A Lego Maniac Mitzvah Project By Michele Justic Taken with permission from Five Towns Jewish Times

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Rx: Lego

It all began with a video. I don’t believe too many positive stories begin this way, but I’m proud to say this one does. This was an Ezer Mizion video of IDF Major Maor Cohen’s special mission for nine years: to help children with cancer escape into the world of Lego. His message spoke to me immediately. In the video, one mother explains “Cancer broke my family apart and Lego rebuilt it anew.”

My son always made a beeline to the Lego area at Mommy and Me each week. For his second birthday, I decided to buy him a big builders’ box of Lego. He got croup shortly before his birthday so I decided to give him the present a little early. I remember the miraculous sound of clicking and clacking and the total absence of the scary cough he had beforehand. While STEM educational models point to the mathematical and engineering benefits of Lego, I had forgotten the mindfulness aspect of it until seeing this video.

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A Bar Mitzvah boy learns hands on what it means to give

I contacted Ezer Mizion to see how we could be a part of it for Michael’s bar mitzvah project. Hadassah Somosi, an incredibly warm, caring, devoted, and capable director of Resource Development at Ezer Mizion, connected all the dots for me and we had our date set and plans in place of which Lego sets to bring for our Israel trip.

Can there be a more appropriate location for Ezer Mizion’s Oranit cancer patient guest home and center for its cancer support services than Petach Tikvah—defined as “opening of hope?” Built in 1996, with the generous assistance of the Bracha & Motti Zisser Foundation and the Rosinger Family, Oranit is located amidst three major hospitals that treat pediatric cancer and provides them with an oasis while enduring difficult treatments. The Andrew and Margaret Rosinger Residential Wing provides housing for children and families for short-term stays as well as endless options for recreation at the Donald Berman Rehabilitation Center—the Rinat Bakshi Wildlife Pavilion, the cleanest petting zoo around, arts-and-crafts including a full ceramics studio, music therapy including a recording studio, a movie theater, snacks, slushies and meals, indoor and outdoor spotlessly clean Malka Lazarus playgrounds, and, of course, what drew us there: the Lego room. As Hadassah explained on our tour, “We want to make them happy in the hope it will help make them well.

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The Justic family urges all of you to join Ezer Mizion in its very special work

Thanks to import taxes, in Israel Lego can cost triple the price as in the United States, so many children do not have any Lego sets. At Ezer Mizion – Oranit, they have weekly Lego workshops and their projects are stored while under construction and displayed once completed. Families usually do the projects and escape into this alternate world together, letting the cancer suffering vanish for a precious hour or two. Maor writes about his personal connection to family illness: “Ever since I was five, my father, may he live and be well, has been a heart patient. I never had the security of knowing that just because I saw my father at breakfast would he be there at supper … Through the years, Abba got better and then was sick again, and that cycle kept repeating itself. As a family, we learned to live with this reality.”

DONATE-TODAY-BUTTON-3As my family took it all in, Hadassah had more special plans for us. As some of the children actually walked in to join the Lego workshop, Michael had the rare opportunity to give a set to a few children in person. They exchanged hugs and warm words. The only dry eyes in the house were on the Lego figures.

I can’t daven (pray) now without thinking of these special families and hoping for a refuah sheleimah (complete recovery) for everyone. I hope to continue supporting Ezer Mizion and I encourage our readers to do the same.

Contact hadsom@ezermizion.org to coordinate a bar or bat mitzvah project with Ezer Mizion.

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Opennnn!

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Lego-therapy infusing the child with hope, with continuance

Maor Cohen is known at Ezer Mizion as the Lego Man. He runs a workshop for kids with cancer and their siblings using lego as a medium enabling them to cope with their fears and anxieties. For those children who are unable to attend the workshops he makes hospital visits.  Always smiling on the outside, one cannot imagine where he finds the strength to continue his mission of chessed. Read on to share his thoughts.
Continue reading Opennnn!

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Building a Future

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building a future with lego

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.”

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Fighting cancer with lego

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.

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Taking a vacation from cancer.

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.

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The LegoMan: He stoops to conquer

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.”

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Fighting the fear of cancer with plans for the future

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.

 

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“For You Remember All Things Forgotten” by Maor Cohen

Maor Cohen is a highly sensitive man who is known at Ezer Mizion as Mr. Lego. He raises the spirits of both children and adults battling life-threatening diseases with his Lego Workshop in addition to his hospital visits to those who cannot attend the workshop. Many have asked how he manages to create deep relationships that are too often broken when his ‘lego-friends’ leaves this world. Below is his answer. Continue reading “For You Remember All Things Forgotten” by Maor Cohen

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The Lego Man Fights Cancer with Lego Therapy

 

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Maor Cohen offering his special brand of joy to a child dealing with cancer!

“LEGO-MAN”, MAOR COHEN, TELLS HIS STORY:

Three years ago, when I came to Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Center, to donate some LEGO sets, they asked me to work with children who have cancer and with children whose parents have cancer. “Wait! Stop! That’s more than I bargained for! All I came for was a one-time donation of LEGO .” I felt overwhelmed. This wasn’t what I had planned on.  But the angels at Ezer Mizion made me see how much more I could do. I was frightened at the thought. After all, the word ‘cancer’ is unmentionable and I’d be not only using the word but diving right in. Lego therapy is what they called it. Something to enable the child to be a child in spite of the raging river of terror that threatens to drown him.

I was hesitant. At the time, my wife and I had been married for some time and still had no children. A friend gave me some great advice: If you want Hashem to give you children, volunteer to take care of His children.  That clinched it. I was still hesitant, still frightened but I began with baby steps, thus launching my career as Lego Man. We have two little girls now. I can never thank my friend enough for his advice.

When I  see those suffering children, I understand their inner turmoil.  I know what it means to be a child with a sick parent.

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Hour of vacation from cancer

Ever since I was 5 years old, my father, may he live and be well, has been a heart patient. Continue reading The Lego Man Fights Cancer with Lego Therapy

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Building the Spirit with Lego Bricks

pr canc sup mini cooper IMG-20151221-WA0008Alon was 21 when he completed his combat duty and was looking forward to beginning civilian life. But it was not to be. He thought he had the flu. A few days in bed… He waited for it to disappear but it just didn’t go away. Then came the diagnosis. Cancer.
It was a cancer that affects kids only. Because of his condition and the treatment required, he was hospitalized at Dana Children’s Hospital, the pediatric hospital of the renowned Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv.
And so there he was in need of as much support as possible but surrounded by children’s activities. He understood intellectually that the most important issue is to get well but longed for some emotional support along the way. A steady stream of arts and crafts counselors, clowns, entertainers, puppet shows, game room counselors, etc. made its way to his door. This was not what he needed. Besides for not feeling well, Alon felt very out of place. Continue reading Building the Spirit with Lego Bricks

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Mazel Tov to Mr. Lego

When Major Maor Cohen drags in his Lego suitcase, the children’s eyes instantly light up. “The Lego Man is here!” For three years now, he has been roving from hospital to hospital. When he gets there, he gathers the children around him – many of them groaning from post-operative pains, knocked out by chemotherapy, or drained by illness – and builds Lego models with them.

(From “Yisrael Hayom,” Yaakov Levitam, Dec. 2013)

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Cohen (33) is a resident of Givatayim,. Two weeks ago, he and his wife finally had their first child, a girl. Continue reading Mazel Tov to Mr. Lego

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