The Tzaddik of Addis Ababa

Uriel Heilman reports:

The door to Mother Teresa’s Mission in Addis Ababa cracks open and a nun pokes her head out. When she sees the doctor, her face breaks into a broad smile and she swings the door wide open.

"Come in, come in," she beckons, grabbing Rick Hodes’ hand.

Inside, the nun and the doctor — an Orthodox Jew originally from Long Island, N.Y. — quickly are overwhelmed by the clinic’s masses of sick and dying.

Every three paces, Hodes is stopped by another patient. They come to him limping, clutching their bellies, hobbling on elephantine legs rendered virtually useless by cancerous growths or mysterious tumors.

Hodes, 53, is the only doctor most of these people will ever see. As the lone Western-trained physician to conduct regular rounds here, Hodes represents the best hope at this palliative-care clinic for Ethiopia’s neglected legions of malaria patients, cancer victims, AIDS orphans and tuberculosis sufferers.

Without X-rays, lab tests or MRIs, Hodes does what he can, making diagnoses on the fly, recommending medication and moving from patient to patient with an urgency that bespeaks his mission.

Often he pays out of his own pocket to send the more hopeful cases for tests or treatment at private hospitals.

"It doesn’t matter what religion he is; he is doing this for humanity," says Monica Thonen-Bartet, a Maltese volunteer at the mission. "This is the most beautiful man I have ever seen."

This is not Hodes’ day job: As medical director for Ethiopia for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Hodes is responsible for the medical welfare of some 10,000 Ethiopians known as Falash Mura.…

Hodes’ real passion, however, seems to be caring for the severely ill at Mother Theresa’s Mission. He does not get paid for this work.…

At last count, Hodes had more than a dozen youths living in his home, and he has placed three more at boarding schools in Ohio and a cancer clinic in Washington. Hodes picked most of them up at the mission, where they had diseases ranging from polio to bone cancer.

Many were abandoned by their families; some were orphans. Mostly healthy now, these boys no longer are Hodes’ patients; they’re his children. Hodes has paid for the boys’ private schooling in Addis Ababa and has officially adopted five of them.…



Filed under Ethiopian Jews, Hessed, Modern Orthodoxy

3 responses to “The Tzaddik of Addis Ababa

  1. Please figure out how we can donate to him directly without having half of it go to CJP.

  2. I’m working on that right now. Hope to have something up Monday or Tuesday. I’d like us (the JBlog community) to sponsor something he needs for the kids. I plan on calling him this morning. (I met him years ago and we have mutual friends…)

  3. Yochanan Lavie

    Thank you for running something positive. Hodes truely is a tzaddik.

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