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Atlanta, GA - Orthodox Rabbi Who Aids Cancer-Stricken Kids One Of CNN’s Ten 2014 Heroes

Published on: October 2, 2014 12:15 PM
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In this Sept. 22, 2014 photo Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg is seen with cancer stricken children teaching them pain management techniques. (Courtesy)Atlanta, GA - A Detroit rabbi has been named as one of ten all stars in an annual award winning competition highlighting everyday people who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place.

Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, whose Kids Kicking Cancer helps children undergoing treatment with pain management techniques, is one of ten people announced this morning as a 2014 Hero by CNN. 

The CNN Heroes program began in 2007 and the yearly program shines the spotlight on those individuals whose extraordinary effort benefits others.  Each of the ten nominees will receive $25,000 and will be honored at a globally broadcast tribute filmed at the American Museum of Natural History to be aired on December 7th. The winner, chosen by public vote, will receive an additional $100,000 for their cause.

As previously reported on VIN News, Rabbi Goldberg is the rabbi emeritus at the Young Israel of Southfield and a former rebbi at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles. His experience with childhood cancer began 35 years ago when his then one year old daughter Sara was diagnosed with leukemia, but the notion of using martial arts breathing techniques began several years later when Rabbi Goldberg, then the head counselor of Camp Simcha, happened upon a child screaming in a hospital during a chemo-therapy session.


“The nurses were trying to access his port and were trying to distract him,” Rabbi Goldberg told VIN News.  “They were holding him down and he was screaming as they came at his with this huge syringe.  I just yelled ‘Wait!’ and everything stopped.  I asked the nurses for five minutes with the boy. I had no clue what to do next.”

A black belt in karate, Rabbi Goldberg offered to teach the small patient a simple breathing technique.

“I told him that pain is a message you don’t have to listen to and I showed him how to breathe in this amazing energy and blow out the pain,” recalled Rabbi Goldberg.

As Rabbi Goldberg continued to help the boy, a five year old from Texas with basic tai chi breathing, the nurses began the chemotherapy.  The effort was so successful that they boy didn’t even realize that the treatment had begun.

“And that is how Kids Kicking Cancer was born,” said Rabbi Goldberg, who is known by his young wards as “Rabbi G.”

Kids Kicking Cancer has spread worldwide, with programs in major children’s hospitals in New York, California, Michigan as well as Canada, Israel and Italy, which uses Kids Kicking Cancer at the Vatican Children’s Hospital.

“Just imagine, you have a Rabbi teaching Eastern meditative techniques at the Vatican,” noted Rabbi Goldberg wryly.

As part of the nomination process, CNN producers visited Rabbi Goldberg in Detroit, arriving during a Skype session with a ten year old cancer patient from South Africa whose parents had originally been told that he had an untreatable tumor.

“The doctors told the family just to give him palliative care but his parents weren’t happy about that and they contacted me,” said Rabbi Goldberg.

Rabbi Goldberg reached out to Dr. John Finley, a colleague at UCLA, who reviewed the boy’s records and discovered that he was misdiagnosed and that his tumor was indeed treatable.

“He was getting his first round of chemo and it was very heavy, tearing his stomach apart,” reported Rabbi Goldberg.  “We starting Skyping and working on meditation and in the first ten minutes his pain went from a 6.5 to a 2.  He was beaming and you could see the change in him.  People bring in the power of light, their neshama, and it helps them ease the heavy burden of darkness that is all too easily associated with chemotherapy.”

The entire episode was captured by the CNN producers.  As the film crew was leaving, Rabbi Goldberg asked them who nominated him to the Heroes program.

“They told me it was someone named Amanda Leibowitz from Irvine, who said that she didn’t know me very well but had been introduced to me by another woman,” said Rabbi Goldberg.

While the producers did not know the name of that woman, Rabbi Goldberg made the connection on his own, sharing the identity of the first woman with the CNN crew.

“It was Zoe Rock and she was the aunt of the boy I had just been Skyping in South Africa,” said Rabbi Goldberg.  “If you don’t see the hand of Hashem in every step of our lives…”

Rabbi Goldberg who was unaware for a time that he had even been nominated, described the CNN experience so far as “pretty wild” and noted that the timing seemed divinely inspired.

“It came totally out of thin air and when they came to shoot the first time, I was fasting because it was my mother’s second yahrtzeit. They are choosing finalists during Aseres Yemei Teshuva and November 16th, the last day of voting, is my daughter’s yahrtzeit.”

Rabbi Goldberg hopes that this latest exposure will give Kids Kicking Cancer an even greater presence on social media, as a way to further help children in pain.

“Our plan is to create a platform of a million followers on Facebook so that when there is a child in pain, we could put his story up and get thousands liking it,” said Rabbi Goldberg.  “Likes may be shtuyot, but not for a kid who is in pain.  It gives them purpose and our goal is to use social media as a platform that will transform a child’s pain into a feeling into a feeling of purpose that will lower their pain and give them hope.”

Rabbi Goldberg confessed to being humbled to be selected as a 2014 CNN Hero.

“To be chosen as one of the ten during Aseres Yemei Teshuva was like a message that we can bring klal yisroel back to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and we can be a tremendous light for the nations,” said Rabbi Goldberg.

According to CNN publicist April Andrews, the Heroes program has received tens of thousands of nominations from over 100 countries worldwide and profiled more than 200 heroes.

“We are proud to provide a platform for these heroes to share their stories and their important work with our global audiences,” said Jeff Zucker, President of CNN Worldwide, in an official statement released by the network.

Voting for the CNN Hero of the Year begins today and continues through November 16th.  Voters can vote daily, both via Facebook and email.

Online voting:

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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »


 Oct 02, 2014 at 01:43 PM jason Says:

Truly amazing Rabbi and story. He should be an example to all people (not just Yidden). Some will complain that he is using Tai Chi, but the truth of the matter is Tai Chi and the channeling of internal energy have serious health benefits.


 Oct 02, 2014 at 01:45 PM lazerx Says:

Nice to read about good people doing good things.


 Oct 02, 2014 at 03:44 PM DrGee Says:

Medicine is not all about the doctors!Treating sickness especially cancer involves participation of the patient as well as the doctors nurses technicians and pastoral care.


 Oct 02, 2014 at 04:29 PM Sociologist Says:

OMG, another kiddush hashem story just hours from Yom haDin. Maybe there is hope.


 Oct 02, 2014 at 04:37 PM Anonymous Says:

Kol hakovod Rabbi Goldberg.


 Oct 02, 2014 at 05:51 PM TexasJew Says:

What a beautiful story before YK.


 Oct 02, 2014 at 11:56 PM jack25 Says:

It says the winner will receive $100,000 dollars. So please go ahead and vote for the rabbi an easy way to give a Jew some Sedaka!!!!


 Oct 03, 2014 at 03:21 PM Shimon Says:

What a blessing.


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