Keeping the Eye Away from the I

Volunteering in spite of the heat and weakness due to fast

So very young but they have already learned an important life principle:  that one is so much happier if the eye is not focused on the ‘I’. These young people could have spent Tisha B’Av groaning about how hungry they are, how many hours are left, what they plan to eat when the fast is over…Instead they focused on others. On families living with cancer who are surely having a difficult time fasting as they continue to deal with the nightmare that colors every moment. On parents who are not even home  but are spending the day at what has become  their second home – the oncology ward of the hospital. These Ezer Mizion volunteers cannot cure the cancer but perhaps they can alleviate the burden by keeping the children happily occupied during this most difficult day. And so, in spite of the miserable heat, in spite of their own weakness, off they went – over 40 Ezer Mizion volunteers – to give those kids a fantastic time.

Of course, transportation was needed both for the kids and the volunteers but there was no lack of those who wanted to be part of this project. When a request went out, the replies poured in:

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From Our Files

Dear amazing Ezer Mizion family!

I’ll never forget that moment. I was in the middle of an important call with a serious client. Dozens of calls from a number I didn’t recognize kept interrupting with annoying beeps. Finally, I had no choice but to apologize and take the other call. In the background, I could hear sirens and shouts. My son’s friend screamed into the receiver, “Yoni was hurt in an accident and they’re taking him to Hadassah!”

I ran down six floors on foot, stopped a taxi and zoomed to Hadassah Hospital. I got there together with the ambulance. Yoni was wheeled directly into the operating room, with serious injuries to his extremities, damage to internal organs, and hemorrhaging in his brain. The doctors didn’t give him a chance. I summoned my wife and the whole family. We stood for hours next to the operating room, praying and organizing prayers for his recovery. And then you came, with hot food and kind, encouraging words. That was our first encounter, and since then, we’ve been meeting every day.

Two months of prayer and nine operations are behind us; sixty days during which we sat in shifts at his bedside, hoping for a miracle. Our home was on the verge of crumbling. I’d hardly stepped foot in my workplace. My wife had barely stepped foot at home. The other kids were miserable. And then, against all odds, Yoni woke up. It took a few more difficult weeks full of medication until we got to rehab. Thank G-d, now we have been there for five months, in a process of treatments and therapies to restore Yoni’s walking ability and movement in his hands.

We owe Yoni’s progress to your ambulance network and the devoted volunteers who escort us to treatments, provide hot meals, treats and trips for the kids,  relieve us for a few hours, and help Yoni with his difficult and painful exercises. I cannot imagine what would have happened without your amazing service, given free of charge. I couldn’t possibly have financed an ambulance trip back and forth three times a week, and without that — what would have been with Yoni’s legs?

Meanwhile, we put aside ten shekels for each trip we took with you (during such difficult times, even such a minor amount is not easy to come by) and the sum came to 1,200 shekels (attached), which means that we went on 216 trips in your ambulances!

I am deeply moved just thinking of how much you saved us during those difficult days. Tizku l’mitzvos! May you merit more mitzvos!

With appreciation and admiration,

E. Stern and the whole family

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Swing for Life

Russell whose life was saved by Ezer Mizion with his wife, Sharon and baby grandson

Ezer Mizion’s annual Golf and Tennis Tournament was held at the pristine Seawane Country Club. Sunshine pervaded the green as the players teed off, elevated by the knowledge that each stroke   was a strike against cancer.

The event entitled Swing for Life serves to benefit Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Registry. For many cancer patients, a bone marrow transplant is their only chance to survive. Genetic matching between donor and patient is essential for success and, since genetics is based on ethnicity, Jewish donors are needed for Jewish patients. Ezer Mizion is the largest Jewish registry in the world and has saved 3980 lives, 390 in 2020 alone. However, too many requests are not yet met and it is vital that the registry be enlarged. All proceeds of the event will fund the expensive genetic testing of many more potential donors, thus greatly increasing the chances of each request being met with a positive response.

Manny Malekan and Simmie Chiger, Committee Chairs, were thrilled to have the event completely sold out. They were ably assisted the hard-working committee: Dr. Aaron Cynamon, Alex Dembitzer, David Neiss, Dr. David Ritholtz, Dr. Alan Spiegel, Sruli Szpigiel, Jordan Chiger, Zachary Chiger, Jonathon Halpert , Eytan Feldman, Michael Pfeiffer, Dovid Schulman and Jeremy Wulwick.  Each member felt the pride of being part of ‘something big’. The Ezer Mizion ‘Hole in One’ Donor Pool, funded by golf events held both in the US and Israel, has already saved over 90 lives.

Simmie Chiger shared his story with the guests: how he had recently been in a horrific accident and he thanked Hashem with the words: Perhaps the merit of my helping to save the lives of others enabled my own life to be saved.  

The guests were treated to a delectable dinner during which the purpose of the event was further brought home. The attendees met Russell, a young grandfather of three, who thanked Ezer Mizion for enabling him to enjoy watching his grandchildren grow up.  In a moving speech, Russell described his feelings when he received his diagnosis. It occurred so unexpectedly as a result of a routine exam.   The doctor had said he was in good health, like a man 15 years his junior except for a quirky blood test which was probably a mistake. Well, it wasn’t a mistake. Russell soon found himself confronting a monster named Cancer who had entered uninvited into his idyllic life.

For Russell, there was light at the end of his tunnel. Motti, one of the over 1,000,000 Ezer Mizion registrants, was a perfect genetic match. As Russell was about to leave the stage, he was asked if he would like to meet his donor for the first time.  Motti was then brought to the stage where the two embraced as only two brothers can. It was Motti’s blood that now flowed through Russell’s arteries. The two men will forever be intertwined.

Each attendee left the club that evening , knowing that there were many, many ‘Russell’s’ out there- some of them even small children- and he had helped to save Jewish lives.

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Searching for Purpose

From the files of Ezer Mizion:

When my eldest daughter, Valerie, died of cancer, I began to seek meaning in life. I refused to accept the idea that our lives are random, that they have no meaning beyond mundane, everyday occupations. I wanted to carry on the path of my daughter, who was a beaming girl, with a huge, giving heart. I wanted to do something really important. I wished to donate not only money, but also of my time and efforts — which seemed to me a more significant contribution. Ezer Mizion gave me the opportunity to fulfill my wish.

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Autism? Help Is Out There…

Ezer Mizion’s Children’s Division is a national resource that provides a vast array of services for handicapped, high-risk and developmentally delayed children and their caregivers. The range of issues addressed is broad. The professional services and care offered enable the children to advance and reach their full potential.

We all have our challenges in raising our children. How comforting it is to hear from another more experienced mother that your child’s behavior, as exasperating as it is, is normal.  But what about when it is not normal? When your child, the tiny infant you held in your arms with such hopes, is diagnosed with autism? The devastation, the fears for the future are immeasurable. Your day-to-day, minute-to-minute life will never be the same. Your other children are tremendously affected. Family ties fall apart. You desperately need support. Ezer Mizion had undertaken a support group for these mothers. The group served as a place where they could finally feel that people understood their unique challenge. They received practical tools and a lot of emotional energy to deal with the day-to-day challenges facing them. Some of them commuted two hours in each direction to attend the meetings because they gained such a huge benefit from their participation.

Many modes of assistance exist within the framework of Ezer Mzion’s programs. In 1988, Ezer Mizion opened Israel’s first summer camp for children with special needs. Since then, the network of Ezer Mizion special needs summer camps has grown to include 7 camps, over 1,500 staff members and volunteers and over 1,200 children with physical handicaps, brain damage, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, blindness, deafness and emotional disorders. For these youngsters and their families, Ezer Mizion’s summer camps are the highlight of the entire year.

During the year, Support Programs, Awareness Evenings provide direction for parents. Early Intervention Programs and Day Care enable the autistic child to move forward.

When 2 year-old Gilad was first enrolled in Ezer Mizion’s Ma’on Shaked” Rehabilitative Day Care Center for Autistic Children, he couldn’t tolerate anyone sitting next to him. When anyone came near him, he would lash out in all directions, screaming and hitting. Today, the blue-eyed blond-haired child is very much part of the group. “Whenever he sees me, he motions me to caress him,” says Wolfgur. This seemingly miraculous transformation of a child who once would have been relegated to the “hopeless” category is a striking testament to the success of the experimental program, which was initiated just one year ago, in response to an urgent request by the Ministries of Social Services and Health. “These children are a riddle to their parents,” notes Wolfgur. “Most of them don’t speak, don’t communicate through gestures. Often the parents feel responsible for their condition. But today we know that autism is a developmental, neurological problem, and not psychological. The Center’s staff maps each child’s needs and builds an individual treatment program for him . The Center’s major goal is to encourage each child to interact with other people and to develop communication skills, which will significantly improve quality of life for the child and his family. Some of the children can eventually be mainstreamed into a regular educational framework with the help of a mentor.

Nurit is a striking little three year -old girl, a dead ringer for Shirley Temple with her green eyes, dimples and blonde curls. But although she is physically developed – she sits and stands and walks on her own in an age-appropriate manner, the little girl’s beautiful eyes are expressionless, and her socialization and communications skills are severely undeveloped. Nurit suffers from autism/PDD (pervasive developmental disorders) – a neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate, understand language, play, and relate to others. But the little girl had another severe problem: she refused to eat. As a result, she was physically frail with limited motor abilities. After months of laborious work, Nurit has finally begun to agree to eat! As a result, her overall health has improved: she has gained weight and is more attentive, responsive and energetic. Efforts are now being focused on developing her communication and social skills.

Sara displayed extreme social anxiety and various other challenges. Her teachers tried but she was not moving forward. Each day Mommy found it harder and harder to send her off to school with a hopeful smile. It was so difficult to face but face it they must. Then it came. The dreaded phone call.  The school was requesting a meeting. The parents were certain of what they would be hearing.  Probably a cold, professional assessment in clipped tones, “We’re sorry. Your daughter is not adjusting. We suggest that you look for another school…” But they were wrong. Oh, how wrong they were! In the course of the year, she received paramedical therapy, with an emphasis on the communication aspect and the DIR method. Slowly but surely, Sara began making eye contact with the staff and even showing affection during the therapy sessions. In addition, she learned to play functionally with educational games and began producing her first words.

The inability to communicate often greatly affects both the child’s ability to perform and his relationship with his family. Ezer Mizion’s AAC Division Loan Center is the only one of its kind in the Middle East for speech generating devices and one of the few existing in the entire world. It’s mission is not only to support and empower people and families confronted by the distressing reality of communication impairment but also to upgrade communication and therapy options by partnering in the development of communication technology and devices and to educating and influencing those in the professional communication field and end-users to tap in to the most updated AAC solutions.

The need is great. The options are vast. Your generosity will enable Ezer Mizion to continue its mission in providing resources for families whose lives have been turned upside down with the birth of an autistic child.

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Tu B’Shevat Blossoms in the Hospital, Too!

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In honor of Tu B’Shevat, Ezer Mizion held a number of special parties in different hospital wards across the country.
True, the patients could not go outside to plant saplings. But instead, we brought the delights of nature right into the hospital ward!

In the pictures: A morning of fun and flowers at the Oncology Ward in Schneider’s Children’s Hospital.

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A Taste of Life

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What do cooking and cancer have in common?

Not much but at Ezer Mizion, anything that will bring pleasure to those dealing with cancer is incorporated into its program. Continue reading A Taste of Life

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Nurit Learns to Eat

Nurit is a striking little three year -old girl, a dead ringer for Shirley Temple with her green eyes, dimples and blonde curls. But although she is physically developed – she sits and stands and walks on her own in an age-appropriate manner, the little girl’s beautiful eyes are expressionless, and her socialization and communications skills are severely undeveloped.pr table setting MH900427613 Nurit suffers from autism/PDD (pervasive developmental disorders) – a neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate, understand language, play, and relate to others. Continue reading Nurit Learns to EatFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Rehabilitative Day Care Center Treats Autistic Children

When 2 year-old Gilad was first enrolled in Ezer Mizion’s “Ma’on Shaked” Rehabilitative Day Care Center for Autistic Children, he couldn’t tolerate anyone sitting next to him. When anyone came near him, he would lash out in all directions, screaming and hitting. “In the best case-scenario, he would ignore other people,” says Smadar Wolfgur, the Center’s staff psychologist. “In the worst case, he would be annoyed by them.”
Today, the blue-eyed blond-haired child is very much part of the group. “Whenever he sees me, he motions me to caress him,” says Wolfgur. This seemingly miraculous transformation of a child who once would have been relegated to the “hopeless” category is a striking testament to the success of the experimental program, which was initiated just one year ago, in response to an urgent request by the Ministries of Social Services and Health.

Ezer Mizion’s Rehabilitative Day Dare Center, located in the Yaakov Fried Building in Bnei Brak, serves one-and-a-half to three year-old children with autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). It operates five days a week from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM, as well as Friday mornings.

The tots in the program enjoy a warm, personal, and loving relationship with the dedicated professional staff that also includes a kindergarten teacher, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and developmental aides – with a ratio of 2 staff members for every child.

“These children are a riddle to their parents,” notes Wolfgur. “Most of them don’t speak, don’t communicate through gestures. Often the parents feel responsible for their condition. But today we know that autism is a developmental, neurological problem, and not psychological. Yet it is possible to help such children. However, massive treatment by the age of six, when the brain is still flexible, is critical.”

The Center’s staff maps each child’s needs and builds an individual treatment program for him or her. The Center’s major goal is to encourage each child to interact with other people and to develop communication skills, which will significantly improve quality of life for the child and his family. Some of the children can eventually be mainstreamed into a regular educational framework with the help of a mentor. Thus the therapist may hold a favorite toy next to her eye to force the child to make eye contact with her. Or, if he’s playing with a car, she will sit down on the floor and start playing with him. “The child would prefer to be with himself,” explains Wolfgur. “The therapist ‘interprets’ the child’s play as an invitation to connect. Thus she invites herself into his game and his world, all the while expressing pleasure and enthusiasm, in an attempt to compete with the objects for his attention.”

The Center, which began in 2006 with four children, currently has nine children and plans to expand. The group framework encourages social interaction and promotes communication and social skills in the children. Eight of the youngsters have registered major improvement.

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