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Keren Yosef was founded by Mrs. Doris Mainzer z”l in 1999. What caused a retired Jewish-studies teacher and grandmother to start a project that would save thousands of lives?

When Mrs. Doris Mainzer, known to her friends and associates simply as Doris, immigrated to Israel from her London hometown in 1996 to join her two daughters living there, she had no idea that within a few short years she would be affecting some of Israel’s most important institutions saving countless lives. The former Jewish studies teacher and her husband Joe z”l had plans only to retire and be close to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Unfortunately, Joe z”l fell ill shortly after arriving in Israel. At one point there were times he needed to be transported to the hospital by ambulance. Doris noted that often it would take the ambulance nearly an hour to arrive after being called. “But what if this had been a real emergency??” she would ask the ambulance crews. Beit Shemesh, with its growing population, only had two ambulances on call in the area at that time. If both ambulances were already out on calls, an ambulance would be dispatched from Jerusalem when one would become available. If someone collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest or needed urgent care when there were no ambulances available in the area, by the time help arrived it would often be too late.

Doris realized this and after her husband’s passing, she decided to take action - and thus, Keren Yosef was established in his memory.

Keren Yosef’s first goal was recruiting Beit Shemesh citizens to become certified as emergency medical technicians and to provide them with lifesaving kits and communication devices. Working tirelessly, turning to the organizations and the community while starting a fund-raising campaign to make it all possible, Beit Shemesh soon had its very own first-response unit. Emergency calls were being answered withing minutes, lives were being saved. Through her tenacious dedication, she had succeeded in building an infrastructure for Beit Shemesh’s first-responders that has become a model for localities all over Israel.

But Doris didn’t stop there.

As the realization of how much could be done to save more lives dawned, a campaign was started, and Doris didn’t rest until each goal achieved. Keren Yosef soon became an address for the organizations themselves to turn to when they needed help with funding essential lifesaving equipment.

The various safety campaigns targeting different aspects of home and community life began showing results as story after story about lives being saved began to pour in, Keren Yosef also became known for saving lives by prevention in Beit Shemesh and beyond.

Despite speaking almost no Hebrew and being a new immigrant, Doris was able to gain the attention of some of the nation’s most influential decision-makers and received many letters, including letters of commendation from Israel’s President. Only months before she passed away, she arranged a personal meeting with the then Minister of Health, Danny Naveh, to discuss further expansion of Keren Yosef’s efforts.

“Doris is the ideal example of the tremendous impact which one person can have on an entire community – if they commit themselves” says local firefighter Natan Sultan.

Reuven Harow, a medic and local Magen David Adom coordinator who worked closely with Doris, described her simply as ‘an enabler’: “She could allow you to realize your potential like no one else. She would give you an assignment, and if you agreed to work with her – fine. If not – she would go on to the next person until the job was done. She was never afraid to ask for help and she was also never afraid to do the job herself.”

“Doris was unique in that she was a ‘people person’,” says Mrs. Sarah Sterzer, a Keren Yosef board member and a close friend of Doris z”l. “She knew how to relate to people, she was warm, she was caring, she was devoted and charismatic – and that is how she was able to do what she did… people were very taken by her presence and her demeanor.”

Yet according to her daughter Gina Kirsch, who has assumed the responsibilities of running the organization, her mother’s most lasting attribute was her humility. “My mother was constantly on the lookout for opportunities to help people. She would never be satisfied with what’s been done already. There are new and original ways to make people’s lives better and more secure; and she would make sure to find them.”

Doris passed away on Tu B'Shvat 5765, January 25th 2005, but her memory – and her legacy – live on.

לעילוי נשמת מרת דבורה בת ר' אליעזר ז"ל

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