to over 1000 families. I was excited to join my first event as a volunteer – an event that took place on October 6th, 2024. I arrived after a sleepless night of Hoshana Rabbah, full of positive energy and joy. Of course, I received another cap and a bigger T-shirt… It was exciting and joyful to be back at Jeremy’s Circle, to meet as an adult those people who in my childhood were there for me. This time I was on the other side giving to children and parents. Seeing the children and families participating in the event, enjoying themselves, and being able to disconnect a little from the exhausting routine that cancer brings was amazing for me. The morning after, we all woke up to the terrible war that broke out on October 7th. I was called to reserve duty and served four months. Now I have returned, started my third year of studies, and returned as a volunteer to the teen Purim event in March

Oryan, together with other Jeremy’s Circle volunteers at the recent Purim teen event

Volunteering at Jeremy’s Circle not only benefits the families who come to the events but also allows me to remember and discover what satisfies the members. Seeing a child with a challenging childhood experience break into a smile and forget for a moment his struggle is wonderful. Seeing the parents finally have a little time for themselves to breathe and unwind instead of dealing with all the disruptions of their medical and parental challenges is incredible. It makes me happy to see how Jeremy’s Circle impacts the children and parents and I recognize how they influenced me as a child. For me to return to Jeremy’s Circle as an adult is an opportunity to give back and to complete the circle of giving.

*Oryan Hassidim volunteers with Jeremy’s Circle, an Israeli registered nonprofit organization offering community-based support for children and teens coping with cancer or cancer loss in their young families, to give them the childhood they deserve. Visit the website to learn more about the organization and/or sign up for the Passover activity on April 19, 2024.

About the Author
Originally from New York, Pamela Becker has enjoyed a long career as a marketing executive for some of Israel's leading technology companies including WhizzCo, ironSource, and SafeCharge (acquired by nuvei). After she was widowed with three small children in 2008, Pamela co-founded and remains the active chairperson of the Israeli charity Jeremy's Circle, which supports children and teens coping with cancer or cancer loss in their young families. She earned a BA in Writing Seminars from The Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from Tel Aviv University. Her debut novel Memoirs of a False Messiah was published in 2019. Pamela lives with her husband and their five children in Tel Aviv.
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