Southfield, MI – A Detroit rabbi who has devoted himself to helping young cancer victims with pain management, finds himself in the spotlight once again, as media outlets nationwide take note of his unique program.
57 year old Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, affectionately known by most as “Rabbi G.” is the founder of Kids Kicking Cancer, a not for profit organization that helps children with cancer cope with their pain by using breathing techniques that are often employed in martial arts.
Rabbi Goldberg, himself a first degree black belt, has a soft spot for children with cancer, having lost his own two year old daughter Sara to leukemia over 30 years ago.
“The key to the program is our mantra: power, peace, purpose,” Rabbi Goldberg told VIN News. “We teach the kids to breathe in this amazing energy and this tremendous light and they use it to blow out the darkness.”
Kids Kicking Cancer began from an experience that took place when Rabbi Goldberg was the head counselor at Camp Simcha.
“I walked into a room and there was a five year old kid who was undergoing treatment and he was being held down and screaming geferlach,” said Rabbi Goldberg. “If an adult screams in the middle of a painful procedure, the doctors will find a better way, but with kids, they just hold them down tighter. I heard myself yell, ‘Wait!’ and they all looked at me. I had no idea what I was going to do.”
Asking the nurses to give him a few minutes alone with the boy, Rabbi Goldberg decided to demonstrate some breathing techniques that are used in karate.
“In martial arts you are taught that pain is a message that you don’t have to listen to,” explained Rabbi Goldberg. “Within five minutes, he had learned a simple breathing technique. Twenty minutes later he looked up at the nurse and asked her if she had done the procedure yet and she had already finished.”
Drawing on this experience, Rabbi Goldberg officially launched Kids Kicking Cancer in 1999, with a goal of teaching young cancer patients to manage the stress and the pain of their illness using martial arts techniques. In addition to kicks and punches, aimed at their illness, not a human opponent, children, clad in martial arts uniforms, are taught meditation and breathing techniques and are furthered empowered by teaching these same techniques to others to manage the stress and difficulties that they encounter in their lives.
“Our kids have gone on to demonstrate this technique to executives at major companies throughout the world, including Pfizer, Walmart, Ford and CVS,” said Rabbi Goldberg. “The kids inevitably get a standing ovation.”
Kids Kicking Cancer is in use at hospitals in New York, California, Michigan, Ontario, Israel and Italy and Rabbi Goldberg reports that he has spoken with parties in Iran who have expressed interest in the program which has treated over 5,000 children since its inception.
“After we did a program at Sloan Kettering where the kids demonstrated how to use the breath to relax the body, I got a phone call from Italy three days later, to teach Pfizer executives in Rome,” reported Rabbi Goldberg. “They started our first program in Rome at the Vatican children’s hospital and interestingly enough, the Pope’s office had to approve an Orthodox rabbi teaching Eastern meditative techniques to Vatican children.”
In addition to helping his young charges, Rabbi Goldberg sees Kids Kicking Cancer as an opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem and his program has been featured in secular media outlets including The Boston Globe, People Magazine and on Good Morning America.
“We don’t even have a PR person,” said Rabbi Goldberg. “It is all ‘siyata dishmaya‘that people are profiling the program. It is such hashgacha that we are being given the opportunity to really be a light unto the nations.”
Rabbi Goldberg is also the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Southfield, having retired from his position almost a decade ago to devote himself full time to Kids Kicking Cancer.
“About ten years ago I told my congregation that I love them dearly, but I have this vision of making a kiddush Hashem by helping children in pain across the globe. Kids Kicking Cancer takes victims and turns them into victors.”