Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg
Adversity: Lost his young daughter to Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
Advocacy: Founded Kids Kicking Cancer to teach cancer-stricken children the healing themes of martial arts
“When people have a sense of purpose, they have control, which can lessen anxiety and offer empowerment.”
Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, fondly known as “Rabbi G,” lost his 2-year-old daughter, Sara, to Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in the early 1980s. When she was fighting her disease, she would tell the 5-year-old kids in the clinic not to cry. When she was having reactions to chemo, she would assure her father, “It’s OK Abba (Daddy in Hebrew). I love you.” Today, ALL is a very curable disease with an 88 percent survival rate. But Rabbi G isn’t frustrated by the timing of his daughter’s diagnosis. “The bone marrow transplant given at that time was too toxic for a little girl, but researchers learned a lot from those early days and now other people are surviving.”
Rabbi G, an orthodox rabbi with a black belt in the Korean art of Choi Kwang Do and a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine, keeps his daughter’s memory alive through the nonprofit he founded, Kids Kicking Cancer. The mantra of the organization is “Power. Peace.Purpose.” Specially trained black belt martial artists teach kids the basics of martial arts, as well as the group’s trademarked “Breath Brake,” where kids use breathing techniques to “bring in light and push out darkness” to manage pain.
Rabbi G is currently writing a book titled “A Perfect God…Created an Imperfect World…Perfectly” that will include 30 life lessons/meditations based on kids with cancer. In one lesson, he writes about his own daughter and shares, “There comes a point when it is important to realize that we don’t really write the scripts in our lives. Our greatness is determined by how we respond to that script.”