On June 4, Judy Bogen of Modi’in will celebrate her 50th birthday. The following month, she will celebrate a decade of being cancer-free.
The first hint of something amiss came during a routine checkup in December 2008, shortly after she and her family arrived in Maryland for three years on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The breast-cancer diagnosis was made in January, and in March she underwent a bilateral mastectomy. She and her husband both turned 40 in 2009, toward the end of her chemotherapy treatments.
Judy Milston and Robert Bogen of London had met in the summer of 1985 on an Israel program sponsored by Bnei Akiva UK.
“We were both very active in Bnei Akiva and aliya was kind of like a natural step for us. We came on October 12, 1993, six weeks after our wedding. We didn’t want to run the risk of setting up house there and not be able to pull ourselves away,” she explains.
Robert, an educator, taught in the Jewish day school in Rockville during the three-year Jewish Agency stint. When the family of five returned to Israel in 2011, he resumed his career teaching in Israeli high schools.
Judy began working in a series of administrative positions, mostly in the tourism industry. However, a new direction for her life was determined unexpectedly when she made an appointment with a highly recommended oncologist to discuss ongoing care and reconstructive surgery.
“The doctor was fantastic, but it was an absolutely awful clinic,” she recalls.
A bit of investigation revealed that while outpatient cancer treatment in Israel is excellent, the physical environment usually leaves much to be desired.
“I wanted to bring about a change in cancer day-care units,” says Bogen.
Except for a few well-designed outpatient oncology clinics in medical centers such as HaEmek and Soroka – made possible by donors – Bogen found drab, outdated windowless spaces with harsh artificial lighting, plastic plants and no quality art decorating the walls. This was in marked contrast to the beautiful centers she’d seen in the United States.
Knowing from personal experience that chemo patients spend long hours in treatment centers, she was determined to make the experience as pleasant as possible by redesigning the existing space.
First, however, she had to settle back into Israeli life and prepare for reconstructive surgery. It wasn’t until 2014 that she was able to devote herself to researching patient-centered medical care and evidence-based healthcare design (EBHD), a discipline that emphasizes the impact of the physical environment on the emotional and physical well-being of patients in treatment.
“I founded Place2Heal in order to encourage patient-centered care and to improve the patients’ experience in the hospital. Its goal is to provide patients with a stress-free environment in the hope of moving the focus from illness to wellness,” she explains.
Setting up Place2Heal (www.place2heal.co.il) as a proper charity turned out to be long, complicated process accomplished only in May 2016.
THEN CAME another setback: The first hospital that agreed to undergo an evaluation and redesign process with Place2Heal backed out in September 2018 after almost a year of groundwork.
Disappointed but undeterred, Bogen now is on the verge of signing a contract with a different hospital in central Israel.
“According to recent figures, there are 27 cancer centers in Israel and 30,000 people newly diagnosed every year,” she relates. “The environment is like our canvas, and with the help of color, light, sounds and various elements of nature, we can create a completely different reality and turn a depressing and neglected environment into a healing space, bringing respite and relaxation to the eye and the soul of the patient, who ultimately is our top priority.”
Noise reduction, soothing lights and visuals, comfortable furniture and textiles, private spaces, a fish aquarium and live plants are all part of the Place2Heal plan to lower stress levels and offer patients a more positive experience.
To raise money for the endeavor, Bogen has mounted various efforts here and abroad.
“We had a team running in the Jerusalem Marathon that raised over 10,000 shekels. We’ve had parlor meetings in Ra’anana and in Silver Spring, Maryland. In Jerusalem, we had an event with a celebrity chef and we had a charity golf tournament in the UK. I try to keep the events coming,” she says.
Bogen strongly believes that her organization can make a huge difference.
“When the environment is comfortable and healing, despair is replaced by hope, positivity can prevail and there is hope that ‘normal’ life could be on the horizon,” she says.
As for her own “normal” life, Bogen enjoys walking – especially on the seaside.
“The beach is my happy place,” she says. “I go nearly every Friday.”
She admits to missing Diaspora Sundays and if she