The scene is typical at Montfort Lake in Israel. A lone man casts his fishing rod breaking the shimmering lake’s surface. His pail is already filled with trout for the family supper that evening. A father helps his youngsters into a rowboat cautioning them to close their life jackets with care. A newlywed couple strolls around the lake’s edge. And then there is the Ezer Mizion group. Not the typical. They are in their eighties and nineties. No boating or fishing for them. But the memories…They, too, had once loved the lake. It may have been a lifetime ago but in their hearts there is the same joy of yesteryear when they were young. The weather was perfect. The view magnificent. They sang. They engaged in sports suitable for the golden-ager. This most sublime day was topped with a cookout, a marvelous treat for our survivors whose three meals a day are eaten in the nursing home dining room.
This special day was part of Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program whose purpose is to enable the holocaust survivor living in a nursing home to emerge from the ‘just a number’ syndrome and once again experience his favorite activities.
Each one was unique yet each one was the same. Each reflected an individualized situation much exacerbated by the Covid-19 situation. Yet each one was a desperate plea, “Please help me!’ sent to the address they have come to rely upon. Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life is a whatsapp network spanning Israel and around the globe which receives requests that are as varied as those that send them. It may be a need for transport for an oncology patient, delivery of vital meds, putting together a Bar Mitzvah for a boy whose father is in serious condition, picking up medical equipment for a patient who cannot be released from the hospital without it. The list goes on and on.
During the pandemic, the Linked to Life networks were on fire. Requests didn’t stop. Linked to Life coordinated with other divisions of Ezer Mizion and was there for everyone in their time of need. Was it ten requests, a hundred, two hundred? and make no mistake. Each request did not have a one-step resolution. ‘I would check the network and come back half a day later and see 600 more.’ said a staff member who had access to the network. See chart above for the amazing numbers, all performed by our dedicated Ezer Mizion volunteers.
At the same time, all the other Ezer Mizion divisions – Bone Marrow Registry, Golden Age, Special Needs, Mental Health, Cancer Support, Transportation, Food Disbursement – were working at full speed. If we were to add those numbers, the totals would be mind boggling! How does this happen? Because of you, our invaluable friends and supporters!
Reb Aharon is a 106 year old holocaust survivor. Many years ago, he underwent, like so many others, traumatic experiences that no human being should know of. Yet he remained strong and built a religious life for himself. Those of us who did not live through the holocaust cannot fathom the strength it took to do so. And now he asked for a bit of help from us. It had been so long since he visited the kotel. He yearned to touch its precious stones once again. Would it at all be possible? As part of Ezer Mizion One Wish program for holocaust survivors, problems, one after the other, were solved and, like a dream, there he was. He was trembling with emotion as he, a Kohen (priest), blessed his family members there at his beloved Wall. May G-d…… the words seemed to float in the pure, holy air surrounding the Western Wall. Reb Aharon had come home.
For other survivors, lowered cognitive levels did not allow them to choose a favorite activity for their wish. Other ways of bringing them to greater awareness of their surroundings had to be found. A medical clown was invited to visit the home. Their increased focus, their happy smiles were evidence of a very successful performance.
Still others, a group of animal lovers, were treated to a show starring Ezer Mizion’s therapy dogs. The seniors played with the dogs, stroked them, fed them, and enjoyed watching them do tricks. They were engaged! For some, it seemed almost miraculous. One step forwards out of the tunnel of confusion and non-awareness that they had been living in.
Ziniada lived in the nursing home 24/7. Imagine her joy when she was treated to a trip to one of her favorites from a lifetime ago, Big Fashion Mall in Ashdod.
Moshe of Givatayim was turning 101 years old! His body may not be as mobile as in his younger years but his mind was sharp and lucid and he was much loved by his family and fellow residents. His daughter asked that he be treated to a birthday party together with his friends at the home. The atmosphere was electric! The singing emotive! The deep joy gratifying! And Moshe was showered by blessings by those who loved him.
One of the many thank you notes from a daughter who accompanied her father on a One Wish trip:
Dear Adi and Ora❤❤🌺,
I took the sticker off his jacket and put it straight on the photo (that hangs on my refrigerator.
I am speechless. Any thanks I express will not come close by any measure to what I experienced and felt today. You excited us as much as a cruise around the world on a luxury liner would have (a cruise doesn’t even come close!)… Today, thanks to you, I experienced something wonderful that will stay with me forever…
Our list is long. The day is short. So many items get transferred to the next day’s list. Constant pressure. Never finishing. Can we even begin to imagine what it be like to have no list? No list at all? No goals? Nothing to work toward? Nothing to look forward to?
For a short moment you picture yourself breathing a sigh of relief. I’m done! But then you begin to think. And you realize how unappetizing a day is with nothing to get ready for, nothing to plan. Just nothing. Continue reading No List At All?
Did you ever feel useless? Like nobody needs you around? We all have such feelings from time to time but they don’t last too long. They dissipate as the first child screams out, “Where are my shoes?” Or when a neighbor knocks on your door in desperate need of your cheesecake recipe. Or when your elderly father calls to say his bulb burned out and he needs you to come over to change it. We feel valued when we offer an opinion and people listen, when we handle a hour-long tantrum and husband whispers, “I left a chocolate bar on the night table. Go relax with a book for awhile. I’ll take over bedtime.”
We’re needed. We’re valued. The signs are everywhere. But what if there is no husband or neighbor or child? What if she is alone in a nursing home, a lonely holocaust survivor? The caretaker is not interested in her opinions, her thoughts, her dreams. Day follows day with breakfast, lunch and supper delivered to her. She no longer lives independently. No longer make decisions. She begins to wonder if she, a real person, is really there. Bit by bit, deterioration sets in. Cognitive function, the ability to relate to others, even the ability to have an opinion – they all decline.
A web of relationships, tightly woven over decades. Strengthened with love and caring. Expanding in every direction. Ever increasing… more and more. Until one day when the center threads begin to fray. Eroded by dementia. Continue reading Holding Tight
She looked lonely. Just sitting there on a park bench with her attendant day after day. I stopped for a moment on my way to work. We spoke. A brief chat each day that we both looked forward to. A warm spirit…an intelligent mind imprisoned in an eighty-two year old body. Erica needed more stimulation. Perhaps some board games to keep her mind active. A game partner who would love her and whom she could love.
I reached my office at Ezer Mizion Ashdod Branch. A message from a parent. The volunteer we had paired up for game therapy with her special needs child was not working out. I had had my doubts. Chagit was eager to volunteer and help others but I had not been sure as to how well she could relate to children. Her own childhood had been less than perfect and she was now living with a foster family. Hmmm. Perhaps…?
It was a perfect match. Chagit visits twice a week armed with games and professional advice from the Game Lending Library Division.a project of Ezer Mizion’s Geriatric Services Dept. Malka Hager Fitness Center. The foster family reports that Chagit is so much more fulfilled. The volunteering with Erica has worked wonders for her, boosting her confidence and self-image.