We can say it in numbers. 650,000 hot meals for family of seriously ill. 80,000 medical equipment loans. 4400 special needs children. Big numbers. Impressive, aren’t they? Or we can say it in people. Real people. People with feelings. People who cry.
People like the mother who had been looking forward to a delightful reunion with her family after birth until corona cancelled her plans. Diagnosis: positive. Tremendous tension. Will she be ok? Will she be able to care of the newborn? Will the newborn be ok? Quarantine. For the whole family. No preparations. No family to take her home. No exuberant welcome. No gleeful hodgepodge of a welcome-home supper put together by small, eager hands. No anticipation of Mommy soon taking over the kitchen providing that homey security that only mommies can do. No joy. Just anxiety, stress and worry. And then… on the heels of her entry – a warm delivery of 10 falafel portions. A message of caring and support for the difficult days to come. And the sun began to shine.
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:
When my eldest daughter, Valerie, died of cancer, I began to seek meaning in life. I refused to accept the idea that our lives are random, that they have no meaning beyond mundane, everyday occupations. I wanted to carry on the path of my daughter, who was a beaming girl, with a huge, giving heart. I wanted to do something really important. I wished to donate not only money, but also of my time and efforts — which seemed to me a more significant contribution. Ezer Mizion gave me the opportunity to fulfill my wish.
He began life as nobody’s baby but it wasn’t long until he became everybody’s baby. . Refael was a deliciously, sweet baby but so very ill. In deep pain, his parents abandoned him due to the overwhelming burden of caring for their child. An uncle contacted Ezer Mizion, the address for so many who don’t know where to turn. “Until an adoptive family can be found, please, please can Ezer Mizion provide the human love and warmth, so vital to a baby’s well-being?” And that is when he became everyone’s baby. Since then, Refael has not been alone. The Ezer Mizion volunteers surrounded him with tenderness and affection. Day and night, summer and winter, Shabbat and Yom Tov.
One day, the uncle asked Refael’s mother to come and just take a peek at her son. “Just for a moment. Then you’ll leave. You don’t have to go near him. Just a quick look. A mini-visit…” She was hesitant. True, it was just for a moment but emotionally it could take such a toll. She was afraid. “I can’t! i can’t! it’s too much!” The uncle persisted. He called again and again. Eventually, he wore her down. “Just a peak. I won’t go near him. just a quick look.”
She peeked – and was “caught.” She saw him held and oh so loved by a volunteer. She watched as another volunteer came to take over. From across the room, she felt the vibes of their love. For the baby. For her son. In tears, she said, “If Am Yisrael embraces Refael with such devotion, then he isn’t alone anymore…And I am not alone…I’ll have support…Perhaps…Perhaps I can do it. Ezer Mizion will be behind me, I can feel their strength. Perhaps my baby will have a mother after all…”This week, Refael will be released to his home, the home he will see for the first time since his birth.
Love and warmth. That’s what Ezer Mizion is all about. A message appears on the Ezer Mizion Linked to Life screen. A 28 year old oncology patient is celebrating her birthday…Who is on board to help make her a grand party? I’m in, I’m in…The positive answers instantly clicking in…In no time we have: An awesome cake, balloons, creams, perfume, chocolates, makeup and more.
It’s midnight at the ER. Patients have been waiting for hours. They’re tense and worn out. And then like a dream, the Ezer Mizion stand appears. With snacks and hot drinks. With smiles and encouraging words. Love and warmth — it’s catchy! A posting appeared in the media and a call was received from a mother of Emunah, a Bas Mitzvah girl. Can she celebrate her daughter’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah by volunteering at the Midnight Stand. Mazal Tov, Emunah. What a beautiful way to celebrate this special milestone.
They don’t forget – those recipients of the Ezer Mizion love. Last week, a woman came to the Ezer Mizion Center to personally deliver a donation to Ezer Mizion and a copy of her new book. “Twenty-four years ago, a few years after we’d moved to Israel, my husband needed a heart transplant. We didn’t know where to start. A friend of mind said, ‘Call Ezer Mizion.’ I remember it as if it was today. Ezer Mizion sent us someone named Benny Meyer. He was an angel. He took us under his wing and guided us step by step through the confusing and painful period. Ever since then, Ezer Mizion holds a special place in my heart. I have an automatic donation going out to them from my account every month and all profits from my new book will go to – where else – Ezer Mizion. So – here is the first installment…”
When things go smooth, we tend to forget that it may not be the norm everywhere. Should we move to a different location, our expectations may be in for a shock. A man recovering from a broken leg is released from the hospital to complete his recuperation at home. He is given the necessary equipment upon his release. Of course. How else can he manage?! It wouldn’t occur to us to think differently. Unless we move to another country. In Israel, the released patient is accompanied with – nothing. He is on his own. Insurance will cover certain items but the roll of red tape is l-o-o-o-o-ng. If he is unable to purchase or borrow, what is he to do?
Ezer Mizion, the answer to so many problems, maintains a Service Hub in many hospitals. A family member can stop by and a friendly, trained rep will provide him with what is needed at no cost until he has recuperated or the insurance sends a replacement. Medical advice is also available at the Hub through the Ezer Mizion Medical Referral Division. At the Hub, he can discuss obtaining a home aide from Ezer Mizion’s Home Attendant Division. Should he need transportation that will accommodate mobility challenges, that, too, can be arranged at the Hub through Ezer Mizion’s Transportation Division. Ezer Mizion Linked to Life Division will arrange rides for family members to visit him while he is hospitalized. Do the family members require meals while they are at his bedside? A quick stop at the Service Hub can have that arranged via Ezer Mizion’s Food Division. Is the family worn out and in need of volunteers to take over shifts at the hospital? This also will be taken care of at the Service Hub. In short, the Hub is the liaison between the bewildered, exhausted, often helpless family and Ezer Mizion’s many services.
Recently Ezer Mizion’s Modi’in Ilit branch coordinated the inauguration of Ezer Mizion’s Service Hub at the Shamir – Assaf Harofeh Hospital to serve patients and their families.
The event took place in the plaza near the hospital’s Emergency Room, with the participation of Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau shlita, Ezer Mizion International Chairman Chananya Chollak, Hospital Director Dr. Osnat Lev-Zion Korach, hospital department heads, medical and administrative staff, and directors of other Ezer Mizion branches and services.
Stirring speeches were delivered. Everyone wished Ezer Mizion’s Modi’in Ilit Branch administrators much success with the project and congratulated the trained volunteers. Wishes were expressed for additional collaborations in the future and that the service hub that was opened should provide a response for every person who needs assistance in the hospital and following release.
Rabbi Chollak was given the honor of affixing the mezuzah in the room designated as the on-site branch service hub. He blessed the hospital and branch administrators for joining together with Ezer Mizion to better the situation for the hospital patient and his family.
“It’s not a good time now. Perhaps another day…” These words would never be uttered by an Ezer Mizion staff member. And so there she was on a Friday, not a working day, three hours before Shabbos and elbow deep in challah (bread used on the Sabbath)dough and potato kugel (pudding), when the phone rang. An 11 year old boy with corona has been rushed from his Beit Shemesh home to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital and is waiting for an emergency appendectomy. His mother is with him, both of them sick with corona. Both feeling awful, both strictly quarantined together in their hospital room, without any way to obtain even minimal needs. Can she help?
With the sizzling of the frying pan and the hum of the mixer creating a background of erev Shabbos sounds, N.got to work. Most vital was to contact the Medical Referral Director who was also at home preparing for Shabbos. A nail-biting phone conversation between the director and the father who was in quarantine with his other kids. Shabbos approaching. Fast. More calls by the director to get the appropriate anesthesiologist and surgeon on the case. Finally a sigh of relief. Minutes before Shabbos Everything in place.
As the director’s phone line buzzed with tension, N. began another chain of calls. The clock continued ticking and the challos came out of the oven, No time to even check if the Medical Referrals Director was successful. Food had to be procured. Someone nearby. Maybe her…no, line busy. Perhaps she…no, she’s sick with corona. Another call. Another. Until C. answered. Before even hanging up the phone, C. frantically began putting together pans of delicious hot food for Shabbos with fruit and nuts for treats and even a cozy blanket for Mommy to warm both body and soul as she nervously awaits her son’s surgery.
The serenity of Shabbos began to settle on the many homes in Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh – those that had, only minutes before, been feverishly been putting things together for this family in trouble. Shabbos. Peace. Tranquility. Until Havdollah (closing prayer on the Sabbath) when the calls began again. This time concerned. Is everything ok? How is t boy? Relief. The emergency surgery was successful. The food had arrived. The family could not have been more grateful. All is well. Smiles. Satisfaction. A job well done.
One more thank you note to add to the Ezer Mizion files. Thank you so,so much. Your organization is amazing,( looking forward to supporting it) We are feeling a lot better, Hope to be discharged soon. What we got was perfect, wow and all this erev Shabbat. Thank you so much loads of brocha”
She was eighty years old. Life was difficult. But a home attendant? “Never! I don’t want a stranger in my home!” But things got worse and ‘never’ became ‘maybe’. Ezer Mizion’s Home Attendant Division was contacted and Tzivia entered Sara’s home. One year later on Chanukah, Tzivia found balloons awaiting her as she entered. “These are for you,” Sara smiled. “For you, my Chanukah miracle. Since you came, I felt I have a daughter. Today our friendship is a year old, and I, too, feel like I am a year old, because I am a new woman since you entered my world.” Several days later, Sara fell and broke her arm. The ambulance came but Sara did not go alone. Tzivia accompanied her, spent hours of her free time in the ER with her. It was not long before Tzivia’s husband arrived at the ER to bring them both food and drink. Still retaining her independent streak, Sara was appalled, “I feel so bad that your husband had to go through so much trouble just because of me.”
“If I am your daughter, he is your son-in-law. We’re your family. Family members help each other. “
Sara was too choked up to reply but her eyes said it all as she gazed with wonderment at her family, the ‘strangers’ she had not wanted to allow into her home.
A father is battling cancer. Their situation was heartbreaking: The mother was torn between hospital, where her husband needed her attention, and home where their five children, two of them with special needs, were left alone at home for hours, without proper meals, supervision or occupation. Ezer Mizion got to work… Our fantastic volunteers contacted the director of Ezer Mizion’s services for children with special needs, who arranged for the girls to go to an afternoon club, complete with meals, help with schoolwork, and quality attention until five in the afternoon.
Two volunteers visited the parents in the ward, bringing cake and support, showering them with warm encouragement.
Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life took care of delivering hot meals cooked by Ezer Mizion volunteers to the house on a regular basis.
A home had been on the verge of collapse. Now it was shorn up with planks of love and compassion. The wife of the cancer patient couldn’t stop thanking Ezer Mizion for all this magical support that descended upon her!
From the Ezer Mizion Inbox:
Our family is dealing with my cancer which is so stressful for everyone. Between not knowing if mommy will be home when they get home from school to having to eat strangers’ food, life has become unpredictable for my kids.
You can imagine our surprise when someone came to our door on Chanukah with two big bags for the kids (treats and presents!).
Thank you for bringing a smile to my children’s faces and may you continue to do your holy work.
Be happy and proud, fellow Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life members!!! Until you are there (like I am) you cannot know how vital is the chessed we do. Our son, Motty, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Since the diagnosis, he’s already undergone two complex brain surgeries to remove the growth, both of which met with great success, thanks to the Jewish nation’s prayers!
These days make us feel like a little child who depends on the adult crossing the street with him for his safety. That is exactly how we feel: that Hashem is holding our hand and is walking us through all parts of this life journey.
And only when you are there, in the hospital ward with the other children at home and it’s time to light Chanukah candles and the other children are waiting for a smile from Abba or Ima, but you’re not there…You call Linked to Life and in moments, its ‘magic carpet’ whisks you away to where your heart is.
When she was in Auschwitz, Malka did not believe there would be any future for her. Yet here she is now at the age of 101 (!) with children grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-greats. She is so grateful for what she has but she wants more. More family time. More nachas. She hasn’t seen her family for months And so she opted to take the covid vaccine. But taking the vaccine was easier said than done. How will she get to the HMO where it is given? It didn’t take long for her to remember the number that everyone in Israel knows by heart and call Ezer Mizion to discuss her plight. “Of course,’ came the cheery reply. “Ezer Mizion Ambulance Service will set up an appointment for you. They will carry you downstairs in a wheelchair if need be, help you every step of the way and then take you home again, all vaccinated, soon ready to see your family once again.
“Prepare a meal for a senior? No problem. Give me the address and I’ll deliver it, too.” Avigayil is one of Linked to Life’s indefatigable volunteers, who can always be counted on for a mission. Meal in hand, she entered the home of the senior. “Shall I put it in the fridge for you for later or would you like me to heat it up for you now?” He stood there unable to respond other than an “Ummm…”