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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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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Art Workshop Joins the Battle against Cancer

Cancer Patients Express their Inner Feelings

Under the able leadership of Ms. Lidia Rozanski, Multidisciplinary Visual Artist, Certified Art Therapist, participants of Ezer Mizion’s Art Therapy Workshop are guided to explore their inner feelings and express them through visual art.   The process that the workshop participants undergo, alone and together through this project, is unique and powerful with a significant impact on their battle with cancer.

This project, an expanse for emotional processing, offers the artists an opportunity to open up and cope and to break the stifling secrecy, while engaging in the process of creating an artistic object and exhibiting it. It enables them to set out on an internal journey that is emotionally, creatively, and practically challenging. This journey demands of the participants to leave their comfort zone for the sake of the change that is generated by the new perspective they acquire in the course of the process.

When a person is sick with cancer, he can experience depression, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, and fear. He can lose his life routine and his ability to create. This workshop provides participants with a place of belonging and identification, a place where they can find change through which they can restore respect – both for themselves and for those around them. Via the process of artistic creation, we try to restore to participants their strength and their ability to do, to create, and to accomplish in the present and to plan for the future.

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Holding Their Hands

Dreamotherapy: a visit to the Kinneret for Cancer Patients

A small child falls and is immediately enveloped in a hug to make the boo-boo go away. An adult? We expect an adult to manage the ups and downs of life his own. Usually he can. But there are times when even the adult needs that hug and a shoulder to cry on.

 Illness is like an earthquake for the family. From the moment of the diagnosis, Ezer Mizion embraces the family, encircling them in love and caring, assuring them that we are here for them at all hours of the day and night.

For more than a year, Eitan* has been undergoing treatments until that black day when he was told that the treatment was not having an effect and that he’d need to undergo a leg amputation. The news hit him like a ton of bricks. The one who stood at the side of Eitan and his family and escorted them through these difficult moments was Meir of Ezer Mizion Social Services department. “Due to corona, no one was allowed to visit him,” he relates. “They made an exception for Ezer Mizion staff. During the entire rehab process with the prosthesis, I was able to accompany him, helping him with the physiotherapy, passing the time with him, and raising his spirits.”

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Wherever, Whatever, Whenever We’re Needed

Giving…with all our heart

Do you know where Kiryat Shemoneh is? Many people have never heard of it.  It’s a-l-l the way up North in Israel. Somewhere out there at the far, far end of the country. Geographically so distant from the nearest metropolis.  A bit lonely, perhaps, but certainly not alone.   Even there, Ezer Mizion’s dedicated volunteer works hard to prepare Shabbat meals for a lonely patient, spiced with lots of love. She does it together with dozens of other volunteers, who share one giant heart. Together they arrange meals for patients and their families for weekdays and Shabbat, feeding dozens of patients, adults and children, dispersed throughout the North, from Netanya all the way up to Kiryat Shemoneh

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What’s In It for Me?

Jumping on a trampoline cannot cure cancer but it can surely bring smiles enabling the spirit to enhance the body’s ability to fight its battle.

“What’s in it for me?” the average person asks. A new project…a new suggestion. How will I gain? Some will ask it outright. The more refined will ask only in their thoughts. But the ever—present ego accompanies our every move.

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No Matter What is Needed

Deeply ingrained in the Ezer Mizion volunteer is to ‘be there’ both practically and in spirit with the needs of those suffering from life’s crises. It may be sharing tears when the prognosis is not good or it may be sharing smiles at a festive party like that which took place recently with Ofri who celebrated her last treatment, Note her grin. Doesn’t it say it all!

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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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Our Treasured Volunteers

Sometimes we have to wait until the World of Truth to see it. But sometimes it is so clear. Like the Bluestones who are owners of a well-known Israeli firm that manufactures fashionable clothing, makeup and jewelry bags. In spite of their many business responsibilities, they devote a great deal of time to volunteering for Ezer Mizion. One of the recipients of their chessed is a disabled, elderly man for whom Mr. Bluestone delivers meals regularly. Meals are not all he delivers. With the food he brings caring, genuine interest in the details of the man’s day and an upbeat, cheery ambience.

A friendship developed between the two and it was only natural that when the elderly senior was hospitalized with no family support, Mrs. Bluestone cooked a complete array of Shabbat dishes and they both spent Shabbat together with him in his hospital room.

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