When Freda Kaplan’s son got married in Israel in 2015, her father was dying. But thanks to a specially adapted ambulance he still made it to the simcha.
After he passed away three days later, Mrs Kaplan pledged to help set up a similar service in the UK, enabling terminally ill patients to enjoy anything from a football match or concert to a seaside trip or family occasion.
On further investigation she discovered that a paramedic called Alice Berrill was already in the process of establishing a charity called The Ambulance Wish Foundation UK.
At a meeting between the two women, Mrs Kaplan — who is rebbetzin of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue — pledged to raise enough money to fund the first ambulance and its running costs for a year.
Last weekend, thanks to more than £100,000 raised by Mrs Kaplan through a skydive and extensive fundraising, the ambulance was finally handed over to the charity in a ceremony at the North London Hospice.
Speaking to the JC, Mrs Kaplan, 55, said: “At the time I said I would raise the money for the ambulance and its running costs on two conditions — that it should be in my parents’ memory and that it said it was a gift from the Jewish community.”
Both inscriptions are clearly displayed on the ambulance which will serve anyone in need around the country.
“Now when it goes up and down the motorway it’s very clear that we, the Jewish community, feel grateful for living in this country and that it’s an opportunity for us to give back,” said Mrs Kaplan.
The vehicle also bears a third inscription in memory of Stuart Epstein, a father-of-three and former pillar of the HGSS community who died last year.
Mrs Kaplan explained: “When I first told him about the fundraising Stuart said that I needed to do something ‘wow’ that would quickly get people’s attention. He helped me do that with the sky dive.”
According to Mrs Kaplan, Mr Epstein would always sign off correspondence with the line “remember to be a mensch”. So in his memory, the ambulance also carries an inscription around the wheel which reads: “Stuart says ‘remember to always be a good person’.”