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.
Chananya Chollak, who founded Ezer Mizion in 1979, was such a person. A new chosson who would be expected to be involved in his kallah 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.
Like the recent fire in Jerusalem. 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 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.
Then there was 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.
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:
What happens when the pillar holding up the structure begins to wobble? And the walls that had lost their prop fall to the floor? The building that had appeared to be solid now topples, breaking into smithereens.
The Berger* family was such a structure. Mr. Berger was the strong parent whom everyone leaned upon. His wife was his helpmate, relying on him to make decisions, small and large. Emotionally, she was not capable of playing the leader and that was just fine as long as the status quo remained. But then cancer entered the family structure and Mr. Berger was no longer able to offer his strength. His condition was grave and, without the pillar that she depended on all of her married life, his wife could no longer lead the family.
A sick husband, a traumatized wife, bewildered children were left to each fend for himself with no support at a time when it was so desperately needed. But not for long. Ezer Mizion was notified of the situation and they took charge. Various departments were brought onto the scene to provide for both practical and emotional needs. Rides to the hospital, hot meals, someone to do homework with the kids, someone to hold the house together, fun days for the kids, retreats for the whole family to raise their spirits, professional therapy for each member of the family and so much more.
Ezer Mizion became the new temporary pillar with its staff of caring people whose only goal was to ease the plight of a Jewish family in trouble. Heavily involved in the details of their life, it was only natural that they soon heard about Malky* who was soon to be twelve. No Bas Mitzvah plans were in the offing. Who had emotional energy to even think of such things? But Ezer Mizion staff did. They pictured the smiles. They pictured the family togetherness. Both so rare these days. And they got to work.
With so many joining in with their specialties, the result was fantastic. It is not likely that any girl ever had a Bas Mitzvah as nice as Malky*’s.
Ezer Mizion cannot cure the patient but, with the help of all of you, our supporters around the world, we can be there for them when it hurts.
It’s interesting. When I was in second grade, my math teacher told me that if we take away, the total amount is less. When I grew up, I found it wasn’t true. If giving my time, my energy, my expertise made me have less in the end, then why would I and 9,000 of my fellow Linked to Life members race to click on any request that comes in and do our best to respond whenever possible? Second grade math teachers notwithstanding, giving away plusses so much more to our lives. Continue reading Linked to Life: One Week
If you’re like most people, your mental wastebasket is filled with great ideas that didn’t happen. You meant to get to it. You really did. But ‘life’ got in the way. Things were busy that month and it fizzled and died. Maybe someone else could have done it but offhand you didn’t know anyone to ask. And so it joined the many other ideas waiting for ‘someday’.
The following were just some of the letters received after the recent Bat Mitzvah for Holocaust Survivors. The event obviously filled a need deeply felt by those that had their childhood stolen by Hitler.
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 his 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.”
Would a formal celebration during the Golden Years 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. Would it serve to put to rest, once and for all, a few of the demons that still invade in their souls? Continue reading I Missed Mine!
A Bas Mitzvah celebration is being planned at the Kosel for 100 holocaust survivors whose 12th birthday passed during the nightmare of terror with certainly no thought of a celebration. For many women, the missing noting of this important milestone remained like a hole in their lives and they are extremely grateful for the closure offered at the upcoming celebration. the following is a letter written by one holocaust survivor who is so thankful that she wrote a letter to Ezer Mizion even before the event happened. Continue reading A Letter that Belongs to You, Our Dear Friends and Supporters
March 7, 2016, 10:09 AM, Rivi Linked for Life, Jerusalem
12 year old girl, daughter of a cancer patient, is celebrating her bat mitzvah. Truth is that her 12th birthday was several months ago. Because of her father’s serious condition, the party the family had planned was cancelled. We want to pamper her with a nice cake. Who can do a cake for tomorrow?