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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Building with Bricks

Special child joins the groom under the chupah

It’s a constant refrain at the wedding and the whole week of celebrating parties. Boneh bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel . The couple will build a new home based on Torah values. A home of yiras shomayim (awareness of G-d). A home of chessed.

To build, one must have bricks. One chosson (groom) brought his ‘brick’ to the wedding itself. He had begun forming his ‘brick’ many years before when he became a volunteer for Ezer Mizion’s Special Needs Division. Both at camp and during the school year, he devoted himself to the needs of this very special little boy. Ariel became the pillar that the child and his beleaguered parents would lean on. Ariel would call to find out how his special little friend was doing only to find he had a bad day at school when another child grabbed away his cupcake and gobbled it up. Moments after the phone was hung up, Ariel would appear at the door with a cupcake in hand and his trademark smile, accompanied with a loving hug.  Should there be a family simcha (celebration), the parents knew they could count on being able to leave their child with Ariel where they were assured of his receiving the love and attention with all of his needs met.

And, of course, there was camp where Ariel was his counselor. They knew their son was fortunate. Ariel was his counselor 24/7. Every moment of the day. A bunk consisting of one child who basked in his counselor’s love from getting him dressed in the early morning to a goodnight hug at dusk with tons of activities during the day geared just for him.

And now Ariel, at the cusp of building his own home together with his new kallah (bride), made sure to bring his ‘brick’ with him to the chasuna (wedding).  As always, his special friend remained close at his side with Ariel keeping an eye out to be sure he had a great time. During the kabolos panim, the dancing and even at the chupah, there he was the first ‘brick’ of their new home. May he and his kallah work together to create many more bricks and may Hashem look down at the home they are building and smile with nachas.

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.

The camps, called “B’Lev Sameach” – literally, “With a Happy Heart” – have a full schedule of exciting activities, outings and recreation from morning to night, with all meals and transportation included. The children enjoy live entertainment, trips to amusement parks, zoos, and beaches, and visits to the Kotel and other special places. All of the children are paired with individual counselors who shower them with one-on-one attention, care, and love.

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Ups and Downs

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It’s an Up for the Downs

It’s a giant network. No matter what the need, there always seems to be someone to fill it. Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life with its thousands of volunteers listening for the ping, anxious to help out yet another family in need.  Recently it was a Down Day. But it wasn’t long before things were looking up indeed. A woman in Tzefat had a Down syndrome baby. That threw her and her entire family into a whirl!

Relatives from Jerusalem, through Ezer Mizion, arranged a bunch of luxurious treats for them on Thursday afternoon. But how to get it all the way to Tzefat? The woman was coming home from the hospital on Friday. That will be the toughest time for the family: sharing the news and the meaning of it with the other kids, while ushering in the Shabbat, and so on and so on ….

Within minutes, a volunteer was found to take the package as far as Haifa. From there, there was a volunteer for after Shabbat to Tzefat. But that wasn’t good enough, because we wanted it to get there before Shabbat…

On Friday morning, we posted a request. The ping was not long in coming.  “Just a few minutes ago I decided to drive to Tzefat for Shabbat. Perfect timing. I’ll take it!”

It was a lot. .More than he expected. Their car was fairly full but the family wanted very much to partake in the mitzvah and stuffed the packages on laps and every available inch.

An Ezer Mizion branch in Tzefas is holding their hands now, providing babysitters, hot, beautifully prepared meals and a listening ear. Their biological extended families may be in Jerusalem but they have discovered many ‘family members’ right here via Ezer Mizion.

On this same Down Day, another Downs baby was born to Netivot parents whose families live  in Bnei Brak. A recently engaged  Ezer Mizion volunteer ‘happened’ to be visiting her the family of her husband-to-be that Shabbos and spent a great deal of time with the mother, to encourage her and to tell her that we are all here for her.  Ezer Mizion’s varied divisions will provide for the needs of the family and those of the child as he grows and Linked to Life will ensure the feeling of solidarity with loved ones in Bnai Brak.

Another ‘Up’ for Downs is a powerhouse Ezer Mizion volunteer from Beitar, a mother of a child with Downs, who visits every family that has a baby born with Downs helping them adjust, opening their hearts and minds on accepting and dealing with their new baby.

Pain is traumatizing but the warmth of a hug to augment the professional services will soothe the agony and provide support until the family is able to go it alone.

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There He Was

There he was, unsure where to go but with a determined look on his face.   He appeared at the office, said one of the Ezer Mizion directors, an eleven year old boy with Downs Syndrome, looking like he was on a mission. No one brought him to the Ezer Mizion building. He found it on his own, our single-minded hero, and all that remained was to accomplish his goal.

“Are you looking for someone?” I asked him.

“I want to say a giant ‘Thank you’ to Ezer Mizion for the Simchas Beis Hasho’eivah (holiday celebration) that you made on Succos (Feast of Tabernacles) . It was nice! I had so much fun.”

Touched to the core by his sincere words, I called in the rest of the staff and instinctively asked him to bless us. There he stood – a boy? an angel? – with his eyes closed, connecting to Hashem (G-d) in a way that we cannot conceive.

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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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SPECIAL REQUEST: HELP US HOST CHILDREN/TEENS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS IN OUR SUMMER CAMPS!

We currently have 12 children and teens with special needs who applied to Ezer Mizion’s summer camp but don’t have a way to cover the cost. For them and for their parents, Ezer Mizion summer camp creates lifelong memories, as it infuses their challenging lives with sunshine and fun in a safe adapted environment. It also enables their families a well-deserved break, to recharge and refresh.

Children/teens with special needs have retreat days entitlements from the Social Services Ministry which they save up the whole year to pay for camp. But these 12 kids come from the most difficult home situations. Their families have used up all the entitlements just to be able to keep going, long before summer was on the horizon.

Please help Ezer Mizion host these kids for summer camp. A scholarship to cover the missing funds is $800 per child.

We need a total of $9,600 to be able to accommodate all 12 of these kids and give them a great summer.

Sponsor summer camp for a special needs child – all or in part – today!

https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html (Please write ‘summer camp for special needs’ in dedication field)

$
Deficit
$
Participant
Fees
$ Government FundingTotal
$ Cost
Total
Participants
Staff + VolunteersCampers# of sessionsCamp
$649,665$36,923$1,116,075$1,802,6633,0601,6501,4108Special Needs Children
$46,234$52,154$214,043$312,4311,150501,1007Mental Health
$892,308$0$0$892,3081,0901309603Cancer Patient + Family
$1,588,206$89,077$1,330,118$3,007,4015,3001,8303,47018TOTAL
https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html (Please write ‘summer camp for special needs’ in dedication field)

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SPECIAL REQUEST: HELP US HOST CHILDREN/TEENS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS IN OUR SUMMER CAMPS!

We currently have 12 children and teens with special needs who applied to Ezer Mizion’s summer camps but don’t have a way to cover the cost. For them and for their parents, Ezer Mizion summer camp creates lifelong memories, as it infuses their challenging lives with sunshine and fun in a safe adapted environment. It also enables their families a well-deserved break, to recharge and refresh.

Children/teens with special needs have retreat days entitlements from the Social Services Ministry which they save up the whole year to pay for camp. But these 12 kids come from the most difficult home situations. Their families have used up all the entitlements just to be able to keep going, long before summer was on the horizon.

Please help Ezer Mizion host these kids for summer camp. A scholarship to cover the missing funds is $800 per child.

We need a total of $9,600 to be able to accommodate all 12 of these kids and give them a great summer.

Sponsor summer camp for a special needs child – all or in part – today!

https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html

(Please write ‘summer camp for special needs’ in dedication field)

2021 SUMMER CAMP FRAMEWORKSleepaway/
Day Camp
# SessionsPARTICIPANTSSTAFF AND VOLUNTERS
Special Needs (boys, teens/young adults)Sleepaway2500550
Special Needs (girls/teens)Sleepaway2450550
Special Needs (Haifa, Northern Israel)Day Camp180120
Special Needs (Jerusalem, Central Israel)Day Camp1250350
Special Needs (Netivot, Southern Israel)Day Camp113080
Cancer (Patient + Family) – 3 RetreatsSleepaway3960130
Mental Health Rehab – 5 RetreatsSleepaway51,10050
TOTAL 153,4701,8305,300
https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html

(Please write ‘summer camp for special needs’ in dedication field)

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Ahuvi

My legs are disabled but my mind is doing just fine

For most of us, the word ‘I’ permeates our conversation. I feel, I believe, I am worried about. But what exactly is that ’I’ ? We don’t think so much about the question since our various parts work together. We think of an idea, dial a friend to discuss it, click on the mouse to research it, walk to the appropriate place to procure what we need. But then there are the people whose parts do not work together. They’re bright, intelligent, creative. They have opinions. An idea may percolate in their minds but they are not able to make the phone call, use a computer, walk to the nearest store, speak to friends. And so the idea remains. Crying to be developed. Aching to be shared with others. Eventually deteriorating and dying the death of all its predecessors. And the ‘I’? The ‘I’ becomes embittered and withers away into nothingness.

There it stands, a picturesque chalet surrounded by luxuriant foliage in a rustic village located in Nechalim. From a distance it exudes a quiet loveliness but come closer and you’ll see that it is anything but quiet. Everywhere you look, there are motorized wheelchairs and their owners are going from here to there, busy, busy, busy, very intent on achieving their goals. Their goals are many – these severely handicapped young people. Some are unable to walk, others unable to speak but all have talents, opinions, desires.

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Rescue Rope in a Stormy Sea

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.

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What Is It?

“What is Ezer Mizion? Is it the Jewish Bone Marrow Registry?”

“I think it’s an organization that helps cancer patients. When my sister lived in  Israel, her son was in the hospital off and on for months with leukemia. Ezer Mizion couldn’t do enough for the family. Meals at the hospital, rides, a beautiful apartment for the family to live so they wouldn’t have to travel for treatments. And let me tell you, that apartment was housed in a gan eden (garden of eden) for kids with everything a child could want including a petting zoo. You know, they even took all the kids on a chol hamoed trip

“I always thought Ezer Mizion was an organization for special children. When my cousin moved to Israel , she was so excited to see all the programs available for her autistic child.”

“A few years ago, we were visiting Israel and I noticed they were having an inauguration of a mental health building. So many g’dolim (sages) came. Isn’t it an organization for mental health?”

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