A Golden-Ager’s Day

An Elderly Holocaust Survivor ‘Comes Home’.

Reb Mordechai was a ninety year old holocaust survivor. On the outside, he was a bent over, frail old man. But on the inside, there lived the memories of a robust, courageous soldier who fought alongside Rabbi Goren in the battle to liberate the Kosel (Western Wall). He trembles with spiritual joy as he recalls the first time he put on t’fillin (phylacteries) at the kosel. ‘Ribono shel Olom (G-d), we’re here!’ his soul cried out. And now, at the twilight of life, he yearned to re-experience that intimate nearness to his Creator. Not that many years ago, he would simply hop on the #1 bus but now, in his senior years, that was impossible. And so he continued to dream, knowing deep inside that there was no way his dream could become reality.

And so it would have continued had he not shared his dream with an acquaintance. Who knew someone…who knew someone…who knew someone who worked in Ezer Mizion. ‘A Make-a-Wish’ program? For elderly, holocaust survivors? Could it possibly happen?’

There were many details to iron out but one day, his heart singing with joy, Reb Mordechai found himself waiting outside the senior citizen home where he lived for the ambulance fully equipped for the mobility challenged.

What a day it was! He was welcomed by a representative of the Kotel Heritage Foundation who brought him to visit the Western Wall Chain of Generation Center. He received a gift of a sefer Tehilim (book of Psalms) with a personal inscription by the Rabbi of the Kotel. Throughout the day he regaled everyone he met with his stories about the battles for the Kotel and Me’aarat Hamachpelah during the Six Day War, keeping his listeners spellbound. 

And then the climax. There it was. What he had seen only in pictures for so many years. In pictures and in his mind’s eye. There it was. Right in front of him. Its stones seeming to reach out to embrace their beloved son. His soul raced towards it, the ambulance driver barely able to keep up. His fingers touched their holiness. His hands shaking, he wrapped himself in his t’fillin. V’erastich li l’olom…(G-d, I am bethrothed to You forever)

Ezer Mizion’s Golden Age Division empowers Israel’s elderly population – many of them Holocaust survivors – to live out their years in comfort, dignity and satisfaction. The Golden Age Division offers an array of services and programs to seniors throughout Israel, including professional home care, social clubs, a make-a-wish program, Alzheimer’s intervention, a home repair program, and more.

In addition, all of Ezer Mizion’s standard services are available to the elderly: food distribution, ambulance and transport, and medical equipment loan are but a few of Ezer Mizion’s programs that benefit Israel’s elderly.

Ezer Mizion’s Fulfilling A Dream program offers the elderly the opportunity to choose an event they wish to experience, something they can look forward to. Ezer Mizion receives requests from social workers or family members of lonely, disabled, elderly people throughout Israel. After reviewing the requests, Ezer Mizion coordinates the logistics of making these dreams come true.

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Whenever, Wherever, Whatever

Royalty Free Clipart Image: Coffee Sitting on a Bistro Cafe Table | Cafe  tables, Table, Homemade chai tea
The Dream of an Elderly Senior

A simple pleasure. One that many people experience on a daily basis. But for Luba, an elderly holocaust survivor, it was never in the forefront of her plans for the day. Now as she reaches her golden years and resides in a senior living home, she discovered the enjoyment of sitting in a café.  Through Ezer Mizion’s Make-A-Wish program which enables the holocaust survivor to strengthen his feelings of ‘me’ by choosing a treat of their own liking, Luba’s friend had requested to re-experience a visit to a café. Traveling to a real one was out of the question for her. Ezer Mizion therefore simulated a café on the grounds of the home. The friend invited Luba and in this way, Luba experienced the enjoyment she had missed in her younger years. Now it was her turn to ‘make a wish. Without a moment’s hesitation, she said, “I want to go to a real cafe.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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Bringing the ‘Me’ Back to Life for the Elderly

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.

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Our Precious Elderly Cannot Be Left On Their Own

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Activities at the Geriatric Services Division during the Coronavirus Period

Numbers:

3,200 seniors

4,000 attendants

150 professional staff members

13 branches across the country

Thousands of dedicated volunteers

With the onset of the crisis, the entire Geriatric Services Division shifted to a mode of alternating home/office work. Authorization to work remote was given to 60 staff members who were provided technical support and computers, as needed.

During this period, the tremendous responsibility of the Geriatric Services division towards the highest-risk group in the world has doubled. This responsibility is reflected by work around the clock, with no breaks, in the division’s 2 primary areas of activity:

Core Services

  • Mentoring and guidance of new seniors, their caregivers and family members in obtaining a geriatric services stipend from Bituach Leumi (the National Insurance Institute)
  • Placement of certified attendants in seniors’ homes
  • Guidance in the process of obtaining a foreign worker
  • Initiated phone calls every week to all the attendants, care recipients, caregiving family members (about 7500 calls a week)
  • Frontal and phone visits to 3000 seniors
  • Intensive work geared at giving the full number of hours of entitlement and care to the senior, in spite of attendants’ fear and concern of giving caregiving hours in the homes of seniors.

Auxiliary Services

Operation of an active “Corona hotline” Sunday to Thursday from 8 AM to 10 PM and on Fridays and Erev Chag from 8 AM to 12 PM; Motzaei Shabbat and Motzaei Chag from 8 PM to 11 PM

The hotline provides a response to seniors, family members, and attendants in the following areas:

  • Calls for emotional support
  • Therapy calls with experienced professionals (social workers)
  • Calls to obtain information about entitlements and assistance in making them happen
  • Facilitating community and municipal services, especially hot meals!
  • Facilitating Ezer Mizion services: loan of medical equipment,
  • Arranging purchase of groceries, produce, home supplies and medicines and delivery via Ezer Mizion “Linked to Life” volunteers
  • Tapping in to connections for the purpose of obtaining service from different entities, in collaboration with the Home Front Command, kupat cholim, etc.

Activating volunteers to relieve loneliness via:

  • “Listening Ear” project — phone calls from volunteer emotional therapists
  • “Adopt a Bubby and Zeidy” — in collaboration with Discount Bank employee volunteers who are set up with seniors to allay their loneliness by phone.

Physical Exercise

  • Online physical exercise through a number of channels: website, online handbooks, etc.
  • Distribution of physical exercise kits to the homes of seniors by volunteers
  • Telephone guidance for active participants at the Senior Health Promotion Center by Center staff

Installation of Security Cameras

Tzipporah Fried Alzheimer Patient Support Center

  • Outgoing support calls initiated by the Center’s professional staff to caregiving families who were in touch with the center in the past
  • Online support groups via ZOOM

Holocaust Survivors

  • Phone calls initiated by staff to all Holocaust survivors who participate regularly in the Ezer Mizion activities
  • Provision of a full response to needs that arise in the conversations: cooked food, purchase of groceries and medicines, emotional support via therapeutic phone calls
  • Home visits, in keeping with all Health Department directives (remote, porch visits)
  • Establishment of a mobile library operated by means of a personal delivery from the municipal library to the Holocaust Survivor’s home – operated by the British Café staff
  • Online/telephone physical exercise guidance
  • Distribution of potted plants to 1100 Holocaust survivors across the country on Yom Hasho’ah

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More than a Room Number

pr doorOur precious elderly holocaust survivors have reached their golden years. Some are surrounded by family with constant reminders of the place they have created for themselves in the world. Others are not so fortunate. Over 500 are living in nursing homes, no longer in charge of their lives. They have become a number, the patient in Room 346, and are no longer able to feel themselves to be individuals. How to recapture the feeling of self-identity? Continue reading More than a Room NumberFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Our Holocaust Heroes

kosel
90 Holocaust Heroes come ‘home’.

In a powerful Ezer Mizion event, in collaboration with the Kotel Heritage Foundation, ninety elderly holocaust survivors, together with their families, were brought to the kosel, some for the very first time.   They were welcomed by the ceremonial salute by a platoon of soldiers followed by an inspiring musical performance. The event included a visit to the “Chain of Generations” display after which each survivor approached the wall in heartfelt gratitude and prayer. Each participant deeply felt his connection as part of the ‘chain of generations’ so grateful to have been given the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

holocaust - yellow star
A void never filled in the soul of a holocaust survivor

The group then parted with the kosel and made its way to Aish Hatorah Yeshiva where a festive celebration for the ‘Bas Mitzvah girls’ took place. One may rightly question the existence of a group of Bas Mitzvah girls within an assemblage of .  The answer is both sad yet uplifting. You see, for so many of these survivors, there had been no childhood. They missed out on all the milestones that our generation takes for granted. Many holocaust survivors have built anew and are now successful heads of multi-generational families. But there in the recesses of their being lies the childhood that never was. They don’t speak about it. An adult would feel foolish expressing her regret over never having had the opportunity to play with dolls. But it’s there. Or rather, it is not there. A void that cannot be filled. Among themselves, the sorrow may come up in conversation. And at one other place: an Ezer Mizion Social Club for Holocaust Survivors. It was there that an idea was born.

As these heroes attend their grandchildren’s Bas and Bar Mitzvahs, their hearts are filled with pride. Yet there lurks that germ of regret. “I missed mine.”

A formal celebration during the Senior Golden Years has been found to serve as closure for the childhood celebrations lost in the wisps of crematoria smoke. Call it a Bas Mitzvah. Call it a closure of sorts. It helps to put to rest, once and for all, a few of the demons that still invade in their souls.

And so the long awaited day came to an end.  It was a stirring and powerful event for the hundreds gathered there, an event greatly enhanced by the moving words of Ezer Mizion’s Founder and International Chairman, Rav Chananya Chollak. It was a day made possible by the cooperation of so many Ezer Mizion Transportation Division and Geriatric Division staff members whose dedication ensured that every detail be perfect. It was a day in which we, the younger generation, were given the opportunity to show honor and respect to our holocaust heroes.

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Why Home?

pr golden - 1 wish - Dora and daughter -beach trip-4
A day of memories for 2 holocaust survivors

They’re locked in their own world, unable to express themselves. Unable to benefit from daily communication with those around them, their ability to look upon themselves as individuals begins to fade and slowly dissipates. Their unique personalities become only a memory in the minds of those who knew them well.  Continue reading Why Home?Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

A Little Sliver of Gold

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A holocaust survivor is given a ‘day at the spa’

She led a full life. Her days were filled with giving to others. Her children, neighbors, friends.  Satisfying days. Neither did she neglect herself. Every so often she would recharge with a trip to the spa. A manicure. A facial. A great way to provide energy for herself as a giver. So relaxing. And it felt so good to be looking her best.

It’s all over now. No more giving. No more nurturing.  And no more pampering beauty treatments. No more anything. Just tasteless days at the nursing home. One day following the next. Each exactly the same. Continue reading A Little Sliver of GoldFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

My Opinion Matters

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Reaching out to the elderly holocaust survivor currently living in a nursing home

As people age they face loss. Loss of their independence, of their faculties, of their standing in the community. The holocaust survivor is particularly fragile due to his nightmarish youth which often resurfaces in old age when mundane life no longer makes its demands on him. No longer a decision maker, he feels unnoticed, worthless and lacks any purpose in life. The simplest choices such as what to have for breakfast are no longer his to make. If he expresses an opinion, there is no one to listen.    Slowly the aged nursing home resident shrivels, even losing his sense of self.

Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program has undertaken to fulfill the personal request of 570 holocaust survivors living in residences throughout the country.

pr golden 1 wish Moroccan concert
Moroccan concert: a taste of home

 

 

 

S is a case in point. She resides in a nursing home with residents of mixed backgrounds. She herself is Moroccan as are some others but the home caters to the more prevalent Ashkenazi groups. She understands but still longs for an occasional taste of ‘home’. It was not until she met up with the Ezer Mizion staff did she feel that her needs, her opinions would have any value. Her thoughts about an occasional connection to the childhood memories of the minority groups and introducing the others to how specific ethnic groups live. Certainly a valid proposal for the nursing home staff but, just as certainly, not one that S. would ever make on her own. Her self-respect, her dignity soared on night of Welcome to Morocco, featuring a professional vibrant, ethnic band playing Moroccan music followed by delicious Moroccan cuisine. She basked in delight as announcements were made to her fellow residents that it was she who had suggested the evening’s entertainment.

pr golden 1 wish Russian show
An elderly holocaust survivor regains sense of self

R was a Russian living in a nursing home with a significant Russian population. Significant but not enough for the staff to take notice. All entertainment was in Hebrew. R. understood Hebrew well but it was not her prime language. As the Ezer Mizion One Wish staff developed a relationship with her, encouraging her to express her opinions, she shyly made mention of her personal feelings. Like a fragile newly-hatched baby bird, her thoughts on Russian entertainment hesitantly emerged. It was in her honor that the nursing home presented its first Russian show – a spectacular performance – which all the Russian speaking residents of her facility enjoyed together with her, enhancing her happiness and sense of purpose.

In the first few months of the program’s existence, One Wish has proven itself to have more than met the goals of the initiative. The seniors feel noticed. Their opinions matter. Their existence is validated. They continue to discuss their Special Day long after it occurred and this day becomes the catalyst to a new awakening of that sense of self.

 

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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Once Again I’m Me

pr golden 1 wish P. boat trip
A holocaust survivor recalls the joys of her youth

Today’s Holocaust survivors suffered indescribable trauma in their early childhood and youth. With this knowledge, we aim to sweeten their golden years and enable these lonely, isolated heroes to fulfill a wish. Each is an individual. Each led a life based on his individual likes and dislikes. But now they find themselves lumped together in the same facility with no choice as to room décor, type of food, or activities. With no opportunity to express personal desires, bit by bit, he becomes less of a person. It is for this reason that Ezer Mizion’s Project1 Wish was born.   Continue reading Once Again I’m MeFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail