Alzheimer’s: Color Me Black.

September 12, 2018

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Alzheimer’s: The disease that destroys childhood memories

Malka* was enjoying a peaceful cup of coffee. Lunches were made for tomorrow. The laundry was in the drier and Malka’s father had gone to bed early. She was about to reach for something to read, a rare luxury, when the bell rang. It was after eleven. Who could that be? Coffee forgotten, Malka’s heart began to flutter. She pressed the intercom button and, her voice trembling, asked who it was. The voice was hesitant,   a bit embarrassed. A neighbor was just coming home from evening prayers and…She ran to open the door and there stood the neighbor with her father, dressed in pajamas, barefoot and looking very confused.

Alzheimer’s. It colored every moment of Malka’s days. Black.  This was her father. The one who had taught her to ride a two-wheeler, cheering loudly as she wobbled down the driveway. The one who held her arm tightly, offering emotional support ‘forever’, as he walked her down the aisle toward married life.

He had always been there for her. His soothing words and practical suggestions had made all the difference. Her father. Ten feet tall and all-powerful.

Now there he stood. A pitiful, old man. Helpless.    Her tower of strength had crumbled.

Truth be told, this wasn’t the first time. He seemed to be in his own world.   He often referred to her as ‘Mommy’ and her children by the names of his siblings. He would offer to help her scrub the laundry on the washboard or shovel the coal into the furnace.

Alzheimer’s: Can this really be my soft-spoken kindly father?!

The worst was when he shouted at her or her husband or the kids in such a mean, sarcastic way. He had never been like that. It hurt. Oh, how it hurt. She knew it was the disease, not really him. But each word was excruciatingly painful.  She tried to help him but felt so inadequate.

Malka’s case is typical. There are 130,000 cases of Alzheimer’s in Israel, many of them being cared for by  relatives. Relatives who are in desperate need of help.

As part of the goal to provide suitable responses for dementia-patient caregiving relatives, Ezer Mizion Tzipporah Fried Alzheimer Family Support Center runs support groups and workshops.

In these groups, the women have an opportunity to learn about the disease and ways of coping with it, drawing from the experience of the group facilitators and the other women in the group. The group serves as a “safe” place for engaging in discussion and bringing up the many emotional challenges that come with caring for the ill relative. At times, it is the only setting where caregivers feel secure and are able to speak openly about their struggles.

In addition, as part of the support system for caregiving relatives, music, physical fitness, art, and therapeutic gardening workshops are available, with a double goal: To provide women with a pleasurable experience and a hiatus from the draining role as caregiver for their sick relative and to offer simple, easy-to-implement tools for working with the patient at home.

Our goal?  To provide a supportive response and personal relief for women caring for a relative with dementia, empowering them as caregivers and strengthening the sense of self-worth in this excruciatingly difficult period of their lives.


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.



In Lieu of Mommy

September 5, 2018

pr bldgYona is the wife of a schizophrenia patient. Life hasn’t been easy for her. Dealing with mental illness is a frightening nightmare only made worse by the loneliness. Mental illness is not something you share with the neighbors. On the outside, she is a bubbly mother of a large family, discussing the woes of a washing machine breakdown with another mother as they sit on the park bench together. On the inside, however, she is slowly falling apart because of a different type of breakdown –   the breakdown of a strong, supportive husband, the breakdown of a family. Yona is a heroine, trying to go it alone but she worries how long she can go on. When will she herself break down?

Bravely, she had made her way to the Ezer Mizion office. Maybe.  Maybe they can help a bit. What she received was so much more than she had hoped for.

Ezer Mizion’s Mental Health Program provides both professional services and practical support. The little things and the big things.

The Family Counseling Center works to provide families coping with a mentally ill relative with a variety of professional tools, information, and support. This includes individual counseling for family members, support groups providing information and coping tools in the form of weekly sessions, self-help groups, workshops teaching skills and coping tools, lectures on a variety of topics. Also available is a 24-hour crisis hotline for mental health crises such as suicide attempts or severe manic episodes.

Scheduled retreats for the whole family provide healing for strained family relationships and individualized practical support for a variety of circumstances complete the picture.

messy home
Ezer Mizion: the ‘family’ that stands behind yo in time of crisis

Yona shares her thoughts as she entered her home after an absence of an entire month. She wasn’t looking forward to walking in.

“The milk must be past its expiration date,” I thought, as I turned the key in the door. “It will take a ton of baking soda to get rid of the odor.”

And the dust! A month’s worth. The floor will be caked. Oh, and the linens. Ugh!

If my mother would know, she’d send me hot soup, polish the house to a sheen. And she wouldn’t forget to bring me her traditional cheesecake with the paper-thin crust.  What a comfort that would be! To be Mommy’s little girl and be taken care of again. How I would love that! I know I’m not a child anymore but I certainly feel like one. So in need of pampering. I lifted my head and tried to pretend that I was a capable, energetic adult. I tried but I couldn’t fool myself.

I opened the door. What?! What’s going on? Did my mother find out my carefully kept secret?

Could this be real? I couldn’t recognize the house. It was perfectly clean.

Freshly-washed linen emanating a fresh, orchid fragrance, hot food on the stove. I opened the refrigerator. Fresh milk and cheese, fruit and vegetables and even an assortment of creamy cakes. Everything was there.

And there it was, like a centerpiece:   a heartwarming note: “From us, the Ezer Mizion family, always here for you.”

My heart pounded. My eyes filled with tears. Someone thought about me!

Hashem, what a wonderful father You are. With one Hand, You strike, but with the other Hand, You embrace. A great, big hug, with all the love in the world. Thank you for helping me to connect to Ezer Mizion. How proud I am to be part of the Jewish people. One nation. One song. And one, special heart…

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.

When Their World Came Crashing Down

August 29, 2018

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Roni and Bar’ was written on the wedding invitations. The marriage was to take place in September. That was before. Before a leukemia sabotaged their every dream.

Roni had discovered small lesions on her face. Her neck muscles cramped, glands in her neck swelled, as did the roof of her mouth, and blue marks appeared on her legs. It didn’t look good and it was not long before the diagnosis was confirmed.

“This can’t be,” cried Bar. “Not now! Not when we were about to marry. Everything was ready. The invitations. The hall. The band. ”

“Don’t give up hope,” the doctor said. “A stem cell transplant can cure her, Bar. Your bride will be as good as new. We just need a genetic match for her. Someone of Yemenite or Moroccan extraction. But we need it fast. Within a month. if not, …”

And so the search is on. Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish bone marrow registry in the world, has close to a million registrants.  So far no one in the registry is a match but a drive was held in Israel and over 16,000 converged upon 36 stations throughout the country. Drives are being held in California and Florida and hundreds of swab test kits are being sent out by the NY office. Labs will be working overtime to complete the testing…before it’s too late.

Meet Roni. Share her pain.

“Someone will match. I’m sure of it! It has to happen!” Bar is optimistic and hoping to print new wedding invitations soon.

Each new registrant will be tested. The cost of each test is $50. Each registrant will remain on the database for decades, ready to save the life of any cancer patient in communities around the globe.

Moving Forward: Conquering Mental Illness

August 29, 2018

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Mental illness can be cured.

Mental illness, as the name implies, is an illness. And, again, as the name implies, it can be cured. But, unlike strep throat, a mental health patient harbors fears of facing the cure and rejoining the world. His rehabilitation can be greatly delayed due to his inability to take those frightening steps.

Ezer Mizion’s Mental Health Program, with its versatile services, includes an annual retreat. The much anticipated retreat creates an atmosphere that can enable that which cannot take place in a standard client/patient setting. The retreat has the potential to empower the patient, connect him to normative experiences, create encounters with a broad group of equals as well as to recharge batteries for the continued process of rehabilitation and provide a hiatus for the rest of the family who is invited to join.

The retreat takes place once a year with full hotel accommodations. Activities include trips, swimming, boating, entertainment/performances, jeeping, workshops and skits. The patients are encouraged to participate in the planning of the retreat, a rehabilitation tool in itself.

Leading the congregation in prayer: a giant leap forward in combating his mental illness

The informal social interaction that comes about in this safe, accepting environment can have far-reaching effects. At the retreat, the participants experience routine life alongside their special activities. There are daily prayers with the retreat leader. A few days after the retreat, the social worker got a call from the father of one of the participants. In a tremulous voice, he shared with us that his son had gone to daven (pray) in shul (synagogue) and had stepped up to the amud (lectern) to lead the Minchah (afternoon services) as chazzan (cantor). The elated father could not believe that his son, who was so withdrawn, had found the gumption to lead the congregation in prayers. “How did it happen?” he asked the social worker. “Your son served as chazzan (cantor) for Minchah at the retreat,” the social worker answered simply.

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Working at the Rehabilitative Kitchen – a giant leap forward in conquering mental illness

Devorah* who receives coaching services at home to promote her household functioning was doing fine in running her home. The professional staff felt she was ready to begin to join the workforce obtaining a job at Ezer Mizion’s rehab kitchen. She would be fully supported by a staff mentor, working in a controlled environment but her fears did not allow her to take the step.    At the retreat, she met other women like her, raising children as she was and, nevertheless, going out to work at the Mental Health Division’s rehabilitative kitchen. A normative conversation with women like her accomplished what thousands of words from the coach and the professional staff hadn’t. Needless to say, today she works at a bakery and her rehabilitation process has taken a giant step forward.

Ezer Mizion’s Mental Health Division provides many services including individual coaching in the client’s home to improve personal functioning, mentoring in the public expanse to enhance client’s interpersonal interactions.

Rehabilitation is enhanced by a range of occupational rehabilitation services, in keeping with the client’s functional level, with the goal of sharpening occupational skills. Included is mentoring in the open job market. Musicians can take advantage of the rehabilitation program for musicians, geared to enhancing their occupational skills while professionalizing their skills in diverse musical subjects.

Group social activities, including a variety of clubs and rehabilitative activities are available with the overall goal of improving social skills.

The division is constantly growing to provide both rehabilitation for its clients and support for family members in this frightening nightmare that has taken over their lives.

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.

Opportunity Knocked and They Answered

August 1, 2018


Mike E. was three and a half. The age of zoom-zooming his trucks across the floor. But Mike wasn’t zoom-zooming. The most frequent sound he emitted was a pitiful whimper as, once again, he was subjected to the painful and frightening hospital procedures. Mike was born with CGD, a disease that damages the immune system. His life was in danger and only a stem cell transplant could help. Finding a donor whose DNA matched Mike’s was vital. With a matching donor, he could live. Without…

Mike was one of the fortunate ones. From approximately 900,000 potential donors at Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry, Nimrod C. was that match. Mike is 5 and a half now and zoom-zooming with the best of them. Recently he and his mother, Anastasia, met Nimrod for the first time. Busy with his trucks, Mike couldn’t understand why his mother burst into tears as Nimrod entered the room. Both adults stood there in silence as the tears of joy flowed. “Because of you…because of you…” Anastasia cried out.

In recent times, a bone marrow transplant is not used too frequently. The most common procedure is a stem cell transplant, a much simpler procedure. There is no surgery involved for the donor, no pain, no recovery period. The stem cell transplant is not much more complicated than giving blood. Sometimes, however, due to the patient’s condition, a bone marrow transplant is necessary.

Mali Chen (21) was diagnosed at age three with a serious and rare blood disease called thalassemia major, a condition that impedes blood cell production. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Mali required regular blood transfusions in order to survive, but, as a result of the frequent transfusions, she sustained serious medical damage. “They found that I had a surplus of iron in the body, which got worse and worse until it endangered my life. Ezer Mizion was contacted in the hopes that, being the largest Jewish registry, it would have a match for me.”

A match was indeed found. Omri ben Yakir was told that a young woman was in need of a transplant to save her life but, due to her condition, a stem cell transplant would not be an option. It was necessary to perform a bone marrow transplant which would require painful surgery to extract the marrow from his spine with a certain degree of risk. As his name indicates, Omri was indeed a ‘precious’ human being. “My family was a bit nervous but there was no question in my mind that I would do it. It was a somewhat painful and took awhile to recover,” he admits.  “It was only after the meeting that I really understood the significance of what I’d done. Suddenly everything that had happened had a ‘face.’ In spite of the difficulty, I have absolutely no regrets about what I did. When I see her, I understand that it was all worth it. If they’d call me, I’d happily donate again.”

Omri and Mali had been students in schools near each other but had not known each other. When they met, Mali was rendered speechless. “What words are there in the dictionary to thank someone for saving your life?!”




CP Can’t Stop Me!

July 25, 2018

Menachem Weiss, a “special” teen, reports on an angle of life that he alone can talk about

Shalom dear readers!

Remember me? I’m the one with CP – the one who doesn’t let the CP stop me from having fun. Well, not always but I try. There are a lot of things I can’t do in a wheelchair but Ezer Mizion has taught me that there are a lot of things I can do. And I try to take advantage of every one.

For the past few years I have not attended the Ezer Mizion retreat because I had an opportunity to be taken to Switzerland instead. I always had a blast at the retreats but, after all, Switzerland…This year, Switzerland is not going to work out but I wasn’t shy at all to call Ezer Mizion. It’s like a family and I knew I’d get a big welcome back.

Like always, I was worried who my counselor will be. Having the right person is so important. I need help with everything. And besides, no counselor can help me if he can’t understand me. My speech is not so great.  Well, great news! My cousin, Motty, will be one of the counselors and I’m going to ask that he be assigned to me. We get along great.  He understands me when I try to talk and he knows just what I need and how to manage everything. . So, I already registered and made up with my friend, Gavriel, that we’d be in the same session and in the same room. I hope everything will work out for the best and we’ll enjoy ourselves as we did in the past.

I’m really looking forward to it. I remember one year, we went to the ocean. I had never seen the ocean, never in my life, and the counselor was able to get the wheelchair all the way up to the waves. I could feel them! Wow! That was really something. One year we had a magician as entertainment who did some really cute tricks.  One of the days began with a performance about a king who searched for happiness. It gave us a lot of food for thought in a fun way. After lunch, we went out and there, outside, was an authentic Bedouin encampment. They even brought a real camel and walked him around all the time. They gave out drums and big darboukas and we tapped along energetically, together with the Bedouins. Leave it up to Ezer Mizion. What will they think of next?!  We also had a band and I danced, sort of. It was fantastic! We ended the day with slow songs, songs of yearning and prayer.

I had a fantastic counselor that year, Yehoshua, who looked after me with all his heart and never forgot to give me occasional chocolates so I would have a sweet, happy time.

I always start off with fears about any new counselor – whether he’ll understand me and know how to help me –  all kinds of nonsense and in the end, every counselor is great and I forget about it all and enjoy myself. But what can I do – I can’t overcome my worrywart habit. But this year, I’ll probably have Motty so I can skip my usual nervous session. I’ll let you know how it all works out.

Until next time,

Menachem Weiss


Flying High

July 18, 2018

pr L2L sick children on plane tour of Israel- coord by L2LCancer 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.

And the parents? They’re consumed with worry and fear. They’re torn between the sick child and the other kids. Their personal needs do not even enter their radar screen.  Routine? There hasn’t been any in months. They’re adults but like they small children, they long for someone to take their hand. Someone to give their children what they are not capable of giving.  Someone to take charge of what used to be a smoothly-running home. Even someone to provide their kids with extras… to bring back that smile that has been missing from their faces for months.

One by one, Ezer Mizion adds to its roster of services for families dealing with cancer. There’s hot meals for whoever is staying at the hospital with the patient. Rides to and from the hospital both for the patient and family members. Someone is assigned to do homework with the kids every night. Someone takes care of laundry. Cleaning help is brought in. Lovely apartments are provided near the hospital to avoid traveling thrice weekly for chemo. The sick child and his siblings join therapeutic activities at Ezer Mizion Guest Home for Families with Cancer. Sand therapy… music therapy… animal therapy… and yes, those special times – the smile times – come frequently also. A birthday party, a holiday event, a jeeping trip and the exhilarating days of a dream come true. Those are the days that energize the spirit, enabling it to strengthen the body in its battle for life.

A group of children needed a pick-me-up. They didn’t dare to ask but a ‘little birdie’ made it known to Ezer Mizion that an airplane tour of Israel would be the ultimate in fun for them. Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life, a WhatsApp group, was contacted. One by one, the challenges were met by the Linked to Life network and their ‘heavenly’ day took place.

Over and over again, Ezer Mizion receives letters using the same phrase: We never could have made it through that terrible time without you! And who is Ezer Mizion? Ezer Mizion is you and me! All the professionals, the 25,000 volunteers and those caring people around the globe that contribute so generously.




The “X” Days

July 11, 2018

It’s heartbreaking. Every mother jokes about the first day of school being the beginning of her vacation.  Our kids, as much as we love them, are a handful and many a mother will be drained, trying to keep up with their needs during the relatively unstructured summer months.

But then there are the others. The parents who truly cannot handle even one hour without the unbearable tension that accompanies life with a special child. As chaotic as a period of unstructured days may be, the parent of an average child cannot imagine marking her calendar with x’s on the days that he will be home.  One father of a special child did just that upon the realization and dread of the block of unstructured days coming up. Unfortunately, he is one of many.

Not to be able to relax for a moment. To be constantly dealing with the possibility of uncontrolled anger. To be unable to plan for even the next hour. To ache for your other children who ask nothing more than to be able to play a game in peace or perhaps read a few pages of a favorite book. To feel helpless, hopeless.

 Dear Ezer Mizion,

My wife and I have a special needs son, he is 14 years old and suffers from VEOS (very early onset schizophrenia) which manifests itself as SZ and PDD and ADHD.

He is, of course, being medicated and he dorms and schools in XXXXXX.

This year we await the long holidays with trepidation, 8 out of 9 weeks our son Yehuda is going to be home, through the long summer vacation and Holiday periods of Tishrei. (See attached calendar.) Without a suitable structure and framework we fear that we will not be able to entertain and provide for our son’s needs and those of the rest of the family.
If you have any program that may be suitable for our son, please inform us at your earliest convenience and direct me to the correct person to speak to.

Gratefully yours,

It is this need that Ezer Mizion seeks to address with its myriad of summer camp programs geared for varied requirements, its respite programs and its afternoon activity clubs. The programs help to alleviate pressure of physical demands and emotional strain experienced both by parents of a special needs child and his siblings. These beleaguered parents never stop expressing their gratitude.

My son is a 28-year-old boy with special needs. He partakes of many of Ezer Mizion’s programs including its summer camp and its simchas beis hash’oeva. These two events are literally his oxygen supply.

When he walks through the streets of Jerusalem, young men stop him, smile and greet him warmly. They remember him from the “Retreat.” Therefore, there is no way in the world that we could have passed this up and not registered him. Just as a person can’t go without oxygen, so, it simply was not possible for him not to attend the Ezer Mizion camp. And now that he has been accepted and his registration sponsored, I, too, can let the worry melt away from my heart, breathe a sigh of relief, and say with joy filling my heart –Thank You!

The View from Both Ends

July 4, 2018

helping handssIt feels good to give. Seeing the joy on another person’s face because of something that you did is an experience that cannot be defined. I know about that. I joined Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life awhile back. L2L is  WhatsApp group that can be called for rides, deliveries of vital supplies and a zillion other requests by people who are dealing with serious illness. I’ve given rides to many people. Sometimes it’s a young mother counting the seconds until she can be back at the bedside of her baby who is fighting for his life at the hospital. She had planned to go by bus – even though she is beyond exhausted – until someone mentioned that she should try calling Linked to Life. In a few minutes, I appear at her doorstep, ready to give her door-to-door service. The utter joy on her face is the ‘gas’ that keeps me going even though, shortly before the request call came in, I was ready to fall into bed myself. Then there was the time I answered a call to pick up a vital blood sample from the airport and bring it to a doctor. “I’ve got a ten-year-old child waiting at the hospital. This little tube of blood can save her life,” the doctor thanked me. I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you that those words made me feel seven feet tall.


But now I want to tell you about another ride to Tel HaShomer Hospital. This time I wasn’t the driver. This time I was the drivee.  A family member was ill and all of us rallied to take shifts. But normal responsibilities did not disappear. A full workday remained. Homework with kids etc. You all know the routine. And on top of it all, the trip to the hospital via a couple of buses. Suddenly a precious Ezer Mizion volunteer appears. For him, too, it is the end/beginning/middle of a work day, but, with a big smile, he takes you to the hospital and back. Just like I never fully realized what I was doing, he cannot even imagine what a huge chessed he is doing with this “simple” ride.

I greet my relative and take care of his needs until he is ready for a nap. Then I wander around the hospital ward and notice a mother looking very frightened. When I ask her how I can help out, she explains that there is a special medication that she’d left at home. Quickly, I ‘flip to my other hat’. I send a message to the Linked to Life coordinator: Who can deliver a medicine from Bnei Brak to the hospital? Almost instantly, someone responds to fill her need.

The happiness, the emotion, and the blessings that burst forth from that mother’s heart the moment the medicine arrived!

I meet here the wonderful Ezer Mizion volunteers who come to give out coffee, cake, and hot food to family members during the long, hard waiting time. When I ask them how they got here and how they are getting home, they answer proudly – “With the Linked to Life volunteers.”

Dear fellow Linked to Life members, you are an important and critical part of this remarkable chessed chain of Ezer Mizion.   At moments like these, I am prouder than ever to be a member of this holy group. In the hope and prayer that all of us should always be on the giving end – only.

Want to join Linked to Life? No matter where on the planet you live, you will be welcomed.

SMS 011 972 52 580 8936


Nightmare: the Common Denominator

June 27, 2018

pr special sunIt’s 1:30 on a long summer Friday afternoon. There are twelve vehicles parked in the parking lot of Park Enav in Modi’in.  The doors open and fifty-eight (!) children burst out of the cars ready for an afternoon of fun. Who are they?

Each one has a different story but the common denominator is that each one is living through a nightmare that no child should ever know. One has lost a parent to cancer, another is battling cancer himself and a third came home one day to find that his mother had gone on a simple shopping trip never to come home again due to a terror attack. Read the rest of this entry »