BECAUSE OF YOU!

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The Other Side part three

Recap: They were there. They lay in the hospital beds, or sat next to family members for long hospitalizations. They know exactly what it feels like — the paralyzing fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness.

Hospital patients and their families become volunteers

They know the importance of a sister’s outstretched hand, accompanied by a genuine sense of partnership and the knowledge that even though you walk in the darkness — you are not walking alone.

We turned to five volunteers who had been on the other side, on the dark, painful side, and who promised that the moment they were able to, they’d help others — and then carried out their promise.

Riva Levi, 39, married, with five children

Riva got to know Ezer Mizion through her father’s  hospitalization. Every day, the Ezer Mizion volunteers would bring her and her family tea, coffee, and pastries “I had no idea how significant this help is. And then, suddenly, I was in that position myself, on the receiving end. That’s when I decided to join to help people who were going through what we went through with my father.” When Riva’s father passed away, she decided to take upon herself to help others, l’iluy nishmato (for the merit of his soul). “I help bring clothing for ironing, drive patients to their doctor, and bring hospitalized patients things that they needs. “Sometimes, when you are in a situation of distress, the only thing you need is to know that you’re not alone.”

Batya Amsel, 35, mother of five sons and a nurse by profession

Batya came to know Ezer Mizion during her husband’s illness. Since neither she nor her husband had a driver’s license, they benefited on a regular basis from the Transportation Division who helped them get to the hospital and back. “It is hard for me to describe the relief and the heartwarming feeling given by the volunteers after a draining stay at the hospital,” she shared.

Over the years, she prayed to be on the giving end.  She learned how to drive and her first trips were for others, via Ezer Mizion. She’s been volunteering for over a year, with a sense of mission. “You cannot take away the pain of the hospital from patients and their families, but you definitely can ease and sweeten the experience.”

Ido Bennett, 25, from Raanana

Ido met up with Ezer Mizion eight years ago, when he was stricken with cancer

He calls Ezer Mizion “my second family.  During treatments, the volunteers were there with him at every given moment. During one of the summer vacations, he joined Ezer Mizion’s retreat, together with his family. “On the last day, Rabbi Chollak got on stage. He told us that his dream is to see us, the patients, coming to the retreat one day as volunteers.. “This sentence buzzed in my head like a bug. I decided that I was going to recover and go over to the other side and volunteer.”

Today Ido volunteers for Ezer Mizion. And this year, he joined the staff and volunteered in the summer retreat, precisely where he’d gone as a patient. His dream had come true. “I joined Ezer Mizion because I know that nothing else interests them beyond doing good. And I knew that through them, I’d be able to give to others, precisely as they gave to me. To know that you have the power to help others — there’s no better feeling than that.”

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The Other Side     part two

A volunteer makes sure each child has a great time, wheelchair or not!

Recap: They were there. They lay in the hospital beds, or sat next to family members for long hospitalizations. They know exactly what it feels like — the paralyzing fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness.

They know the importance of a sister’s outstretched hand, accompanied by a genuine sense of partnership and the knowledge that even though you walk in the darkness — you are not walking alone.

We turned to five volunteers who had been on the other side, on the dark, painful side, and who promised that the moment they were able to, they’d help others — and then carried out their promise.

S. Tovi, 21, had cancer four years ago.

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The Other Side part one

A hospital stay: Loneliness, helplessness, fear

They were there. They lay in the hospital beds, or sat next to family members for long hospitalizations. They know exactly what it feels like — the paralyzing fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness.

They know the importance of a sister’s outstretched hand, accompanied by a genuine sense of partnership and the knowledge that even though you walk in the darkness — you are not walking alone.

We turned to five volunteers who had been on the other side, on the dark, painful side, and who promised that the moment they were able to, they’d help others — and then carried out their promise. We asked them to explain why it is so important to them to pay back everything they received.

Reut Hershko, 40, had cancer six years ago.

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An Eishel for Avinoam

It happened four years ago, at the end of a routine workday. Avinoam Laufer, 40, was headed homeward in Petach Tikvah. On the way, he felt acute pains in his head. He stopped his car and understood that he was experiencing a stroke. He managed to summon an ambulance and inform his wife before losing consciousness. The doctors explained to the frantic family that there was no choice but to do surgery to insert a drain, so as to stop the bleeding in his brain. Avinoam never woke up from the surgery. For 17 days he lay in a coma. When the doctors established that he was in a state of brain death, his family was called in to part with him.

Eishel: Giving to those in need

“Avinoam lived a life for the Jewish people,” his wife describes.  The connection with Ezer Mizion was formed yet in his lifetime, through a project he started with a group of friends, in which, every Shabbat, families would host people who were stuck in the Schneider and Beilinson Hospitals on Shabbat, providing them with sleeping accommodations and meals. In time, the project was named for him: “Eshel Avinoam.” Eishel refers to the tree near the home of Avrohom Avinu (the Jewish forefather) who planted the tree for the benefit of his many guests. The Hebrew word “eshel” – comprised of the letters aleph-shin-lamed — stands for achilah (food), shtiyah (drink), and linah (sleeping accommodations)which were provided both by the tree and in his tent. Using the same initials, the word also stands for Avinoam Shalom Laufer.

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But I Feel Fine…

Giving

I felt fine but noticed a strange enlargement. I wasn’t worried. My brother had survived cancer and I knew what it was like. He had been sick. Really sick. And I felt fine.

I had a long list of things that any busy mother of five can relate to.    Trying to get it checked off my list so I can go on with life, I stopped by the doctor on my way to my other errands.  . One foot out the door, I waited for him to laugh and say it’s nothing. But he didn’t.  Instead he sent me for blood tests. I still thought it was nothing. After all, I felt fine. But when he saw the test results, I was quickly dispatched to the ER.I started to absorb the fact that this was serious. Until now, my life had been calm and routine. Suddenly, the earth was pulled out from beneath my feet.

. You can go crazy from the sense of helplessness, alone, with a million thoughts and fears. That’s when I made my first acquaintance with Ezer Mizion. A representative approached me and. gave me a clarity and an understanding of what was going on. I vividly remember the feeling that she gave me — how she cheered me up and encouraged me. She told me about Oranit, which eventually became a second home — the hotel-like accommodations, the clubs, the trips, the retreats. She said that we should be in touch and, I’ll enjoy everything that Oranit has to offer — and that is really what happened.”

Ezer Mizion became our anchor, the supporting pillar, more than I could ever capture in words. My heart explodes when I recall and relive it. I especially enjoyed the clubs they run. It is very strengthening to meet people who are going through the same emotional experiences. The children also enjoyed the craft clubs, story hour, the music room and the Petting Zoo.

Ezer Mizion’s Oranit Home for Cancer Support

Ezer Mizion was there all the time, at every treatment, with a smiling face, available 24/7. Last summer, there was a retreat for families, and it was so heartwarming, with powerful, moving experiences and unending treats. It took us a month to fully grasp what we’d gotten there — it was a dream! Shortly afterwards, the trip to Italy — 30 women for five days — an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Ezer Mizion’s Oranit Home for Cancer Support
Ezer Mizion’s Oranit Home for Cancer Support

Then came the sad news – The disease had come back to my 49-year-old brother, this time, aggressively. “It was a shock. I wrote to him in humor: ‘What’s going on? I stole the attention from you? I’ll gladly give it back…’ But this time, the disease was stubborn. Our dedicated parents were coping with two children with cancer.

In Yoee’s last days, my mother had Corona. She wanted to come hug him, to give him a kiss but she wasn’t allowed to. All the siblings had planned to be with him for Shabbat and Ezer Mizion offered to arrange the food and all the logistics. Nothing was impossible for Ezer Mizion. They always found a way. In the end, he passed away on Friday morning, leaving a wife and four children. And, yes, my mother had a chance to give him a hug and a kiss.”

Ezer Mizion was there for us in our grief as they had been in happier times. There is nothing more stirring that seeing these people who just want to do good for others.”

Today I am in the recovery stage, baruch Hashem. We have emunah and that makes it a lot easier — knowing that there is Someone directing us from Above.

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If You See Something, Do Something

If you see something, do something. A good credo to live by but rare is the person who does so. We’re not bad people. Just a bit lazy. Maybe unwilling to veer off or normal routine or go out of our comfort zone. We may want to help but don’t know how. We’re too shy to approach a person, afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. And so we remain where we are imprisoned by our insecurities, in our own bubble, as they secretly cry within themselves thinking that no one cares.

Giving

Not so Chilik, a dedicated Ezer Mizion volunteer. He saw something. He saw families beset by serious illness with not a second to spare as they rushed through their day trying to juggle work, family and care of a loved one. He saw his own wife poring over her recipe book to decide on the tastiest meals for Yom Tov (holidays). She spent hours shopping and then in the kitchen creating the culinary delights to make Yom Tov special.  And he thought of those other families.    There was not a moment in their daily schedules to make any Yom Tov preparations and even if there were, there was no headspace for anything except the latest doctor’s prognosis.

Chilik saw something and he did something.  He made the rounds of grocery stores asking for product donations. Potato knishes and cheese blintzes for a chol hamoed supper. Those cute little fish sticks ready to pop into the oven. A giant bag of barbecue chips? The kids will be so excited.  Chocolate bars. Sandwich cookies. Cotton candy – a case of pink for girls and a case of blue for the boys. Boxes of assorted chocolates for the adults. Chicken already barbecued to perfection. An array of cold cuts to suit every palate. Cases of soda and apple juice. Yom Tov paper goods. The list goes on and on.

Chilik then approached his friends who opened their hearts and donated money to enable these families to order their personal preferences. Who could resist Chilik’s impassioned plea!

And then came the climax of Chilik’s project. Delivery Day! Each box was neatly packed. Each item wrapped in heartfelt caring. Each bell answered in disbelief and joy. Faces that hadn’t smiled in days were covered with smiles and enormous relief.

“How did you know?!”

“This is amazing!”

“You thought of everything!”

“The children will be thrilled!”

That’s our Chilik! He saw something and jumped right in to do something. Discomfort, shyness – they fell by the wayside because he understood that this was not about him and he made their needs the center of his efforts. Chilik, like all the Ezer Mizion volunteers, has truly absorbed the Ezer Mizion motto: We’re there when it hurts.

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Because of You!

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Chessed in Jerusalem

Organization and caring: a perfect recipe for maximum chessed. Throughout Israel, Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life (an immense whatsapp network) provides rides to hospitals, delivery of essential meds and so much more for Jews dealing with old age, disabilities and illness. Jerusalem is a challenge. The sheer size of the city and the number of major hospitals located there, have created broad-scope needs for those from around the country who are hospitalized in Israel’s capital. Tele-receptionists man the line most of the day and part of the night, with thousands of volunteers.

Consequently, the hands – and cars – of Linked to Life volunteers at the Jerusalem branch are full of unabated chessed work.

Many residents are in need of service outside the city. A father is taking over for his wife at the bedside of their three-year-old at Schneider’s Hospital in Petach Tikva and needs a ride. An elderly man visiting his daughter in Jerusalem forgot his hearing aid at his home up north. All these fall under the standard umbrella Linked to Life network.

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Now They Hear the Cheers

Disabled? Yes. But Capable? Absolutely!

Self-esteem. A vital component to day to day functioning. At least as vital as the proteins and vitamins we consume, perhaps more. Some of us are blessed with a hefty dose embedded in our natural psyche. Some of us develop it by a series of successes in academics, in sports, or music or drama. Any area will do as long as we can hear the cheers from our imaginary audience. And then there are some that don’t. From early childhood on, they were the ones who couldn’t. Couldn’t do sports due to their physical disability. Failed academically due to feeling different than the rest of the class.  And didn’t feel confident to even try to succeed in any area.

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