It was a normal day. Just like every other Wednesday. Miriam* got the kids off to school, straightened out the house, put in a load of laundry and then left for her volunteer job delivering hot meals to families spending hours at a hospital bedside. Continue reading A Small Drink…A Big Thank You
Cancer is hard. A child whose worst complaint should be ‘too much homework’ is suddenly confronted with what no child should ever know. He finds himself in strange surroundings with his body doing strange things. He hears whispered fragments of his parents’ conversations. He witnesses children who shared the chemo experience with him suddenly disappearing and no one wants to tell him where they went. He’s scared. Confused. Anxious about the future. Will he have a future? He tries to block such thoughts but late at night, in the dark, they come creeping out of their hiding places.
And his siblings do not have it much better. A bedtime talk with Mommy when the hidden questions can safely be asked is a thing of the past. Mommy is always at the hospital or talking nervously to doctors on the phone. Suppers arrive from strangers. No one is home to help with homework. And worst of all is the terror – that dark shadow that permeates every corner of their home. Continue reading Flying High
Many years ago there had been a place called Lottie’s kitchen. It was a small kitchen in a home teeming with chessed. Lottie, a culinary expert, produced trays and trays of goodies which were largely consumed by her many friends. They would gravitate to this island of warmth and compassion to discuss their personal woes with a woman who seemed to have never-ending patience.
Lottie and her husband and partner in chessed, Chaim, have since passed on. Their four daughters deemed it appropriate to found Lottie’s Kitchen in Israel under the auspices of Ezer Mizion. It is there that nutritious, attractive meals are produced, packed and delivered to family members sitting at the bedside of a hospitalized loved one. Women of all ages volunteer– from teens to the sprightly 85-year-old golden-ager who makes her way to Lottie’s Kitchen with a walker. She had been a chef in her younger years. Her day at Lottie’s Kitchen enables her to make use of her skills and offer advice to the younger set. For the elderly, it is a two-way chessed as it enables them to have structure to their day and meet with similarly minded women as they work.
Israel hospitals do not provide more than basic medical care for its patients. The nursing staff is unable to take the time for the little extras that can make all the difference to a patient’s spirit. A family member therefore, tries to be there for as much as possible of the 24-hour day. Running from work responsibilities to home responsibilities and then making a mad dash to take over a shift at the hospital does not leave the caretaker much time or emotional space to even think of her own needs. A coke and a bag of chips from the hospital vending machine will often be her only fare for weeks. Distraught, tense, worn out, a mother will sit with her six year old, trying to distract him from the constant question of “Mommy, when will Hashem make the leukemia go away?”
And then, like an angel, there enters a Lottie’s Kitchen volunteer with a steaming hot, delicious meal. She’ll offer her a chance to talk, to share her story, to ask advice. Mommy can’t believe it. Someone is caring for the caretaker!
Orders are filled – some of them very specific. Any meals left over at the end of the day will be given to the dialysis patients who find it so difficult to go back to normal routine just hours after treatment.
Nechama, the head cook, considers herself just a small cog in the wheel of chessed. But those at Lottie’s Kitchen know that it is she that creates the ambience of giving, of loving. More and more. The Lottie’s Kitchen Family was treated to a trip to pray at the holy places in Israel. Nechama would have loved to join but she realized she would have to cut corners in her cooking. To give ‘her’ people anything less than perfection was unthinkable. So she opted out, citing a quote from the Chofetz Chaim’s book, Ahavas Chessed, that doing chessed is an especially opportune time to pray. ”I won’t lose out at all,” she assured her friends as they boarded the bus.
Lottie’s Kitchen, one of the many divisions of Ezer Mizion, an empire of chessed.
The scene: Schneider Hospital in Petach Tikvah
Baldheaded children, solemn doctors, the smell of sadness and suffering suffusing every corner…
Everyone here is busy battling for life, sometimes against all odds.
Who has time to think about the approaching Yom Tov? The thoughts wander from upsetting test results to grueling treatments and no further.
Shavuot? A far-off dream of some previous life…blintzes frying, tiny tots singing Little Torah, an atmosphere of joy and excitement.
This year? The ambience of a holiday would do wonders for their wounded souls but no one has the emotional energy to even smile. Will Shavuot 2018 just pass over, hardly noticed ?
Unbeknown to these suffering Jews, there was a small group who understood. They understood that these families were incapable of creating their own Yom Tov but how desperately they needed the feeling of holiness, the feeling of being part of the Jewish nation.
And so there, with the very air at Schneider’s laden with despair, they took time off from their own preparations and broke through the hopelessness, bringing light and happiness to these suffering Jews.
In the midst of this sea of sorrow and unimaginable pain, Ezer Mizion Petach Tikvah Linked to Life volunteers set up an island of holiday joy and tranquility.
Dozens of cancer support volunteers did everything to give seriously ill patients and their families a hiatus of calm and compassion. Holiday delicacies were prepared and attractively served and individual needs were met so that each family felt, “Yes, it’s Yom Tov today.”
As one volunteer described it (translated):
I link up to you, we all link together
And in just a matter of minutes
One cake is added to another
One dessert joins the next
Kugel after kugel is baked
And families of seriously ill patients will be able to enjoy delicacies this Shavuot too!
Allow us to dedicate the following to you, our precious volunteers:
“Rav Zeira (an ancient sage)said: This megillah (Ruth) – why was it written? To teach you the great reward of those who do chessed, loving kindness”
On the way home from Tel Hashomer this morning, just when I had finished saying, “Thank you,” for all the great mitzvahs that this organization does for us, a song started playing on the radio that could not have been more symbolic for me:
Hallelujah – everyone will sing.
With one, lone word,
The heart is full of tons of gratitude.
It, too, shouts – what a wonderful world!
Hallelujah – with the song.
Hallelujah – for each day that dawns
Hallelujah – for what was,
And for what wasn’t yet – Hallelujah.”
Until quite recently, Ezer Mizion was “just another organization,” as far as I was concerned.
I didn’t really know what they did.
I linked up with them via a co-worker who understood that I was coming from a place of deep frustration.
I explained to them that my father is a cancer patient whose condition is not good and, unfortunately, he cannot get around now. When he needs to go to Tel Hashomer, he has no other means of transportation other than a so very costly ambulance.
On the other end of the line was a nice fellow named Shmulik, with huge patience and a pleasant demeanor. In an instant, my father was added to the Ezer Mizion Transportation Roster and only a quick phone call was needed to bring the nicest, kindliest, most respectful drivers each time transportation was needed. Cost: $0
Even when Abba was hospitalized and we forgot to cancel the transport.
Even when we forget to update some detail.
Even when we canceled at the last minute because our head isn’t on straight due to everything that’s going on.
Even when they had to explain everything to me 80 times over.
Even when it means having to send an ambulance especially for us because we’re not on the route,
Even then, they responded with full understanding, giving us such a good feeling.
So thank you, dear, special people on the other end of the line and behind the steering wheel. Thank you to Shmulik, Danny, and the wonderful girls at the ambulance call-in center and the message reception center. Thank you for being the entire world for people like us, who lose their way a little at the beginning.
Life proceeds normally. Tuesday is similar to Monday and Wednesday follows in its wake. Then suddenly, without any warning, life explodes. A fifteen-year-old is crossing the street, something he has been doing since he was a youngster under the watchful eyes of his nervous mother. Now at fifteen, his mother no longer worried about his crossing. She knew he was careful and responsible. What she didn’t know about was the van that came hurtling down the street, against the light, hitting her son with full force causing his head to strike the asphalt until he lost consciousness. And life was no longer normal. The tiny hospital room becomes your world. Nothing else matters. Continue reading When Life Explodes and Catapults You into the World of Hospitals
Chanah wasn’t feeling well. Even though she had a busy schedule that day, she walked to her doctor to see if he would have any advice or medication that would enable her to function better as she went about her myriad of activities. That was the last walk she was to take for a very long time. The doctor wasn’t sure as to what was wrong and sent her to the Emergency Room. She was soon to learn that she was suffering from cancer which affected her abdomen and spine. The next day, she was unable to walk at all. Continue reading They Were My Legs
A conversation with Rabbi Chananya Chollak, International Chairman of Ezer Mizion
For the Yamim Nora’im, Ezer Mizion has set out on a major fundraising drive to raise the money needed to finance scanning tens of thousands of stem cell samples, so as to expand its International Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Rabbi Chananya Chollak, the organization’s International Chairman, took the time to speak with us personally about the need for public support to fund lifesaving activities, to tell us about Ezer Mizion’s goals, and to convey a message to the public. Continue reading We Need You Now!
Love at first sight, that’s what Maor Cohen felt when he got his first Lego set at age five. “My Mom came home from a visit in Tel Aviv, the ‘big city,’ with a humongous Lego set that must have cost half her monthly salary. You have to understand that back then, in the beginning of the 1980’s, this was no trivial matter. I was so excited that I went to sleep at night hugging the box and the next day I couldn’t wait to come back from preschool and play with it.”
“From that moment, which remains vivid in my heart more than thirty years later, I never stopped developing my hobby. Every birthday present was Lego, and every bit of money I saved up as a child remained in my piggy bank until enough accumulated to buy a new set. I lived at the time in Yavneh and I would ride my bicycle all the way to Rechovot in order to buy Lego and save the cost of a bus ticket.”
Throughout his youth, Cohen never abandoned his hobby. But, of course, as he matured, his focus turned to adult occupations. He served in the army, completed an officers’ course, and today, after finishing his academic studies through the army, is serving as a Major in the Manpower Department.
One day, he recalls, after realizing that he had accumulated in his home an unimaginable amount of Lego, worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, he decided that it was time to pass the pieces on to somebody else who would enjoy them. “I wanted to do something good with the Lego. I turned to my friend, Rabbi Eitan Eckstein, who suggested that I donate the collection to Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s Donald Berman Rehab Center for Support of Cancer Patients and their Families.
When I arrived at Oranit, my plans changed. Drastically. “I came there intending to simply donate the Lego and go my merry way. Oranit staff had a different idea. “Suppose you keep the Lego and use it for a club, showing the kids how to use it. You’ve got the skills. You’ve got the know-how. You could accomplish so much. You could put life into those kids (and maybe even adults). Dealing with cancer is frightening. It’s depressing. Having a project like Lego to look forward to would work wonders.”
“They were so convincing that I tried giving the workshop that very day. I recall hesitantly entering the playroom with a few pieces of Lego and three children and we started building. Well, it worked. The kids loved it. Every week, the number of kids increased, and today there are almost thirty children participating.
From that moment five years ago, Maor Cohen has been running the Lego Club in Oranit on a volunteer basis. With time, the project expanded. Others volunteered to assist him. Nir Solomon, who served as Cohen’s brigade commander in the past and is now retired uses his free time help Maor run the club. Four other volunteers also come regularly. Even Maor’s immense collection has its limits but many have been fascinated by the project and offered to help finance new Lego sets. Maor’s brother is one of these. “He was very excited by the idea and asked to donate money so that I could buy the kids Lego as a gift. That would enable them to have Lego not only during the club time but also at home and with them during their treatments.”
Neither sun, nor rain, nor the security situation can deter the energetic Lego man. “The club is now in its fifth year, and it takes place once a week, no matter what. At most, I push it off a day, because I know that the child and his family are waiting for me. In addition to the club, I also make the rounds in the Oncology wards of the hospitals 3-4 times a week and build with the hospitalized children.”
Why Lego? “First of all, Lego is great fun. I also think that it is especially important for these kids, because with Lego, there is a feeling of continuity. All that planning gives them a sense of a future.
Dr. Bracha Zisser, Director of Oranit, explains that Oranit was founded in order to relieve patients and their families during the difficult period of treatments. “We operate as a guest house that enables families to sleep over in the Center of the country near treatment centers to avoid the long, grueling hours of traveling. We also organize trips and social activities. In addition, we provide many forms of therapy for both patient and his family. We are constantly expanding our activities in order to enable every person, the patient or his family member, to connect with activities that speak to him.
Maor has got to know Oranit and its staff over the years. “Oranit is an amazing place. They provide support in the most difficult moments, both to children who are sick and to children with a sick parent, and actually to the entire family, in the knowledge that the family is the circle surrounding the child.”
If you’d like to join the LegoMan in his humanitarian work, just click here and type lego into the memo field.
“But he’s at the other end of the world!”
“No problem,” said the experienced Ezer Mizion staff member. “Just watch.” Continue reading The Other End of the World? No Problem When It Comes to Saving Lives!