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.Continue reading Now They Hear the Cheers
Preparations for Lag B’Omer are going full speed ahead.
70(!!!!) Ezer Mizion male staff members are on site. The logistics are huge. Ambulance drivers, transport escorts, technical setup and management staff. Roles have been assigned and preparatory meetings were held. Included in the tasks are staff members in charge of collaboration with the police and local authorities, synchronization with others in the field at Meron, protocol for varied situations: the expected and chas v’shalom the unexpected. Two huge tents are set up for use of the tireless Ezer Mizion team – one for sleeping and one for a kitchen and dining hall, plus toilet facilities – everything with lighting and A/C.
Ambulance transport for mobility impaired people up and down the mountain is a major undertaking synchronized via an Ezer Mizion Command Center trailer with a full IT setup and with computerized map displays of the entire Meron area. The trailer has its own AC and generator and its own land-line phone system for coordinating the trips to and from the ziyon of Rabbi Shimon and the entire team.
Last year the cell phones all crashed, and Ezer Mizion was the only communication source, via our land lines. We gave one of our land-lines to Hazalah for their vital work. (The police were the only ones that had mobile phone communication when the cell phone systems were down last year, which they do via satellite).
By request from the police, we have one ambulance in Meron since Sunday when it did 42 runs in one day, taking elderly, seriously ill and mobility impaired people up and down the mountain (84 trips…) to daven at Rabi Shimon’s kever, a small hint of what is yet to come on the big day itself.
May all the tefillos be well received. May everyone who visited Meron return inspired, encouraged, empowered, uplifted, safe and sound.
Sometimes you see me on the street, waiting at the bus stop on my motorized wheelchair. Your looks are especially pitying when the bus pulls up at the stop and the driver comes out to open the ramp so that I can get on the bus.Continue reading Disability = A Life of Nothing?
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 (groom) who would be expected to be involved in his kallah (bride) 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 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.
Then there was 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 (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.
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.
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,
For most of us, the word ‘I’ permeates our conversation. I feel, I believe, I am worried about. But what exactly is that ’I’ ? We don’t think so much about the question since our various parts work together. We think of an idea, dial a friend to discuss it, click on the mouse to research it, walk to the appropriate place to procure what we need. But then there are the people whose parts do not work together. They’re bright, intelligent, creative. They have opinions. An idea may percolate in their minds but they are not able to make the phone call, use a computer, walk to the nearest store, speak to friends. And so the idea remains. Crying to be developed. Aching to be shared with others. Eventually deteriorating and dying the death of all its predecessors. And the ‘I’? The ‘I’ becomes embittered and withers away into nothingness.
There it stands, a picturesque chalet surrounded by luxuriant foliage in a rustic village located in Nechalim. From a distance it exudes a quiet loveliness but come closer and you’ll see that it is anything but quiet. Everywhere you look, there are motorized wheelchairs and their owners are going from here to there, busy, busy, busy, very intent on achieving their goals. Their goals are many – these severely handicapped young people. Some are unable to walk, others unable to speak but all have talents, opinions, desires.Continue reading Ahuvi
There it stands, a picturesque chalet surrounded by luxuriant foliage in a rustic village located in Nechalim. From a distance it exudes a quiet loveliness but come closer and you’ll see that it is anything but quiet. Everywhere you look there are motorized wheelchairs and their owners are going from here to there, busy, busy, busy, very intent on achieving their goals. Their goals are many – these severely handicapped young people. Some are unable to walk, others unable to speak but all have talents, opinions, desires. Continue reading Hidden Away Among the Leaves there Lies A…
Marriage is forever, isn’t it? But what happens when he is living in a nursing home, incapacitated and she is wheelchair bound at home? After 63 years of marriage are they never to see each other again?
“After fourteen concentration camps, my wife is my whole world,” he says. “I long to spend time together but I am imprisoned in an aged body.”
Eons ago, they used to be young. They both loved the beach. He used to surf and was quite good at it. And so they dreamed. Separately. Alone. Until Ezer Mizion came into the picture.
It would be like years ago. A date. On the beach. Like when they were young, Like their courtship days.
Logistics are never easy. It required two Ezer Mizion ambulances, each fitted to accommodate a wheelchair. It required trained drivers who are able to handle the disabled safely and with care and respect. It required finding a suitable beach. It required an empty slot in Ezer Mizion’s tightly scheduled Make-A-Wish program. So many requirements but Ezer Mizion staff was determined and the holocaust survivors’ ‘date’ became a reality.
And so there they were, “strolling” along the boardwalk, watching the surfers, reliving their younger days together. They talked and talked, sharing memories, catching up on each other’s lives. They laughed at the antics of the surfers, recalling the days when he rode the surf. Once again they felt the sun’s rays, listened to the pounding of the waves, smelled the ocean spray…together.
An Ezer Mizion outing would not be complete without a delectable meal to go with it. Lunch at the Shaltele Restaurant overlooking the sea topped off their date. They chose all their favorites ending off with an ice cream sundae with all the trimmings. It was a beautiful day. Neither one wanted it to end. But the memories will chase away the loneliness for months to come.
Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program offers the elderly holocaust survivor the opportunity to choose an event they wish to experience, something they can look forward to. The requests are as varied as the people who make them. It may be a visit to the Kosel, a tour of the old neighborhood, a trip to Tzfas. It may be an opinion regarding entertainment at the facility in which they reside. Ezer Mizion receives requests from social workers or family members of lonely, disabled, holocaust survivors throughout Israel. After reviewing the requests, Ezer Mizion coordinates the logistics of making these dreams come true.
Many of today’s Holocaust survivors are confined to facilities, lonely and isolated. They suffered indescribable trauma in their early childhood and youth. As people age they face loss. Loss of their independence, of their faculties, of their standing in the community. Slowly they shrivel, even losing their sense of self. Our goal is to revive their spirit, ignite their feeling of self-worth, and encourage them to delve below the dust that has gathered and realize that their wants, their opinions matter. This, we hope, will renew their vitality and empower them by enhancing their sense of self-worth.
Approximately 570 wishes will be fulfilled this year. The senior is heavily involved in the planning and receives a lovely album of pictures after the Big Day. The anticipation beforehand coupled with the memories following will infuse our precious survivors with emotional energy, healing, hope and happiness.
Life goes on. Minor ups. Minor downs. Only the expected appears on the horizon. Day after day. Year after year. Until suddenly a violent gust swoops down and grabs you like a ferocious tornado. It picks you up from your familiar life and hurls you into a world of terror, of helplessness, of bewilderment. You feel like a tiny child, lost in a busy department store with no mommy to hold your hand.
In recent years, Ezer Mizion has tried to be that ‘mommy’, providing the emotional, psychological and practical support for those that have suddenly been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Both they and their families find themselves in a maelstrom of fears with no coping mechanism in place. A center to turn to for support was sorely needed. Thus was born Ezer Mizion’s Division for Support of Cancer Patients and their Families. Countless letters are received from grateful families using the words: We never could have made it through without Ezer Mizion.
Encouragement from one who has ‘been there’ is extremely strengthening and that is why Pascale Berkowitz was invited to speak at Ezer Mizion’s Division for Cancer Support. Pascale had lost both of her legs in a horrifying train accident when she was sixteen years old. From one day to the next she went from being a bouncy teen, ready to conquer the world to being unable to fend for herself in basic ADL’s. In front of her were two roads – allowing herself to fall into the abyss of self-pity or moving forward from her new reality. With her i-can-do-it personality, Ms. Berkowitz chose the high road. Continue reading Devastated by Cancer…and Alone?
“I would wake up in the morning and my mind would begin to churn. Will the deal go through? Will Moishe remember his spelling for the big test today? Can we afford that vacation my wife wants so badly? That was before I attended the inauguration of the new Ezer Mizion building in Netivot and heard Chananya Chollak, Ezer Mizion’s founder, speak. His message was clear. We wake up in the morning and feel fine. Shouldn’t our first thought be: How can I help those that do not wake up feeling fine?” Thus said an attendee of the inauguration of the new Netivot building who has since registered as an Ezer Mizion volunteer. Continue reading The Inaugurating of the New Netivot Building
It wasn’t easy. Nothing is ever easy for this child. Avi* was born with cerebral palsy and suffers from other issues also. His life is complicated, to say the least. Avi had an appointment at the clinic and I was the Ezer Mizion driver assigned to take him. Another child would simply hop into the family car and buckle himself up. But not Avi. He needs to be transported with an Ezer Mizion vehicle especially outfitted for the disabled. He was strapped into an adjustable wheelchair with back support to counteract his spasms and prevent his accidentally flying out of the chair, certainly a dangerous situation in a moving vehicle. I positioned him facing backwards so that the inertia of a short stop will be absorbed by the sturdy back of the seat, not the much weaker seat belt. More minor adjustments. I did my best to provide a comfortable, safe ride for this child whose condition makes him dependent on others to provide for his every need. Or so I thought. It was only moments later that I discovered how much he has achieved on his own and is able to give to others. Continue reading Who Is the Giver? by Shmuel Strauss