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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 Me