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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Angels from Heaven

An Ezer Mizion ‘stranger’ becomes family

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. 

All the best,

Sarah B.

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From Our Files

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.

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Visual Arts Joins the Battle against Cancer

Ran Sahar, CEO of Maccabi visiting Ezer Mizion’s 2020 Art Exhibit

Ran Sahar is CEO of Maccabi, israel’s leading HMO, certainly a very busy man. But Mr. Sahar deemed it important to take time off from his crowded schedule to visit Ezer Mizion’s 2020  Art Exhibit. The annual exhibit features work produced by the participants of the Art Workshop, one of the many programs of Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division.

Under the able leadership of Ms. Lidia Rozanski, Multidisciplinary Visual Artist, Certified Art Therapist, participants are guided to explore their inner feelings and express them through visual art.   The process that the workshop participants undergo, alone and together through this project, is unique and powerful with a significant impact on their battle with cancer.

This project, an expanse for emotional processing, offers the artists an opportunity to open up and cope and to break the stifling secrecy, while engaging in the process of creating an artistic object and exhibiting it. It enables them to set out on an internal journey that is emotionally, creatively, and practically challenging. This journey demands of the participants to leave their comfort zone for the sake of the change that is generated by the new perspective they acquire in the course of the process.

When a person is sick, he can experience depression, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, and fear. He can lose his life routine and his ability to create. This workshop provides participants with a place of belonging and identification, a place where they can find change through which they can restore respect – both for themselves and for those around them. Via the process of artistic creation, we try to restore to participants their strength and their ability to do, to create, and to accomplish in the present and to plan for the future.

The artistic works created by participants in the workshop and displayed at this exhibit reveal a little bit of this process and open a window to the world of people fighting cancer. Ofir Amitay uses the following text to illustrate her creation.

Cancer patient depicts family support as she herself experiences helplessness

Together Hand in Hand

How supportive can hands be?

To a child whose life has only just begun..

How supportive and strengthening can a family be?

Apparently, more than I could ever have thought.

Like the foundations of a building, strong and steadfast in the face of a storm,

Like the net for the fallen trapeze artist, flexible, soft, holding on, not letting go.

Hands so powerful, endlessly strengthening.

Where would I have been without you, my dear family?

Probably not among the living.. and thus, this exhibition

Is yours as it is mine.

Together, hand in hand, forever.

To view exhibit: https://ezermizion.org/pdfs/Art_Exhibit_2020.pdf

https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html#tabs-4
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Manufacturing Smiles

The phone rings at Ezer Mizion. Calls come all day, usually from people undergoing horrific crises. This time there was a smile in the voice of the caller. A young boy had completed his chemo treatments and his Bar Mitzvah was coming right up. There was no time to prepare. Can Ezer Mizion help? ’We’d love to,’ the rep answered, happy to be part of a joyful event. As soon as the call ended, the phone was again pressed into service.  Volunteers were needed asap. A sweet table including a personalized Bar mitzvah cake. And petit fours. And creative pastries galore. And drivers to deliver. And volunteers to set up tastefully with elegant tableware. And a popular singer. And a keyboard player. And a gift of a fancy watch presented by the director of Ezer Mizion’s Community Cancer Support Division And…and. Yitzchok, our hero, danced and danced…round and round, holding the hands of everyone who loved him while  the guests cried tears of joy, of gratitude, of hope, of prayer.  

An Ezer Mizion director shares her experience:

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Rx for Cancer: Fun! Fun! Fun!

The two go hand in hand. Chemotherapy and emotional therapy. A patient’s spirits become a powerful partner in the battle against illness.  While Ezer Mizion is not able to provide chemotherapy, we search every nook and cranny for ways to bring joy to the patient and his family. The creativity of the professional staff supported by thousands of dedicated volunteers are in the business of manufacturing smiles on the faces of those who haven’t smiled in days.

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Torch of Chessed: Cancer Support

Shoshi Charmatz, mother of six, has been battling cancer for seven years. Shoshi attends Ezer Mizion’s visual arts therapy workshop and the artwork she has created is currently on display at Ezer Mizion’s visual arts workshop exhibit. Shoshi’s called her moving work of art “The Surviving Tree and me.”

As part of her battle with the cancer that struck her body, Shoshi underwent treatments in New York. On her way to one of the treatments, she encountered the “Surviving Tree,” a lone tree located near the site of the Twin Towers that survived the 9/11 terrorist attack.

“My encounter with the tree was powerful,” she relates. “The tree survived the horrific attack on the city and was cleared from among the ruins. It underwent rehabilitation at a special farm, received infusions of rehabilitative substances, and eventually returned to life and to its original place. I really identified with what the tree had endured.

“At Ezer Mizion’s visual arts workshop, I created my tree, which portrays my journey to recovery with the treatments I am undergoing, far from my family but enveloped in love and filled with hope for growth and full recovery.

“Ezer Mizion and the workshop have a major part in my recovery process, an island of sanity and creation. They are my miracle.”

Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s Cancer patient Support Center, provides professional and volunteer support to patients and their families and envelops them with love.

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Torch of Chessed Burns Brightly during the Corona Pandemic

EPISODE 2

Imagine long days of loneliness at home, days of sickness, compounded by boredom and fear.

The Corona period has decreed this kind of reality on many patients and their families. A reality of sitting at home for long stretches of time in fear due to their illness and in loneliness due to Corona.

At these dark and dreary moments, the Linked to Life volunteers go into action.

The Nidam family from Netivot has isolated itself of its own accord for many long months so as not to endanger the health of the father of the family, who is a cancer patient.

At Linked to Life Southern Region, they decided to take the family out for a fun outing. Avi Pedida, a jeep driver, volunteered to go out with the family for an unforgettable day.

The day began with a luxurious breakfast prepared by a group of Linked to Life volunteers in Netivot. From there, the family went on to a hike in the Negev Mountains. They rode horses and enjoyed a swim in a private pool. They finished off the action-packed day with a scrumptious cookout. “”Words are not enough to thank the Ezer Mizion Linked to Life volunteers,” said the father of the family. “They escort and support us in the most complex moments. They are our light in this very difficult period.”

Linked to Life is a network of Ezer Mizion volunteers who work through a Whatsapp app to provide aid to patients and their families, delivering medicines, equipment, and stem cell tests, among other assignments. Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life network numbers 10,000 volunteers in Israel with many more dedicated members abroad.

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Cancer Support: When the Pain is Too Heavy

It happens in many families. There are times when Abba is involved in a major business crisis and  Mommy has to hold up the fort. Or it can be Mommy who has to rush out of town due to a sick parent and it is Father that is left to take charge. But both parents? During a pandemic? With a Bar Mitzvah coming up? And a forlorn, young boy left to deal with is confused feelings with no support?

Cancer Support when the Pain is Too Heavy

The logistics of making a Bar Mitzvah were out of the question. The father was recuperating from major surgery. The mother was battling cancer. There was no new hat to secretly try on for the 453rd time, no notebook filled with lists. This major milestone was scheduled to happen with nary a blip. The parents’ complicated medical sagas occupied every iota of their minds and emotions.  But parents remain parents even under such difficult circumstances and idea began to sprout. A celebratory trip to the kosel for the three of them. Their son would love it. They knew that. But the idea was next to impossible to execute. Only ambulance travel would make sense but hiring an ambulance at such a time with no money coming in and expenses so high was out of the question.

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