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 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.

The ultimate in Bas Mitzvah celebrations created by Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division
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To Really See. To Really Care.

Yeshiva evacuated due to Jerusalem fire

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 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 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.

The Ezer Mizion Cancer Support Division does it again!

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.

Disability Won’t Stop Me!

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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What’s In It for Me?

Jumping on a trampoline cannot cure cancer but it can surely bring smiles enabling the spirit to enhance the body’s ability to fight its battle.

“What’s in it for me?” the average person asks. A new project…a new suggestion. How will I gain? Some will ask it outright. The more refined will ask only in their thoughts. But the ever—present ego accompanies our every move.

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Keeping the Eye Away from the I

Volunteering in spite of the heat and weakness due to fast

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:

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Our Treasured Volunteers

Sometimes we have to wait until the World of Truth to see it. But sometimes it is so clear. Like the Bluestones who are owners of a well-known Israeli firm that manufactures fashionable clothing, makeup and jewelry bags. In spite of their many business responsibilities, they devote a great deal of time to volunteering for Ezer Mizion. One of the recipients of their chessed is a disabled, elderly man for whom Mr. Bluestone delivers meals regularly. Meals are not all he delivers. With the food he brings caring, genuine interest in the details of the man’s day and an upbeat, cheery ambience.

A friendship developed between the two and it was only natural that when the elderly senior was hospitalized with no family support, Mrs. Bluestone cooked a complete array of Shabbat dishes and they both spent Shabbat together with him in his hospital room.

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The LegoMan and His Unicorn

For years Maor Cohen, aka the LegoMan, has been volunteering at Ezer Mizion providing lego workshops for those dealing with cancer. The lego projects are both distracting and able to give a feeling of a future to those who sometimes dare to wonder if they will have one. Frequently he shares the joys of remission with the families he has become so close to. And too frequently he also shares their sadness…

Recently, people have been calling and asking me to speak.

It seems that people think my work is something worth hearing about.

I don’t have an organized speech, not even a PowerPoint presentation.

When I speak, I speak from my heart.

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Farewell to my Sister!

A message from an Ezer Mizion cooking corps volunteer to her fellow volunteers

Beloved friends, dear sisters, who give of your time, money, and energy to the community,

It is just hours to Shabbat and I can picture all of your activity from the side — without excuses, without looking for outs… charitable acts performed with your own hands. I want to share with you some of the feelings in my aching, weeping heart.

Two days ago, I lost a sister… a dear sister whom I never met to this day, a sister who shares common parents with us — Ezer Mizion…

So sadly, my journey of a year and a half with this dear, beloved “sister,” mother of 9 children, has come to an end. After a year and a half of suffering, she returned her pure, unsullied soul to her Father in Shamayim (heaven).  We both tended to those children over the last year and a half; she continued to love and miss and worry about them, though she could not really raise them. And we were zocheh (merited) to accompany her family for the last year and a half with rice, chicken, meat, soup, schnitzel, desserts, nosh, etc.

I was so sure that I’d end my task by giving her a big hug and returning the cooking scepter to her kitchen kingdom. But Hashem (G-d) wanted her at his side, pure and glowing. And I, apparently, will continue escorting the pained orphan children for a while longer.

I am telling you this because I was at the funeral. I cried so hard that I felt real physical pain. A five-year-old boy said Kaddish (prayer for the deceased)… A three-year-old girl looked for Mommy… I felt that I had no more strength to cook, that it was very hard for me, that I, too, am in mourning. Who will comfort me? I so wanted to meet her.

Today, when I came to be comfort the mourners hurting, broken, and sad — I emerged stronger and, above all, with the energy to continue. And this is what I want to bring to you.

It was seeing with my own eyes the little children, the pure mouths that never sinned, eating what we brought; feeling that I love them like my own children; that they are flesh of my flesh; that what my children ate, they ate, too, nourished by what my children were nourished. (Our children knew that we always buy a double amount of nosh, half for us and half for them…)

I heard from the aunts how the children spoke about the delicious food and how the deceased was such a fine person and was always there for everyone; how she loved her children and felt so bad that she could not do things for them; and how calming it was for her that they had food, and how much she blessed me…

But what was most chilling for me was what I heard from her mother, an amazing, righteous woman who took care of her daughter for the last year and a half with endless devotion. She said again and again: “Your hands should be blessed… your hands should be blessed! You can raise them to Shamayim (heaven) and ask Hashem (G-d) to fill them with all good things!”

I want to pass her words on to you and to say, “Your hands should be blessed… your hands should be blessed!” One of the highest level of charity is to actually feed the needy, and that is exactly what you do. Thanks to you, children grow and develop, physically. Their new son-in-law (married a half year) told me — and I’m passing this on to you, too: “You should know that the food you prepared for the family was a matter of real hatzalat nefashot (saving souls)!!! Without this food that you prepare during people’s difficult times, they would not have the strength to get through this period.”

“Your hands should be blessed… Your hands should be blessed… Your hands should be blessed!” Now, while you are cooking, lift your holy hands up to Hashem and ask Him for all good things! May Hashem give you the strength to continue more and more to give, to cook, to do… May He fulfill your heart’s desires for the good and for a blessing. May we hear of no more tragedies in our midst. And may we all merit much joy.

One more thing that my husband said to the father of the family : “In an army, there are the fighters, and there are those who make sure they have what to eat. You are the fighters, who went through such a difficult nisayon (test), and we are the quartermasters.”

May these words and the chizuk (strength) they engender be l’iluy nishmat (for the elevation of the soul of) Chaya Beruriah bat Menashe.

.

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With You Wherever, Whenever

Did you ever follow an Ezer Mizion staff member around over his day? Not advisable if you need your eight hours of sleep. But we can check his postings at a more decent hour.

“It’s now 2:26 AM. I’m exhausted but I must send this note to MC to say thank you before I go to bed for the night. We just worked on a difficult case together. A woman who had given birth just 6 weeks ago was admitted to Hospital A with a  huge bleeding brain tumor and Ezer Mizion Medical Referral Dept. was contacted to be sure she was getting optimal care. MC determined, after a lengthy session researching her case, that Hospital B would be better for her care. Time was of essence and the move should take place NOW.  Switching hospitals is complex involving much red tape. How to make this happen? Well, it wasn’t a job for a shy, timid person. That I can tell you. MC didn’t hesitate to call key doctors on their private lines. Their being asleep for the night was not a factor to be considered. A Jewish life was at stake. They all rallied. It’s natural to have respect for someone whose actions display no ego, only a sincere desire to help. Well,,it’s done. She’s transferred. We can only pray now for good news for this young mother.  

Our staff will provide whatever is needed for the family at home and for those staying with the patient at the hospital. Rides to and from the hospital will materialize at the push of a button. Hot meals will be delivered by compassionate volunteers every day to the hospital for the caregivers. Loving babysitters will care for the new baby and for the older children. There will be treats for the kids, trips, the Guest Home where they can spend time doing fun things under the guidance of therapists who will help them cope. Emotional support for the father. And, of course, ongoing monitoring of his wife’s case.  

That’s how it is when you have one gigantic Ezer Mizion family, spread out all over the country.

When you see this message in the morning, notice what time it was written. It is a great merit to be part of a family that never stops giving, with no limitations of time, hour, or place.

Maybe it is the late night hour that is making me so emotional. But I felt great pride when I told the family: “We at Ezer Mizion are with you throughout the process — first in the original hospital, then in the second hospital, and also in your home in Carmiel. We are here with medical counseling, ambulance transport, meals — whenever, wherever you are in this story, we are with you!”

Such pride to feel myself a small part of something so huge – the Ezer Mizion family!!!” May all of you — the staff, the volunteers, and, of course, those whose generous donations help fund each mission — each one of you be blessed from above.

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And This Is Just One Family: Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Support Services

Yaakov was about to become Bar Mitzvah. Let’s peak into his home to watch the goings on: the frantic calls to the caterer, the late night trip to exchange the hat for a larger size, the sisters pirouetting about in their new finery. But there was none of that. No happy excitement. Not a drop. There were late night trips but they were to the ER, not the hat store. During this what normally would have been a most joyful period in Yaakov’s life, both of his parents were battling cancer.

Yaakov’s family had already benefited in so many ways from Ezer Mizion’s Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Support Services, the cancer support division that services the religious sector. It was only natural that they took over the organization of Yaakov’s Bar Mitzvah, one of approximately thirty in the past year. It would have to be small due to his parents’ condition. Small but certainly cheerful and festive. The Ezer Mizion volunteers got to work producing all that was needed including lovely miniatures to grace the sweet table and a special Bar Mitzvah cake. The mother sat comfortably on a chair which the director had brought from his own office.  Yaakov had his first aliyah (honor of reading a portion from the Torah) and was blessed by his father afterwards.   It was a memorable occasion with some of the last memories Yaakov will have of his father who parted from his beloved family just ten days later. Forever.

 Ezer Mizion continues to accompany the family on their difficult journey in the hope that the mother will have a complete recovery. Staff members raised money to cover renovations in their home to accommodate a wheelchair and for the purchase of a Dutch bed, an attractive piece of furniture with the features of a hospital bed. The enthusiasm among staff members was contagious, each one looking to do more and more. 

Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Support Services, in memory of Rebetzin Judy Kalatzky A’H, serviced 731 families from 55 cities and towns in Israel in 2020. A total of 31,000 weekday meals and 21,000 Sabbath meals were provided to families in their homes over the year in addition to Sabbath baskets with complete Sabbathneeds delivered to families spending the Sabbath at the hospitals.

Transportation to and from hospitals and clinics, mentoring for children whose parents are not able to be there for them during this difficult period, a game library, emotional therapy, support groups and domestic help are some of the services provided by Ezer Mizion’s  Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Support Services.

Corona was challenging for people universally. But for families with a close loved one who is struggling with cancer, corona was a veritable upheaval. Cancer patients were considered hi-risk and – where everyone was cautious – cancer patients and their families had to be super careful to avoid COVID infection. Many children did not go to school or kindergarten or to friends or to the park – even when lockdown was long over – in order to protect their dear one from infection. Through this long and challenging period, where many families struggling with cancer were additionally challenged by an already disrupted home situation, Ezer Mizion was there for them in every way that we could be, to assist, sustain and empower. While at Ezer Mizion we adhered to strict and frequently changing Ministry of Health corona regulations, we found ways to adapt our services and keep them available to our target population. The summer retreat, a favorite of these families, had to be canceled but, notwithstanding extremely complex logistics, 68 families were hosted separately on mini-vacations. On behalf of Yaakov’s family and all those who benefited from Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Services, thank you from the bottom of our heart to all of you whose generosity enables Ezer Mizion to accomplish so much!

https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html
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When the Doctor Ordered Smiles

When the light is out in your living room, what do you do? Simple. Just flick a switch. What about when the light is out in the eyes of a heroic 12 year old girl? That’s much harder. But that’s what Ezer Mizion is there for and, once again, the Linked to Life network rallied and the light went on. 1000 watts! She had been battling cancer for what seemed to her and her family to be eons. They handled each problem as it came with trust in G-d. Some were harder than others. Recently it became necessary for this young child to have her leg amputated. They understood. It would save her life. But it was so hard. To think of her living for the rest of her life – may it be many, many years – missing a leg! While still in the throes of dealing with this devastating catastrophe, the calendar informed them that her bas mitzvah had arrived. The prime ingredient of a celebration is smiles. And, at this time, there were none to be had. That’s when the Ezer Mizion Linked to Life network was informed and a post went out. “Today we are going to restore light to the girl’s eyes. Today, she will go to sleep happy and content… with a wide smile, and will wake up with a lot of strength to keep going.” And then it began to pour. Her home was flooded. A stunning Bas Mitzvah cake. Goodies galore. Balloons with grinning emojis and encouraging messages. Gifts and gifts and more gifts. It was a major storm of caring and support. And suddenly the smiles abounded. They’d make it through. Now they knew they would.  Vitamin Encouragement is a strong medication.

Yael is another young girl engaged in the same war. Like any other17 year old girl, she has dreams. It’s so hard to hold onto dreams when so many of her days are spent in a hospital setting but Yael doesn’t give up. She studies hard for her matriculation exams. Some days giggling with a friend and some days attached to an IV pole. She is determined, our Yael. Determined to have the best possible future. And in her busy life, she makes a place for fun also. Meir Odesser is one of those talented people who can bring joy to the most depressed. He comes regularly to Ezer Mizion and puts on a fantastic show of twisting balloons into animals and the like.  Yael loves the show but she wants more. She wants to learn how to do it herself. Meir was thrilled to bring added happiness to this special girl and spends hours giving lessons and, most importantly, blowing a surge of optimism into each and every balloon.

 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.

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