It’s time for lunch and Bracha*, the home attendant, prepared a nice meal of tuna salad with sliced pickles just the way her patient, Chaya* likes it. The corn soup was in the green bowl, Chaya’s favorite. “Come, Chaya. I made you such a nice lunch. Chaya raced to the table and, in a fury, hurled the corn soup at Bracha and dumped the plate of tuna into the garbage. In horror, Bracha watched as each slice of pickle she had so lovingly prepared flew across the kitchen. “You hate me! You’re trying to poison me!” Hurt? Probably. Sad? It was a beautiful lunch. Frustrated? Well, she is human… Angry? Of course not. Bracha is an Ezer Mizion home attendant and has absorbed the caring, compassionate and understanding ambience of the organization. She knew it was the Alzheimers that was making Chaya act this way.
“Come, Chaya,” she crooned with her arms around her patient. “Don’t cry. You know I love you. Just sit down for a few minutes and I’ll make you another lunch just the way you like it.”
He had actually lived there. It wasn’t just a museum exhibit for him. Every detail was part of his youth. He had so much to add. So much color to each display. Each detail he shares is a validation of his own persona, a strengthening of his self-image. There was just one problem. He couldn’t get there on his own.
Years ago, David Arev would frequently visit the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Center Museum. But since he became a nursing home resident, travel was impossible. And so there he remained, languishing in the home, his individuality fading as he began to blend into the woodwork and become one with the institution in which he resided.
Until an Ezer Mizion volunteer approached him. Would he like to participate in the Fulfil -a-Wish program? He leaped at the opportunity and, transported by an Ezer Mizion ambulance, it was not long before he, together with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, found himself at the museum where he had spent so many happy hours.
David and his wife are Iraqi-born and were children at the time of the farhud (the pogrom or “violent dispossession” carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, in June 1941, immediately following the British victory in the Anglo-Iraqi War. The riots occurred in a power vacuum following the collapse of the pro-Nazi government of Rashid Ali while the city was in a state of instability.) They both joined the Zionist Underground Movement and later made aliyah to Israel where they married.
At the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Center Museum, they enjoyed a guided tour. In the course of the tour, they stopped the guide several times to explain to her on their own about the items on exhibit and share with her their extensive knowledge and hands-on historical experiences.
Like during covid when patients spent so many miserable days and weeks isolated in hospitals with no contact with family, Ezer Mizion was there for them with ‘care packages’ filled with pick-me-up items to embrace them with love and caring. Aesthetically packed cosmetic packages with everything from shampoos, Q-tips, fragrant soaps, creams and warm slippers. Comfort packages with cake and chocolates. Packages of hope and good cheer, Ezer Mizion style.
The Fulfil a Wish Program is typical of Ezer Mizion sensitivity that stems from the organization’s founder, Rav Chananya Chollak – the ability to zero in on what is needed and find creative ways to provide it.
What is Ezer Mizion? In addition to its Bone Marrow Registry and many other services, it is a factory. And the product? The product is smiles. Sometimes the going is rough. We may not be able to cure the disease but we can ease the pain and bring a smile to a face that hasn’t smiled in days. Like little Rachel* who has seen more pain in her four years than most adults have seen in a lifetime. Chemotherapy has stolen her innocent childhood from her and now she is on the way to Vienna with her mother and twin sister to continue treatment. Her mother packed a suitcase of the basics and Ezer Mizion packed a suitcase of smiles. If there is something that can ease the pain of a sweet little four-year-old girl somewhat, it’s Hello Kitty and so loving hands packed up every imaginable Hello Kitty item… a suitcase of emotional strength for the grueling months ahead.
“There’s nothing like Ezer Mizion!” These are the words of a grateful employee who…we’ll let her tell her story.
“On Friday afternoon, my niece’s little girl came home from gan with a high fever. She was put to bed but, only a few minutes later, there in the thick of her erev Shabbos (pre-Sabbath) cooking, ‘something’ pushed my niece to check on her. As her mother stood there in the doorway, the child turned blue, then purple, then black. Terrified, my niece ran outside holding her daughter and screaming for help. The end of part one is that the hospital diagnosed it as a genetic reaction to sudden high temperatures. The drama was over but now came the practical questions. If they were released on Shabbos (Sabbath) where would they go? My niece was expecting and traumatized. And, in addition, they would want to be near a hospital just in case. So I dialed the number that is often first on the list of every shaken family member. Within moments, I received a call back. A suite is reserved for her at Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s guest home for families dealing with cancer. A lovely suite with all the trimmings. My niece couldn’t stop thanking them. And me? I couldn’t be more proud to be part of the Ezer Mizion family.
She may be right, you know, when she says there’s nothing like Ezer Mizion. What would she have said had she seen Moriah enter Oranit to put smiles on the faces of young cancer patients. What’s unusual about that, you ask. True, it was Moriah’s regular day to come. She comes every week. But today was… her wedding day. Busy? Certainly. But she’s never miss her weekly visit with Ezer Mizion’s cancer kids.
The Ezer Mizion ‘One Wish’ program is in full swing. Countless holocaust survivors residing in nursing home facilities have already benefited. The program attempts to meet the need of these precious elderly whose daily life often places them in a one-size-fits-all situation in which their individual past life, their specific interests and opinions have no place to flourish. Too often, the senior’s sense of self begins to wither and die. They have a name. They have a lifetime of past experiences. But the ‘me’ slowly fades away and they become not much more than a room number.
In an effort to ease the loneliness and solitude of Israel’s seniors who are homebound due to fragile health and corona regulations and precautions, Ezer Mizion is shifting its live activity clubs to virtual platforms. Many of the seniors that we are targeting had been attending activity clubs, fitness programs, lectures and various programs at Ezer Mizion, filling their time with stimulating, enjoyable social activities. The virtual clubs will include seniors who participated in the clubs before corona as well as additional new members.
Stuck at home now, lacking ways to fill their time, missing social interactions and needing cognitive stimulus, many elders are suffering greatly. They will be happy for opportunities to safely connect with others and participate remotely in activities that will stimulate them cognitively, physically and emotionally.
To ease the transition to the virtual platform and ensure ease of use for the seniors, we will be using tablets that have been adapted specifically for the senior population with the most simple user formats possible. The cost of each tablet is $415. The tablet, which includes adapted hardware, software and technical support will be provided by Ezer Mizion for free as a precondition for participating in the clubs.
Ezer Mizion has chosen 50 seniors for this pilot project. They will be meeting in groups of 12 to 15 participants twice weekly for exercise, lectures, activities, sing-alongs, laughing yoga and more. They will also be able to make use of the device to interact socially with their peers and family throughout the week as well as keeping in touch with their doctor and kupat cholim (HMO) for health maintenance. The next phase of the project will expand the virtual activity club to 150 homebound seniors who are being serviced by Ezer Mizion homecare attendants.
Project Goals Include:
Strengthening sense of belonging to a social group
Easing feelings of loneliness and isolation
Reinforcing a sense of return to something familiar
Tension and anxiety relief, increasing motivation
Preservation and enhancement of cognitive capabilities
Maintaining connection, improving function
Promoting positive, healthy routine
At Ezer Mizion, we view this project as life giving! Reigniting our precious seniors with the will to live, proving to them their essential value as a person and their importance to the group and our team, easing their loneliness, enhancing their cognition, their social interaction and their quality of life. To check out the tablets watch this clip: https://youtu.be/_fgoJRajDVo
Year 1 Project Costs
Cost of each tablet: $415 (C$545)
Cost of 50 tablets for pilot phase: $20,800 (C$16,900)
One year operating cost: $30,000 Your tablet sponsorship and project support will enable Ezer Mizion to infuse the lives of these seniors with hope, with renewal, with a will to live, enriching the fabric of our society. Donor recognition available with a dedication on each tablet sponsored.
Your gift will that smile to our precious seniors. Please donate with ‘tablets for seniors’ in memo.
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 elderly 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?