Monday, September 5, 2011

[Shefa] A Benefit for Brynna Fish to Save Her Home from Foreclosure


Dear Shefa Chevre,

It has been many months since I've posted on our network that Menachem and so many others, have lovingly nurtured for more than five years.  Last Av, I wrote about my experiences with the Women of the Wall and the fuel it gave to my passion to ensure that women, such as myself, and Jews, such as myself, have equal access to Holy Public Places in Israel.  That morning was so transformative and so validating, in so many ways.  One of the most profound ways that morning changed me was that it created the sacred door through which both Brynna Fish, CRUSY President, '74-75 and myself, CRUSY President '75-76 (Brynna was the first woman to be Regional President; I was the second) reconnected.  That is a story in and of itself - the story I want to tell today is of a courageous woman who has always had the courage and strength to stand up for what she believes in with passion and power.  As a result of her willingness to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable and the discriminated against, she has now found herself in a position where she needs the help of the communities she has served.  It is with great pride that I ask this community to take a few minutes to read about the Campaign to Save Brynna's Home from Foreclosure.  As a part of this post, I have included the "invitation" we have sent out to many in our area, inviting them to join us next motzei Shabbat, September 10, as well as the stark account of how Brynna Fish ended up in this situation.  If you live in within a 2 hour radius of Cleveland, OH, consider yourself invited by way of this post!  No matter where you live, I invite you to continue reading.  

It is because of my reconnection with Brynna that I am able to actively and effectively pursue what I call the "Jewish Democracy Movement" - i.e., the religious pluralism battle in Israel.  Over the course of this year I have cultivated language that connects the internal situation in Israel with the democracy movements around the Arab world as a result of the Arab Spring.  I turn to the Shefa Network now because I know that we share the same values in so many areas of life.  It is because of that shared value system that  I hope/pray/trust/have faith that those of you who are able to make a gift to the Brynna Fish Benevolent Fund to help Brynna save her home will.  We thank you in advance.

For those who are so moved and don't want to read any further - checks payable to Brynna Fish Benevolent Fund can be sent to Fran Gordon Immerman, 4 Kenwood Ct., Beachwood, OH 44122 or you can go online at

May the light of Elul continue to warm the world just as the sun begins to move away from us, in its due time and in its season.


Fran Gordon Immerman

Brynna Fish Benevolent Fund

A campaign to save Brynna's home from foreclosure:


GOAL $ 80,000 by September 30.

$ 36,000 raised to date.

Please help us raise

$ 44,000

to reach our goal.





                                                                                                               September 1, 2011





Dear Friend,                                                                                                 September 1, 2011

Please join us in helping Brynna keep her home.  We trust that through the good will and help of friends and family, who spread the word (feel free to forward this to your friends and family) and give what they can, we can provide our dear Brynna and her mother with the security of their home. We only have until the end of September.


  The Short Story

·       Brynna's health has improved since beginning monthly gamma-globulin infusions.

·       Her Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits begin this month.

·       She's applying her SSDI 12 months of back pay ($ 24,000) toward her house.

·       She's able to work a limited amount of time (earning no more than $600/month due to SSDI regulations) to supplement her $ 1915 monthly cash benefit.  She will be able to cover her medications and basic living expenses.  When she receives the lump sum from her other SSDI application that will be reserved for the ongoing general maintenance and upkeep of her home. 

·       Brynna is counting on our help to pay the bank so she and her mom, and someday Shiah, have a home.


The Longer Story

In July 2006, after suffering 18 months of recurrent infections, Brynna Fish was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder called Hypogammaglobulinemia. Basically, her blood doesn't make antibodies.


Brynna's doctors advised she would have to make significant lifestyle changes including:

·       weekly gamma globulin injections,

·       daily meds and supplements which total 35 pills and 3 inhalers ,

·       rest (10—12 hours sleep daily) & healthy diet, and

·       exercise, yoga & stress reduction.


Dr. Hostoffer further noted that she "would not be able to work in a way to make any meaningful amount of money" and she should file for Social Security Disability (SSDI). 


A month after Brynna's diagnosis she lost her job running a family violence program.  She was able to continue her health insurance through the government mandated post employment safety net, COBRA, but with a severe medical condition she could not afford to maintain her coverage when COBRA expired.  She has been without health insurance since.


For the past 5 years she has suffered from recurrent sinus and bronchial infections, severe fatigue and migraines – 3 or 4 a week.  The infections can take up to 2 or 3 rounds of antibiotics to treat  creating a  limited ability to work  and therefore very little income with which to pay for her medications (at $ 750/month), let alone her basic living expenses, which she has whittled down to bare bones.   Four years ago Brynna took in her mother, who could no longer live independently.  And, three years ago, unable to keep up with her mortgage her home fell into foreclosure.  .


This past winter/early spring Brynna suffered from respiratory infections that would not respond to any antibiotics.  In March she was hospitalized for IV antibiotics and her docs told her they could no longer "band-aid" her health with weekly gamma globulin injections.  She would have to immediately begin monthly gamma globulin infusions at an expense of $ 3,800/month.  Through an act of synchronicity and generosity, a check was written so that Brynna was able to begin her infusions immediately.  Ever resourceful, Brynna then did her own advocacy work and the Cleveland Clinic's financial assistance program has been covering her subsequent infusions.  The Clinic is also assisting Brynna on a new Medicaid application.


Good news

After 3 ½ years of working with a pro-bono attorney from the Cleveland Legal Aid Society the bank finally agreed to accept $ 80,000 to buy out her mortgage.  This amount is less than half of what Brynna owed on her home when it was foreclosed!  This is a time limited legal matter and must be settled BY THE END OF SEPTEMBER.  Undaunted, Brynna has reached out for help.


Just two weeks ago, Brynna was notified that one of her two SSDI applications has been approved!!!  She is putting nearly $ 24,000 of back pay toward the house and will begin receiving monthly Social Security Disability benefits mid September.     Unfortunately, the way the system works, she will not receive Medicare health coverage until May of 2012. 


If you know Brynna, you know she is resourceful, diligent and strong. You know how she used to go, go, go & do, do, do.  Limiting her work and her life in order to manage her health has been an enormously challenging transition for her. She still teaches Jewish music & takes para-cantor guitar gigs & even plays kid's birthday parties when she can.  She's going into Jewish and secular schools to do LGBTQQIA inclusion work (some paid, some volunteer). And you can be assured that Brynna will continue to work to make this world a better place as long as she eats and breathes!


This past June, Brynna shared her story as the "health care" testimony at the opening Assembly of the Greater Cleveland Congregations Project.  In front of 2000 folks, representing 40 congregations, she defied the stereotypical image that having no insurance, having to turn your car in to the repossessor and receiving a foreclosure notice happens to someone else.  After a three decade career of helping others, and always the social justice seeker, she can't help but apply her social work skills and determination as she's navigating so many broken systems on her own behalf.  


And she's writing, creating, crusading, and sometimes crashing.  She's finding her way, learning to ask for and accept help.  She's learning to open her heart to her own human limitations and this has helped her to be even more compassionate with others.  In spite of everything, Brynna's spirit is vibrant and joyful and she still has that Brynna Fish spark.  


She's deeply grateful for the support and financial donations she's received to help with utilities, groceries and medications over these past 5 years.  And, anticipating that we will be successful with this campaign for her home, she's grateful now for the ability to be financially self sufficient .  


Brynna is counting on our help.


Please give what you can soon!


Donations payable to Brynna Fish Benevolent Fund can be made at:

·       Key Bank any location

·       Mailed c/o  Merle Graybill,  3252 E. Scarborough,

     Cleveland Hts, OH  44118

·       on-line at  


Please let us know if you prefer your gift to be anonymous.


Questions:  feel free to contact Brynna, 216-407-5543,

or one of us,

In peace, love and light,

Merle                                    Jean          Fran

Merle Graybill                  Jean Miller        Fran Gordon Immerman

740-591-1754                        216-409-1818              216-496-5744


Two lady leaders before their time

are the subject matter of this rhyme.

BRYNNA FISH, the pioneer,

would rabble rouse from year to year.

Social worker extraordinaire,

 abused women protected through her care.

Jewish songleader with a lot of Pride!

  Brynna's life has been a ride.


Diagnosed with a chronic immune disorder,

 Brynna struggled to keep her life in order.

But with no health insurance to make her immune,

our Brynna's life began to swoon.


Soon the Bank foreclosed her home,

but don't despair because this poem

is just about to take a turn.

 Delight with me as we learn

that Huntington Bank finally said "OK.

 Just pay $80,000 and we'll go away!"


And so dear friends and family,

 now the Story turns to me.

Because of Brynna I mastered the keyboard;

 for corresponding with her then, I now have the reward


as we help Brynna secure the key

to her Cottage Grove home.

 The details of the evening conclude this poem.







If you are able, please consider, One Eighty, like Chai.

Of course all gifts are welcome, as you are, please reply.

I look forward to joining voices with you on Brynna's behalf.

Reclaiming her home, we will sing, cry, pray and laugh!



Fran Gordon Immerman  216 496 5744


P.S gifts payable to the Brynna Fish Benevolent Fund

please mail me a check if you cannot come.

4 kenwood court Beachwood ohio 44122

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