Say the name “Marcus Freed” and many Jews in Los Angeles and beyond know exactly who he is.
The 42-year-old British-born actor, teacher and author has been living in Los Angeles for several years now. He’s a regular staple at Pico Shul and he’s reinvigorated many Jewish lives by using his artistic talents to allow people to connect with their Judaism.
From his Bibliyoga classes to his Kosher Karma Sutra books, his one man show about King Solomon, his Shabbat services at Pico Shul, his Soul Revival sessions or a myriad of his other Jewish and artistic endeavors, Freed is a much sought after teacher and educator as well as beloved by Jewish communities around the world.
On Nov 3, Freed was on his way home from synagogue near Olympic and Shenandoah/Sherbourne when he was hit by a car traveling at about 10 miles per hour.
In shock, Freed asked the driver to take him to his friend Metuka Daisy Lawrence’s house a few streets away. He never asked the driver for his details.
Lawrence told the Journal, “Marcus knocked on the door and said, ‘Hi, I’ve just been hit by a car.’” Despite insisting he felt fine, Lawrence said, “I told him we should get him checked out by a doctor and walked with him the four blocks to his apartment to get his medical card.” But once there, Lawrence suggested they call Hatzolah (the Jewish emergency service). “They were there within 90 seconds,” Lawrence said, “and one of them realized right away that something was wrong.”
Freed was rushed to Cedars Sinai Medical Center and underwent immediate brain surgery to stem bleeding in his brain. By Sunday morning he had been moved out of the ICU into a regular room. But on Tuesday morning he was back in surgery for a second attempt to stop the brain bleed. That surgery went well and if all goes to plan Freed could be out of the ICU within the next 12 hours.
Because Freed has only basic MediCal insurance, his close friend Audrey Jacobs, who is a crowd funder by profession, launched a campaign to raise $250,000 to cover Freed’s extensive medical costs. When Jewcer, the Jewish crowdfunding organization heard about Marcus’s plight they waived all their fees to host his fundraiser on their platform.
“I truly believe in the power of the crowd to fund ideas, to change people’s lives and help others in their time of need and I’m so grateful that Jewcer exists and did this for Marcus,” Jacobs said.
Within 48 hours almost $100,000 had been raised on the site. “That’s because people are truly inspired by who he is,” said Jacobs.
Throughout his ordeal, Freed has remained in great spirits and has been lucid. The nurses have been overwhelmed by how many visitors he’s received.
“It’s truly a miracle that he could have had two brain surgeries and be as lucid and charming as he always is – joking and sharing his words of Torah – it comes from a real sense of gratitude from God,” Jacobs said.
Lawrence, who has known Freed for years, said of all Freed’s joking, “I told him ‘I know you love to perform, but you need to stop performing for your visitors so you can heal.’”
Following the accident, Freed’s parents – Jill and Barry – flew in from London on a one-way ticket and plan on staying here until Freed is ready to leave the hospital.
Speaking by telephone to the Journal from their son’s apartment – on a rare break from their hospital vigil – the couple said they are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.
“I don’t know how we would have got through the last four days without the amazing Pico Shul community and especially Metuka [Lawrence] who was there through the darkest hours,” said Jill.
“She saved his life,” Barry said.
“And the wonderful care he’s receiving at the hospital,” Jill added.
They’re also in awe of how much money has been raised for Freed’s medical bills. “We are very humbled and totally embarrassed,” said Jill. “It’s not our style to ask for anything. My immediate thought was, ‘We’re going to have to sell our home, but as long as [Marcus] lives that was the main thing.’”
Barry choked up speaking of all the donations that have come through the Jewcer site. “We saw donations from everything from $10 to $5,000 but we also saw people that donated $1 and that was the most moving thing for me. People were giving whatever they could.”
Were the Freed’s aware of how much of an impact their son has had on the community?
“No,” said Jill. “However much one loves their children or how proud they are, you don’t expect this.”
The couple was here two years ago for Freed’s 40th birthday and said they met all his friends and realized that he would be fine. “He had a new family here in Los Angeles,” Jill said. “There are so many people I’d like to name: Audrey and Metuka and Rabbi Yonah and Rachel Bookstein and Rabbi Levin.”
For now, the Freeds are focusing on one day at a time. “We’re hoping he’ll be out of hospital sooner rather than later,” said Jill. “We just want him settled back home and to put him back in the safe care of his Pico Shul community.”
“Please God, he’ll make a full recovery,” Barry said. “And we want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts.”
To date, Freed’s prognosis is good but he has a long road ahead and the bills keep piling up. “We haven’t even got the ambulance bill yet,” said Barry.
You can donate to Freed’s recovery fund by going to https://www.jewcer.org/project/marcus-needs-a-miracle/
Lawrence is also asking everyone to pray for Freed. His Hebrew name is Harav Matisyahu Joel Baruch Ben Gitel.
“Pray for his speedy recovery,” said Lawrence. “Prayer really works.”