Rivi has spent the last two hours in her kitchen running from sink to counter, fridge to oven. The smells are mouth-watering. Roast chicken, potato kugel…just like you and me. What’s different, you ask. The difference is the interruptions. Her cell phone seems attached to her ear. A cancer patient calls and is desperate for a ride to the clinic. Her planned transportation fell through and missing her appointment is not an option. She’s crying. Can Rivi help? Chicken breast in one hand, Transportation Roster in the other, she scrolls down, makes first call. Negative. Second. Third. Bingo. A volunteer is able to drop everything and make the trip. Back to the schnitzel. But only until the next call. Mrs. D. was recently diagnosed with cancer. The family is falling apart. There’s no food for Shabbos. The father had planned on eating cheese with challa for the seudos. More than that he couldn’t handle. Can anything be done? Schnitzel waits patiently on the counter while another roster – this time of volunteers to prepare meals – is consulted.
“How do you do it,” we ask. “How can you manage your own home while dealing with all these major problems?”
“I have strength. I can walk. I am capable of running my home. I’m so thankful. These people that call are not able to do so.”
Rivi Kossover is Assistant director at Ezer Mizion’s Jerusalem branch. She laughs when we ask what her hours are. “Sometimes I leave at three. Sometimes at six. It depends on what’s going on.” It’s quite obvious that Rivi’s work hours do not end when she arrives home. Like all Ezer Mizion staff, she doesn’t know the meaning of regular work hours. “Work is over when no one needs me,” she feels. “How can I relax with a magazine if a cancer patient is in tears a few blocks away?”
Rivi takes a lemon cake out of the oven and puts it on the cooling rack to await its lemon icing. Maybe it will get iced. Maybe not. It depends on the interruptions. Some weeks the cake is “iced” with chessed. But it’s always yummy.
“I can put my housework on some kind of schedule but I never know what will be needed at Ezer Mizion. People go through crises and we try to be there for them. Like the call I got from a neighbor the other day. Five kids, two in their teens and three even younger, were taking care of their cancer-stricken mother. They were wonderful, putting their own lives on hold and giving everything they had to the mother they so loved. But they’re only human and those kids desperately needed a break. Could I arrange something – fun for the kids and someone to care for the mother during the interim? Well, I have a picture of those kids waving from a boat, looking as if they don’t have care in the world. They had a wonderful day, just being kids and it gave them strength to go on. it’s called Vitamin Fun. They’ll need another shot of vitamins every so often. Ezer Mizion will make sure they get it.”
A little boy in one family is doing poorly in school. His father used to review with him every night but now Abba is either at the hospital or recuperating from chemo. The young child, forced to grow up too soon, tiptoes through his house, afraid to disturb. He doesn’t even mention his 40 in the last quiz. That’s all history now. Ezer Mizion has taken over with a volunteer to help him. He’s raising his hand in class with the best of them.
Meals. Rides. Help with the kids. Medical advice. A place to stay during treatment. Emotional Therapy when it becomes too difficult to deal with the fears. Summer camp for the whole family. Rivi’s phone never rests and neither, it seems, does she but, as she says, “I’m just thankful that I can be on the giving side.”