To Really See. To Really Care.

It’s a talent. An innate ability found in only a few. The ability to notice. To really see. To understand what someone else needs. Only a few have it but the few can give it over to the many.

Rabbi Chananya Chollak

Chananya Chollak, who founded Ezer Mizion in 1979, was such a person. A new chosson (groom) who would be expected to be involved in his kallah (bride) and not be able to see anything outside of new marriage, was spending time with his hospitalized father-in-law and became aware of the many problems facing the families of the patients.  It was there that several divisions of the future Ezer Mizion were born. What began with 8 volunteers to provide meals for family members spending hours at the hospital bedside and a professionally outfitted van to transport the wheelchair-bound has mushroomed into an empire of chessed with 30,000 volunteers, all who have absorbed Rav Chollak’s ability to really see and really care. 

Cancer Support Comes in Many Forms

Like Rina, a patient in the oncology ward. She was battling for her life but right now, uppermost in her mind, was her daughter who would normally be celebrating her bas mitzvah. What with all energies going toward fighting the cancer, this most special day was expected to pass with hardly a blip.  But Rina was an Ezer Mizion client and that made all the difference. Professional studio pictures taken at her home. A sweet table to vie those at the fanciest event. A cake donated for the occasion by an elite patisserie. A makeup artist for both of them who would wield the wand and turn them into princesses.  No detail was omitted by Shula, the volunteer who really saw and really cared.

Caring Eases the Trauma

Then there was the recent fire in Yerushalayim. People were being evaluated en masse. The need to evacuate was obvious and the volunteers were working hard. What wasn’t so obvious is the fact that a group of yeshiva bochurim (students) had not had anything to eat since the early morning. Moments after they arrived to safety, there appeared pizza pies galore. The starving boys never would have asked but grins on their faces showed how welcome the unexpected treat was.

A Day to Look Forward to for the Disabled

The first step in creating a new division is seeing the need. Matan in Nechalim was born because it became obvious to Rav Chollak that handicapped adults need something more than care. They need self-esteem – the kind that comes from accomplishment. And how can they accomplish when they cannot even move from here to there? Ideas were tossed around, debated, discarded, re-evaluated until a full program came into being. A program that gets these talented young people to leave their homes early, excited to begin their day. They’re taught 3-D printing, crafts, and much more…skills that can generate income, activities that create positive social interaction. Recently their creations were proudly displayed at a fair where crowds converged at the individual tables where each one’s products were admired and many purchased.

The files are filled with thank you notes from people who are longing to express their gratitude for the practical and emotional support. Many join our volunteer groups, anxious to give back to others what they received in their time of crisis. And many are accompanied by donations but none so poignant as the following written in childish scrawl:

I’m a 12 year old cancer patient sending you my donation. I want to thank you with my whole heart for all the good and fun things you give me.

Thank you so much,

Y.S.

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A Cancer Hospital Synagogue: Not the Typical Bar Mitzvah Venue

Cancer and Bar Mitzvah: Not a Good Mix

From Motty’s Mother

I am the mother of seven wonderful children. My oldest, Motty, was almost bar mitzvah. At the school where I teach, I was also the “Corona coordinator,” so my days were filled .

 I could hear Motty from the next room reviewing the haftarah (Portion of the Prophets to be read in honor of his Bar Mitzvah) . What an uplifting feeling! I couldn’t detect anything unusual about the way he was standing. Probably those complaints about his leg were just growing pains.

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Down, Down, Down Until…

Dear Ezer Mizion Volunteers,

You know me as “Moshe the dialysis patient,” who has many other problems that are secondary effects of my kidney disease. You did not know me before, when I used to run on my two feet, get up before dawn for my Daf Yomi shiur (Talmud lecture), daven vasikin (pray early with sunrise), come home and help my wife get the children out, rush to another eight-hour work day at the carpentry shop, and then return for my shiur (lecture) in shul (synagogue) and Maariv (evennig prayers).

I was a strong person, until an aggressive bacterium attacked my kidneys and quickly knocked them out of use. I started undergoing enervating dialysis treatments 3 times a week. At first I would travel by bus, trying with all my strength to at least get to davening (prayers)and a bit to the carpentry shop. But, to my sorrow, the situation declined. Physically and emotionally.  I did not have the energy or the desire to meet anyone. I didn’t feel like leaving the house and seeing other people. I traveled to the hospital by taxi and that ate up the allotment I got from Bituach Leumi. With time, my condition deteriorated further and, today, my legs are almost non-functioning and I am labeled an invalid. My wheelchair has become an inseparable part of me.

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HE GAVE LIGHT

A stem cell transplant miracle speaks at his Bar Mitzvah

There he was, speaking with enthusiasm, with confidence in front of several hundred people. A newly minted adult Jew in his pristine Bar Mitzvah clothing, chosen with such care for this very special occasion. Flanked by his father and grandfather, he was too involved to notice the tears in their eyes as they remembered. Scenes from his babyhood flashed through their minds and   enhanced the significance of this momentous evening a thousand fold. His father thought of the day he was born when he first heard the shouts, “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” His joy was boundless. Avichai’s grandfather recalled how he would stop by the house every day on his way to work just to see Avichai. “He’s my pal. He makes my day!” And they recalled the day their world fell apart.  When their precious Avichai was diagnosed with leukemia. The baby’s uncle was Dr. Jerry Stein, the director of the Bone Marrow Unit at Schneiders, a major hospital in Israel. His professional knowledge did not allow for any rosy dreams. He knew that 50% of these patients die. “My heart fell out of my chest when I heard the news!”

Will a stem cell transplant donor be found?

The only hope was Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Registry, the largest Jewish registry worldwide. A stem cell transplant was needed to save this young life. Genetic matching between donor and recipient is vital for success. A search was performed. The computer raced through hundreds of thousands of names. The staff held their collective breath. The family sat glued to the phone immersed in the timeless words of Tehillim (Psalms). Would the response be the ominous words: No Match Found, a virtual death sentence? Or would there miraculously be a genetic match? From the millions of Jews that inhabit the earth, would there exist a near perfect DNA match? Would he be among those registered in the Registry? A click, a bing. A sound barely heard in the busy office. The computer had stopped at a file. His name was Ziv. His parents had named him Ziv which means light, because he had brought light into their world. And now he was about to do the same for Avichai’s family.

Avichai after his Stem Cell Transplant with Ziv, the Donor

“Would you be willing to donate to save a little boy’s life?” he was asked. The question hardly made any sense to him. “What is the question? Of course, I would donate.”

A year later, the two families met. The little boy, now a healthy, mischievous two-year-old, handed Ziv a present, a Chanukah menorah, a candelabrum of light, and gave his new friend a hug. The atmosphere was electric with unspoken words. Avichai would live!

Avichai Thanks Ezer Mizion for Finding a Stem Cell Donor for him

His family rubbed their eyes. The audience of hundreds were listening intently. Many knew his story. Was this a dream? No, it is real. Avichai has become a man. A Bar Mitzvah bochur (young man). He would grow and mature. He would marry and raise a family who would, in turn, raise their own families… generations…eternity.  

Bar Mitzvah Celebration with Avichai Dancing with Ziv who Made Possible the Life-Saving Stem Cell Transplant
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What Can You Say?

Rare Glimpse Into the Home of Rabbi Shteinman - Israel National News

What can you say? She was a young woman. Recently stricken with ALS. She had a family. Some of her children were still so small. Can you say, “Everything will be fine.” She’s too intelligent for that.  She knows what her diagnosis means. Rav Chananya Chollak, Founder and International Chairman of Ezer Mizion, was called. His sensitivity enables him to speak to people undergoing life’s crises and give them strength to go on.

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CFC Giving at the Workplace

Life has been difficult for all of us since the advent of covid-19 but especially grueling for the ill and the elderly.  Your friendship and support via CFC have eased the plight of hundreds of thousands who find themselves unable to cope with life’s challenges. On behalf of all those that have benefited from your generosity, we’d like to say

Federal Workers Giving at the Workplace CFC #11583

Thank you for caring!

Because you cared, 390 patients received a life-saving stem cell transplant in the year 2020 alone. Grandparents will read stories to their grandkids, young parents will be there to raise their children when they had feared leaving their children to grow up as orphans and babies and teens will now have a future.

Corona ‘alumnae’ with strong antibodies were trained to volunteer in Israel’s hospitals to relieve staff and bring comfort to lonely corona patients. Because you cared, isolated patients were able to call home, speaking to spouse and children for the first time in weeks.

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The Only Thing that’s Impossible Is Saying No

“There’s nothing like Ezer Mizion!” These are the words of a grateful employee who…we’ll let her tell her story.

“On Friday afternoon, my niece’s little girl came home from gan with a high fever. She was put to bed but, only a few minutes later,  there in the thick of her erev Shabbos (pre-Sabbath) cooking, ‘something’ pushed my niece to check on her. As her mother stood there in the doorway, the child turned blue, then purple, then black. Terrified, my niece ran outside holding her daughter and screaming for help.  The end of part one is that the hospital diagnosed it as a genetic reaction to sudden high temperatures. The drama was over but now came the practical questions. If they were released on Shabbos (Sabbath) where would they go? My niece was expecting and traumatized. And, in addition, they would want to be near a hospital just in case. So I dialed the number that is often first on the list of every shaken family member. Within moments, I received a call back. A suite is reserved for her at Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s guest home for families dealing with cancer. A lovely suite with all the trimmings. My niece couldn’t stop thanking them. And me? I couldn’t be more proud to be part of the Ezer Mizion family.

She may be right, you know, when she says there’s nothing like Ezer Mizion. What would she have said had she seen Moriah enter Oranit to put smiles on the faces of young cancer patients. What’s unusual about that, you ask. True, it was Moriah’s regular day to come. She comes every week. But today was… her wedding day. Busy? Certainly. But she’s never miss her weekly visit with Ezer Mizion’s cancer kids.

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The Secret

She was so little. Only four. But she also had needs like her older siblings. Her Tatty (Daddy) was sick and her Mommy was often crying. Mommy never cried when she or her siblings had a virus or a sore throat. She didn’t understand.  She was confused…and scared.

Rav Chananya Chollak

Rav Chananya Chollak, Founder of Ezer Mizion, was visiting the family. His compassion and sensitivity enabled him to know just what to say to give them strength.  As the visit came to an end, he gave out cards to the mother and older children. “Here’s my phone number. Please call me whenever you need to talk.” He did this frequently. The man who headed an empire of 30,000 volunteers and an army of professionals seemed to have time for the hundreds, no thousands, of individuals who needed his caring warmth to ease their pain. And they called, many of them, at all times of day.

As he made his way toward the door, the four year old approached him. “Can I tell you a secret?” Stooping to bring his ear to four-ear-old level as only the great can do, Rav Chollak listened to her ‘secret’.

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From the Ezer Mizion Files

To the staff at the Ezer Mizion kitchen,

Hot Meals for Families Dealing with Serious Illness

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the kitchen, with all its secrets, magic, and aromas. At age ten, I functioned like a young chef. After I got married, I opened a boutique catering business at home for pastries and specialty dishes, and this served as an adequate source of income for our young family.

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A Golden-Ager’s Day

An Elderly Holocaust Survivor ‘Comes Home’.

Reb Mordechai was a ninety year old holocaust survivor. On the outside, he was a bent over, frail old man. But on the inside, there lived the memories of a robust, courageous soldier who fought alongside Rabbi Goren in the battle to liberate the Kosel (Western Wall). He trembles with spiritual joy as he recalls the first time he put on t’fillin (phylacteries) at the kosel. ‘Ribono shel Olom (G-d), we’re here!’ his soul cried out. And now, at the twilight of life, he yearned to re-experience that intimate nearness to his Creator. Not that many years ago, he would simply hop on the #1 bus but now, in his senior years, that was impossible. And so he continued to dream, knowing deep inside that there was no way his dream could become reality.

And so it would have continued had he not shared his dream with an acquaintance. Who knew someone…who knew someone…who knew someone who worked in Ezer Mizion. ‘A Make-a-Wish’ program? For elderly, holocaust survivors? Could it possibly happen?’

There were many details to iron out but one day, his heart singing with joy, Reb Mordechai found himself waiting outside the senior citizen home where he lived for the ambulance fully equipped for the mobility challenged.

What a day it was! He was welcomed by a representative of the Kotel Heritage Foundation who brought him to visit the Western Wall Chain of Generation Center. He received a gift of a sefer Tehilim (book of Psalms) with a personal inscription by the Rabbi of the Kotel. Throughout the day he regaled everyone he met with his stories about the battles for the Kotel and Me’aarat Hamachpelah during the Six Day War, keeping his listeners spellbound. 

And then the climax. There it was. What he had seen only in pictures for so many years. In pictures and in his mind’s eye. There it was. Right in front of him. Its stones seeming to reach out to embrace their beloved son. His soul raced towards it, the ambulance driver barely able to keep up. His fingers touched their holiness. His hands shaking, he wrapped himself in his t’fillin. V’erastich li l’olom…(G-d, I am bethrothed to You forever)

Ezer Mizion’s Golden Age Division empowers Israel’s elderly population – many of them Holocaust survivors – to live out their years in comfort, dignity and satisfaction. The Golden Age Division offers an array of services and programs to seniors throughout Israel, including professional home care, social clubs, a make-a-wish program, Alzheimer’s intervention, a home repair program, and more.

In addition, all of Ezer Mizion’s standard services are available to the elderly: food distribution, ambulance and transport, and medical equipment loan are but a few of Ezer Mizion’s programs that benefit Israel’s elderly.

Ezer Mizion’s Fulfilling A Dream program offers the elderly the opportunity to choose an event they wish to experience, something they can look forward to. Ezer Mizion receives requests from social workers or family members of lonely, disabled, elderly people throughout Israel. After reviewing the requests, Ezer Mizion coordinates the logistics of making these dreams come true.

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