The scene is typical at Montfort Lake in Israel. A lone man casts his fishing rod breaking the shimmering lake’s surface. His pail is already filled with trout for the family supper that evening. A father helps his youngsters into a rowboat cautioning them to close their life jackets with care. A newlywed couple strolls around the lake’s edge. And then there is the Ezer Mizion group. Not the typical. They are in their eighties and nineties. No boating or fishing for them. But the memories…They, too, had once loved the lake. It may have been a lifetime ago but in their hearts there is the same joy of yesteryear when they were young. The weather was perfect. The view magnificent. They sang. They engaged in sports suitable for the golden-ager. This most sublime day was topped with a cookout, a marvelous treat for our survivors whose three meals a day are eaten in the nursing home dining room.
This special day was part of Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program whose purpose is to enable the holocaust survivor living in a nursing home to emerge from the ‘just a number’ syndrome and once again experience his favorite activities.
Reb Aharon is a 106 year old holocaust survivor. Many years ago, he underwent, like so many others, traumatic experiences that no human being should know of. Yet he remained strong and built a religious life for himself. Those of us who did not live through the holocaust cannot fathom the strength it took to do so. And now he asked for a bit of help from us. It had been so long since he visited the kotel. He yearned to touch its precious stones once again. Would it at all be possible? As part of Ezer Mizion One Wish program for holocaust survivors, problems, one after the other, were solved and, like a dream, there he was. He was trembling with emotion as he, a Kohen (priest), blessed his family members there at his beloved Wall. May G-d…… the words seemed to float in the pure, holy air surrounding the Western Wall. Reb Aharon had come home.
For other survivors, lowered cognitive levels did not allow them to choose a favorite activity for their wish. Other ways of bringing them to greater awareness of their surroundings had to be found. A medical clown was invited to visit the home. Their increased focus, their happy smiles were evidence of a very successful performance.
Still others, a group of animal lovers, were treated to a show starring Ezer Mizion’s therapy dogs. The seniors played with the dogs, stroked them, fed them, and enjoyed watching them do tricks. They were engaged! For some, it seemed almost miraculous. One step forwards out of the tunnel of confusion and non-awareness that they had been living in.
Ziniada lived in the nursing home 24/7. Imagine her joy when she was treated to a trip to one of her favorites from a lifetime ago, Big Fashion Mall in Ashdod.
Moshe of Givatayim was turning 101 years old! His body may not be as mobile as in his younger years but his mind was sharp and lucid and he was much loved by his family and fellow residents. His daughter asked that he be treated to a birthday party together with his friends at the home. The atmosphere was electric! The singing emotive! The deep joy gratifying! And Moshe was showered by blessings by those who loved him.
One of the many thank you notes from a daughter who accompanied her father on a One Wish trip:
Dear Adi and Ora❤❤🌺,
I took the sticker off his jacket and put it straight on the photo (that hangs on my refrigerator.
I am speechless. Any thanks I express will not come close by any measure to what I experienced and felt today. You excited us as much as a cruise around the world on a luxury liner would have (a cruise doesn’t even come close!)… Today, thanks to you, I experienced something wonderful that will stay with me forever…
Activities at the Geriatric Services Division during the Coronavirus Period
150 professional staff members
13 branches across the country
Thousands of dedicated volunteers
With the onset of the crisis, the entire Geriatric Services Division shifted to a mode of alternating home/office work. Authorization to work remote was given to 60 staff members who were provided technical support and computers, as needed.
During this period, the tremendous responsibility of the Geriatric Services division towards the highest-risk group in the world has doubled. This responsibility is reflected by work around the clock, with no breaks, in the division’s 2 primary areas of activity:
Mentoring and guidance of new seniors, their caregivers and family members in obtaining a geriatric services stipend from Bituach Leumi (the National Insurance Institute)
Placement of certified attendants in seniors’ homes
Guidance in the process of obtaining a foreign worker
Initiated phone calls every week to all the attendants, care recipients, caregiving family members (about 7500 calls a week)
Frontal and phone visits to 3000 seniors
Intensive work geared at giving the full number of hours of entitlement and care to the senior, in spite of attendants’ fear and concern of giving caregiving hours in the homes of seniors.
Operation of an active “Corona hotline” Sunday to Thursday from 8 AM to 10 PM and on Fridays and Erev Chag from 8 AM to 12 PM; Motzaei Shabbat and Motzaei Chag from 8 PM to 11 PM
The hotline provides a response to seniors, family members, and attendants in the following areas:
Calls for emotional support
Therapy calls with experienced professionals (social workers)
Calls to obtain information about entitlements and assistance in making them happen
Facilitating community and municipal services, especially hot meals!
Facilitating Ezer Mizion services: loan of medical equipment,
Arranging purchase of groceries, produce, home supplies and medicines and delivery via Ezer Mizion “Linked to Life” volunteers
Tapping in to connections for the purpose of obtaining service from different entities, in collaboration with the Home Front Command, kupat cholim, etc.
Activating volunteers to relieve loneliness via:
“Listening Ear” project — phone calls from volunteer emotional therapists
“Adopt a Bubby and Zeidy” — in collaboration with Discount Bank employee volunteers who are set up with seniors to allay their loneliness by phone.
Online physical exercise through a number of channels: website, online handbooks, etc.
Distribution of physical exercise kits to the homes of seniors by volunteers
Telephone guidance for active participants at the Senior Health Promotion Center by Center staff
Installation of Security Cameras
Tzipporah Fried Alzheimer Patient Support Center
Outgoing support calls initiated by the Center’s professional staff to caregiving families who were in touch with the center in the past
Online support groups via ZOOM
Phone calls initiated by staff to all Holocaust survivors who participate regularly in the Ezer Mizion activities
Provision of a full response to needs that arise in the conversations: cooked food, purchase of groceries and medicines, emotional support via therapeutic phone calls
Home visits, in keeping with all Health Department directives (remote, porch visits)
Establishment of a mobile library operated by means of a personal delivery from the municipal library to the Holocaust Survivor’s home – operated by the British Café staff
Online/telephone physical exercise guidance
Distribution of potted plants to 1100 Holocaust survivors across the country on Yom Hasho’ah
Our precious holocaust survivors have reached their golden years. Some are surrounded by family with constant reminders of the place they have created for themselves in the world. Others are not so fortunate. Over 500 are living in nursing homes, no longer in charge of their lives. They have become a number, the patient in Room 346, and are no longer able to feel themselves to be individuals. How to recapture the feeling of self-identity? Continue reading More than a Room Number
In a powerful Ezer Mizion event, in collaboration with the Kotel Heritage Foundation, ninety holocaust survivors, together with their families, were brought to the kosel, some for the very first time. They were welcomed by the ceremonial salute by a platoon of soldiers followed by an inspiring musical performance. The event included a visit to the “Chain of Generations” display after which each survivor approached the wall in heartfelt gratitude and prayer. Each participant deeply felt his connection as part of the ‘chain of generations’ so grateful to have been given the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
The group then parted with the kosel and made its way to Aish Hatorah Yeshiva where a festive celebration for the ‘Bas Mitzvah girls’ took place. One may rightly question the existence of a group of Bas Mitzvah girls within an assemblage of . The answer is both sad yet uplifting. You see, for so many of these survivors, there had been no childhood. They missed out on all the milestones that our generation takes for granted. Many holocaust survivors have built anew and are now successful heads of multi-generational families. But there in the recesses of their being lies the childhood that never was. They don’t speak about it. An adult would feel foolish expressing her regret over never having had the opportunity to play with dolls. But it’s there. Or rather, it is not there. A void that cannot be filled. Among themselves, the sorrow may come up in conversation. And at one other place: an Ezer Mizion Social Club for Holocaust Survivors. It was there that an idea was born.
As these heroes attend their grandchildren’s Bas and Bar Mitzvahs, their hearts are filled with pride. Yet there lurks that germ of regret. “I missed mine.”
A formal celebration during the Golden Years has been found to serve as closure for the childhood celebrations lost in the wisps of crematoria smoke. Call it a Bas Mitzvah. Call it a closure of sorts. It helps to put to rest, once and for all, a few of the demons that still invade in their souls.
And so the long awaited day came to an end. It was a stirring and powerful event for the hundreds gathered there, an event greatly enhanced by the moving words of Ezer Mizion’s Founder and International Chairman, Rav Chananya Chollak. It was a day made possible by the cooperation of so many Ezer Mizion Transportation Division and Geriatric Division staff members whose dedication ensured that every detail be perfect. It was a day in which we, the younger generation, were given the opportunity to show honor and respect to our holocaust heroes.
They’re locked in their own world, unable to express themselves. Unable to benefit from daily communication with those around them, their ability to look upon themselves as individuals begins to fade and slowly dissipates. Their unique personalities become only a memory in the minds of those who knew them well. Continue reading Why Home?
She led a full life. Her days were filled with giving to others. Her children, neighbors, friends. Satisfying days. Neither did she neglect herself. Every so often she would recharge with a trip to the spa. A manicure. A facial. A great way to provide energy for herself as a giver. So relaxing. And it felt so good to be looking her best.
It’s all over now. No more giving. No more nurturing. And no more pampering beauty treatments. No more anything. Just tasteless days at the nursing home. One day following the next. Each exactly the same. Continue reading A Little Sliver of Gold
Leah lived in a senior citizens’ home. Morning, noon and night. She knew there was a world ‘out there’ but it had been so long. So long since she had gone anywhere but from her room to the dining room and back again. Her husband lay peacefully in his final resting place and she remained alive, just barely so, disconnected from the one with whom she had shared her whole life and disconnected from the world they had traveled together. How she longed to sense his presence once again. Perhaps with their two children. A ‘family trip’ like the many they shared so long ago. But a trip to the cemetery was as likely as a trip to the moon. Leah resigned herself to living out her remaining years in room #306, the ‘cage’ that was her home now. Continue reading The Magic of Fulfilling a Dream
As people age they face loss. Loss of their independence, of their faculties, of their standing in the community. The holocaust survivor is particularly fragile due to his nightmarish youth which often resurfaces in old age when mundane life no longer makes its demands on him. No longer a decision maker, he feels unnoticed, worthless and lacks any purpose in life. The simplest choices such as what to have for breakfast are no longer his to make. If he expresses an opinion, there is no one to listen. Slowly the aged nursing home resident shrivels, even losing his sense of self.
Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program has undertaken to fulfill the personal request of 570 holocaust survivors living in residences throughout the country.
S is a case in point. She resides in a nursing home with residents of mixed backgrounds. She herself is Moroccan as are some others but the home caters to the more prevalent Ashkenazi groups. She understands but still longs for an occasional taste of ‘home’. It was not until she met up with the Ezer Mizion staff did she feel that her needs, her opinions would have any value. Her thoughts about an occasional connection to the childhood memories of the minority groups and introducing the others to how specific ethnic groups live. Certainly a valid proposal for the nursing home staff but, just as certainly, not one that S. would ever make on her own. Her self-respect, her dignity soared on night of Welcome to Morocco, featuring a professional vibrant, ethnic band playing Moroccan music followed by delicious Moroccan cuisine. She basked in delight as announcements were made to her fellow residents that it was she who had suggested the evening’s entertainment.
R was a Russian living in a nursing home with a significant Russian population. Significant but not enough for the staff to take notice. All entertainment was in Hebrew. R. understood Hebrew well but it was not her prime language. As the Ezer Mizion One Wish staff developed a relationship with her, encouraging her to express her opinions, she shyly made mention of her personal feelings. Like a fragile newly-hatched baby bird, her thoughts on Russian entertainment hesitantly emerged. It was in her honor that the nursing home presented its first Russian show – a spectacular performance – which all the Russian speaking residents of her facility enjoyed together with her, enhancing her happiness and sense of purpose.
In the first few months of the program’s existence, One Wish has proven itself to have more than met the goals of the initiative. The seniors feel noticed. Their opinions matter. Their existence is validated. They continue to discuss their Special Day long after it occurred and this day becomes the catalyst to a new awakening of that sense of self.
Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.
Today’s Holocaust survivors suffered indescribable trauma in their early childhood and youth. With this knowledge, we aim to sweeten their golden years and enable these lonely, isolated heroes to fulfill a wish. Each is an individual. Each led a life based on his individual likes and dislikes. But now they find themselves lumped together in the same facility with no choice as to room décor, type of food, or activities. With no opportunity to express personal desires, bit by bit, he becomes less of a person. It is for this reason that Ezer Mizion’s Project1 Wish was born. Continue reading Once Again I’m Me