Archive for the ‘Charity in Israel’ Category

Caring for the Caretaker

June 20, 2018

Lottie ChalomMany years ago there had been a place called Lottie’s kitchen. It was a small kitchen in a home teeming with good deeds. 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 good deeds, 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 good deed as it enables them to have structure to their day and meet with similarly minded women as they work.

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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 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 G-d make the leukemia go away?”

 

And then, like a 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.

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Nechama, the head cook, considers herself just a small cog in the wheel of good deeds. 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 works, Ahavas Chessed, that doing good deeds 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.

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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Together? Nothing Is Impossible!

June 15, 2018

Alone it was impossible but together…together nothing is impossible.

ticketEzer Mizion’s Linked to Life, a WhatsApp group with many branches and hundreds in each branch, has proven this time and time again. One person needs. Another has an idea. A third has the means to make some headway and a fourth can complete it. Like the tickets story.

A twenty year old disabled woman underwent difficult surgery with a lengthy rehab. Life hasn’t been easy for her. She needed a pick-me-up. She dreamed of attending a major event being held in a few days. But attendance needed tickets and tickets were impossible to obtain.

Did I say impossible? Under normal circumstances, it could never happen. But when we all work together, even the impossible becomes a reality. And so Rivi, the Yerushalayim Linked to Life coordinator, put out a request:

Rivi: I know tickets are reserved for VIP’s and sold out long ago. Can anything be done or is this just a pipe dream?

Yossie: “How many tickets are needed?”

Rivi: “Two. For the girl and her father”

Chaya: “It’ll be easier to get tickets for the general rehearsal; there are two, one today and one tomorrow”

Rivi: “I already checked. No tickets left for general rehearsal.”

David: “Who’s in charge of the event that I can speak to?”

Several more postings…

What was that about impossible? Thirteen minutes after the initial post went up, Rivi posted: “Thanks everyone. We have two tickets.”

And sometimes it’s geography that makes something impossible.

AirplaneA patient in Israel urgently needs a stem cell transplant. His life is at stake and he cannot wait. A good possibility for a genetic match exists. A blood sample must be tested asap. But the donor lives in Argentina. Phones beeped and the wheels began to turn. It was not long until a small vial of blood was on a plane flying from Argentina to Israel. Now it was time for the next posting.

At 10:03 p.m., a post went live: “Urgent! We need someone who can receive a stem cell donor’s blood sample arriving from Argentina at 2:30 a.m. and deliver it from the airport to Elad. Anyone up at this hour who can do it?”

At 10:04 p.m. (!), the response came: “I’m landing at 2:40 a.m. and going to Elad.”

Exquisite timing. Incredible siyata di’Shemaya. When Yidden work to

Giving Again and Again and Again

June 6, 2018

chocolates.jpgWhen a person wakes up each day with the thought of how can I make things better for someone else, then answers seem to abound. Rabbi Chananya Chollak, founder of Ezer Mizion, is such a person. The most recent idea has been collaboration with Chasdei Naomi to brighten the lives of hundreds of holocaust survivors on the Yom Tov of Shavuot. These very special heroes often live on a fixed income. Their food expenditures are perforce minimal and only the lower cost items enter their kitchens.  Chasdei Naomi’s ongoing food distribution is intended to help the needy survive. Luxury items are not included. This year, Ezer Mizion collaborated with Chasdei Naomi to enable these holocaust survivors to enjoy the higher priced dairy items in honor of Shavuot. Pastries, chocolates, fruit yogurts were included in the packages. Tears filled the eyes of each of the organizers as the profuse thanks poured out from the recipients for items that may grace the shelves of an average refrigerator during the week but were completely out of reach for these venerated golden-agers even for Yom Tov.

pr golden 2 14 yom tzilulim DSCF1200Rabbi Chollak’s attitude filters down to each member of the professional staff and even to the over twenty-five hundred volunteers. These volunteers take time from their personal lives to help out those suffering from illness and other crises. Some become mentors to children who have hardly seen their parents in months due to serious illness. They take them shopping for school supplies, do homework with them and even take them on an occasional fun trip. Others volunteer to pack food for those spending hours at the bedside of an ill parent or child…or deliver food packages…or drive them to the hospital…or put together a Bar Mitzvah for a child whose parents have no time or emotional space left what with caring for his cancer-stricken sibling…or pick up vital medication from the airport or…the list goes on and on. These volunteers give many hours with no remuneration other than then satisfaction of helping  another Jew. And so each year, on erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan (the day before the month of Sivan begins- a day specifically suitable for prayer), Ezer Mizion shows its appreciation by undertaking a major trip to holy sites for these volunteers. This year they visited the gravesites of the Shelah Hakadosh, Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and poured out their heartfelt prayers.

lk del ok to use w recipientAfter a long round of fervent tefillot (prayer), the busloads of women were brought to Haifa’s Municipal Sports Center for a special dinner in appreciation of their dedication. A talk was delivered by Rabbanit Menucha Levi who related how her father, Hagaon Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l once told a mother whose baby cried a lot that “When a Jewish child cries, the Shechinah (G-d) cries with him.” She continued: “The Ezer Mizion volunteers, who help Hashem’s crying children, allay the tears of the Shechinah (G-d)”lk del ok to use

International Chairman Rabbi Chananya Chollak shlita gave his warm blessings to the volunteers. He said that when he’d gone to Maran Hagaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita to request a special berachah (blessing) for the Day of Prayer Rav Chaim gave his blessing and also asked that the women have him in mind in their prayers. Rabbi Chollak also mentioned that when he once went to Maran Hagaon Rav A.L. Shteinman zatzal, Rav Shteinman asked pleadingly if his efforts for the organization entitled him to have a part in Ezer Mizion, since with what else could he come before the Heavenly Tribunal?

Each volunteer came away feeling valued, knowing that even the g’dolim  (leaders) hold the work of Ezer Mizion in esteem.

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When Mommy Becomes a Child

May 30, 2018

Question Mark In Maze Shows ConfusionIt’s frightening. You feel helpless. Your mother who took care of you as a child has become a child herself. And it is you who must care for her now. Not just physical care. That would be difficult but still easier to handle. Now she needs you to guide her, to explain things like she did for you when you were small. To tell her again and again and again what she seemed to know yesterday. To guard her from danger – from a hot stove, from busy streets. And like a small child, she doesn’t want to be guided. She may lash out in fury. Not unlike you did at age four. But unlike a small child, she is not gradually maturing. It gets worse each day.

How do you switch roles, relinquishing your place as a child and becoming a mommy to the one who represented ‘mommyhood’ to you all these years?

And what do you tell your children who used to love it when Grandma visits and now are confused and terrified?

Handling your dual roles is tortuous. You ache for someone to be there for you – to explain, to support, to empower. There are thousands like you and that is why, after intensive advance work and collaboration with local municipal Social Service Departments, the Shaked Center, and the National Insurance Institute, Ezer Mizion Tzipporah Fried Alzheimer Family Support center hosted a gathering for care-giving family members on the subject of “Dementia.” An overflow crowd of hundreds of caregivers and family members attended!

The gathering opened with a presentation of the various services available in Israel that provide for the needs of care-giving family members.

Next, Dr. Yael Zilbershlag, occupational therapist and gerontologist, delivered a fascinating lecture on the topic of “Memory and Forgetfulness and What Lies between Them.” The audience was extremely focused and asked many questions.

Following the lecture, there was a “Playback Theater” that modeled coping situations for effectively dealing with dementia patients’ challenging behaviors. Witnessing scenes that had been happening in their own homes behind closed doors, scenes that they had been embarrassed to discuss with anyone, enabled the caregivers to realize that the incomprehensible behavior was not Mommy but the disease. The many coping techniques empowered them to handle previously tortuous situations. Leaving the event, they felt galvanized and eager to put all that they had learned into practice.

This event was an important and exciting opportunity for Ezer Mizion to provide an additional response to care-giving relatives who cope with their loved one’s dementia with unflagging devotion and courage.

A special thank you to Aviva Schwartz, Tzipporah Fried Center social worker at Ezer Mizion’s Bat Yam-Holon-Rishon Lezion branch who contributed much to the evening’s success with her dedication and professionalism.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Joy Enters the Hospital

May 23, 2018

hospital 5The 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 holidy? The thoughts wander from upsetting test results to grueling treatments and no further.

Shavuot? A far-off dream of some previous life…blintzes frying,  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 holiday but how desperately they needed the feeling of holiness, the feeling of being part of the Jewish nation.

pr Shvuous pix 2And 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 Yidden.

In the midst of this sea of sorrow and unimaginable pain, Ezer Mizion Petach Tikvah Linked to Life volunteers set up an island of joy and tranquility.

Dozens of 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 a holiday 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 Shavuos too!

 

Allow us to dedicate the following to you, our precious volunteers:

“Rav Zeira said: The Book of Ruth was written to teach you the great reward of those who do chessed, loving kindness” .

 

Thank You from Italy

May 16, 2018

map of ItalyDear Sirs,

My name is Annalisa T. I am writing from Italy to thank with all my heart the Israeli donor who will try to save the life of my husband Mr Luca B: he will receive a bone marrow transplant between the end of April and the beginning of May at the hospital of Santa Chiara in Pisa, Italy. He is fighting, since May 2017, against a LLA (Leukemia).

Could you help me, please, to get in touch with this beautiful person? We don’t know the name, but we only know that he/she is in Israel. I really would like to talk or hug him/her. Possibly inviting him/her to come and visit us in Italy.

If it is not possible, please, forward this email to him or her.

I would be very grateful to you in this desperate research.

Thank you with all my heart and all my love from Italy to you and Israel,

Annalisa T

Wife of Patient Luca B

BOLOGNA, Italy

people helping people around globe
Lives of cancer patients saved in Jewish communities around the globe

When Annalisa and Luca were told the shocking news, they were devastated. Leukemia! Their worst fears! Family members were tested to determine if one was a DNA match but, one after the other, the answer was no. No. No. No.  Their world turned black. A bone marrow transplant could cure him but if family members did not match genetically, then who would? And even if there is some stranger somewhere in the world who does, how can they find him? And why would he be interested in inconveniencing himself for the sake of a man whom he never met? The Jewish community in Italy is small. Other places like the US and Israel have much larger communities but Annalisa and Luca had no contacts in those countries. The chances of curing Luca seemed infinitesimal. Logically, they were correct. But logic has no place when it comes to saving a life.

A tiny flutter of hope. They were told of Ezer Mizion, a Bone Marrow Registry in Israel, the largest Jewish registry in the world, with close to a million people registered, people whose only purpose in registering is to save a life of another Jew, anywhere in the world.  They were told that Ezer Mizion had an extremely high per capita rate of registrants, much more than other countries.They were told of the many success stories, thousands of people whose lives had been saved. And then one day…they were told: Yes! We have a match!

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New registrants to be genetically tested to remain on stand-by to save a life

The donor was contacted by Ezer Mizion. It never occurred to him to refuse. True, he would have to put is personal schedule on hold for a short while. But to save a life?! What’s the question! Ezer Mizion did all it could to make things easier for the donor and soon it was ‘all systems ready to go’.

Yes, Luca and Annalisa were right. Logically his chances were small.   A matching donor was not easy to find.  He lived an ocean away. He didn’t know them personally. In the normal course of events, it would take a miracle to find him. But that’s what Ezer Mizion is all about. Miracles. A caring chessed organization.  Where statistics have no place.

Celebration?

May 9, 2018

tfillinA young mother in Rechasim is battling cancer but that doesn’t stop the date of her son’s Bar Mitzvah from coming closer and closer. What the family had looked forward to for years promises to be a day of despair. Celebration? How does one celebrate when…when…? And so the days on the calendar rolled on and the Bar Mitzvah was scheduled for a Sunday in mid-April. Bar Mitzvah? One hundred people were invited but there was no joy. Both finances and mood precluded ordering any amenities including food! A bleak celebration indeed.

Is this what the boy would remember when he looks back at his Bar Mitzvah? The plans, if we can call them that, were set until Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life came into the picture. It was only days till the Bar Mitzvah when the Rechasim and Haifa Linked to Life directors heard about the situation. With a network of hundreds, they weren’t worried. Sweet tables, festively decorated, would add a gala aura to the event. A boy is about to take on the responsibilities of a Jewish man. Happiness will permeate the drab hall. Smiles will abound. Song will burst forth.

The Rechasim and Haifa Linked to Life networks were contacted and responses poured in. The directors were not surprised.   “We knew they would! They’re people of compassion!”

Nirit: I’ll prepare two trays of petit fours.

Estie: One round cake and maybe one cut cake, depending how much I get done.

Avraham: A gigantic elaborate Bar Mitzvah cake in the shape of a Sefer Torah. I need to know the boy’s name.

Nirit: My daughter will also make a tray of Jello cups.

Devorah, Haifa: I’ll prepare two cakes, b’ezrat Hashem

Oshrat: I’ll prepare a tray.

Breuer family: Individual mousse cups.

Sara: A cake.

Rachel: A three-layer cake.

Brachie, Haifa: I’ll prepare two chocolate pies, b’ezrat Hashem.

Brachie, Haifa: And my co-worker, Chanie, will prepare 20 cups of mousse, b’ezrat Hashem

Haifa: I’ll bring a bowl with candies, like marshmallows and sour sticks, etc. nicely arranged.

Haifa: I’ll bring rum balls, a round cake, and a big rectangular cake.

Chanie, Haifa: Peanut butter pie and a special drink with small cups.

Sharvit, Haifa: Bli neder, I’ll bring chocolate “salami” rolls with all different toppings: coconut, sprinkles, and so on

Levana, Haifa: I’ll bring 10 bottles of soft drink and some bottles of mineral water. They should just be well and the place should be imbued with joy!

Osnat: Ten bottles of soft drink.

Adina Tivon: I would like to set up the sweet table with pretty tablecloths, napkins, and disposable dishes and flatware. If you’re agreeable to this, please let me know the exact place and time.

Haifa: What other possibilities are there. Give us ideas!

Sharvit, Haifa: Maybe a fruit platter, cut up nicely.

Haifa: I’ll bring a fruit platter.

Haifa: I’ll prepare three cakes, iy”H.

Vaknin, LTL Haifa: 10 bottles of soft drink.

The leaders were overjoyed and Heaven smiled, so very proud of those who know how to give!

 

 

 

Vorkanash

May 2, 2018

memory-gameShe played matching games when she was a child. True, she wanted very much to win but losing wasn’t the end of the world. Now she is thirty. And losing this ‘matching game’ would be the end of her world… the end of her life.

She had been experiencing strong back pains for several months. When the pain intensified, she visited her doctor. Tests revealed that she had lymphocytic leukemia. Radiation and chemotherapy were not enough. Due to the aggressive character of the illness, she would have to have a stem cell transplant asap.  Within a few, short weeks! “We are in a race against time,” explained Dr. Itai Levy, head of the Hematology Department in Soroka Hospital.

Her name is Vorkanash.

pr bmr machine w bags 1489_ne_photo_stories2_e8667 She is a member of the Ethiopian community in Israel, a community that is underrepresented in Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry in proportion to its representation in Israel’s general population. “It’s somebody’s life. We have to do everything possible to save her,” says Dr. Bracha Zisser, founder and director of the Registry. “No human being should have to undergo the anguish of waiting for that elusive DNA match.”  Ezer Mizion has undertaken a drive to increase the level of Ethiopian registration both for Vorkanash and others of this segment of Israel’s population. Measures are being taken to boost the chances of a match being found for Vorkanash…before it’s too late.  From almost 900,000 potential Ezer Mizion Registry donors, only 11,530 are of Ethiopian descent resulting in no match, so far, for Vorkanash.  But she is hopeful that soon one of the new registrants will be found to be her genetic counterpart.

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Unlike blood typing, DNA matching is quite complex with many more factors involved. Ethnicity plays a major role. Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish registry in the world, has saved the lives of over 2700 in Israel, America and so many other countries around the globe that . In 2017 alone, 307 life-saving transplants were performed.

When a donor is found to be a match for a cancer patient, he is treated to increase his stem cells. When the ‘big day’ arrives, he will be treated like royalty as he lies in a hospital bed attached to a machine that will separate his stem cells. Blood is drawn from an IV in one arm. It passes through the machine where the stem cells are extracted and the blood is then returned to him via the other arm. This process continues until enough stem cells have accumulated. The little ‘bag of life’ is then brought to the patient accompanied by the donor’s prayers. After a year, the donor is legally permitted to meet with the patient and his family, a highly emotional gathering. One cannot begin to imagine the feelings that rise up as a young father embraces the man whose selflessness had saved his child’s life.

 

Younger Is Better

May 1, 2018

pr-bmr-Younger-is-Better-1 (002)Many people wonder why there is an age limit on registration with Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry. In addition to the more obvious reason of the younger potential donor remaining on the database for decades – a big plus considering the high cost of each genetic testing – there is another factor to be considered. The success rate using cells from a younger donor is significantly higher than when using cells from an older person.

pr-bmr-Younger-is-Better-3 (002)YOUNGER IS BETTER Percentage of younger donors in Ezer Mizion as compared to other registries throughout the world.

The following statements are extracted from a report by CIBMTR (Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research): Studies show that younger stem cell donors result in better patient survival rates. Overall survival decreases with increasing donor age, making age – after tissue type matching – the most important factor in choosing an unrelated stem cell donor.

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YOUNGER IS BETTER Percentage of transplants performed with younger donors facilitated by Ezer Mizion compared to those facilitated by registries throughout the world

Maintaining a young donor population is possible through continued, sustained membership growth through Ezer Mizion’s lifesaving partnership with the IDF, which draws in thousands of new, young registry members each year.

How Do You Do It?

April 25, 2018

pr depressionVacation. Just the word alone conjures up feelings of anticipation, happiness and relaxation of tension. Many studies have shown the value of a vacation even for those leading successful, fulfilling lives. And for those that are not?  Those that are battling the unimaginable challenges of mental health?

They experience a general feeling of well-being, increased self-esteem and a strong development of social bonds after taking part in the Ezer Mizion Mental Health Division Annual Retreat which gives them the positive energy to fight their battles in the months ahead.

The tremendously positive feedback shows how invaluable a getaway can be for rehabilitating mental health clients. Its success can be gauged from their comments as they head home, tired but so happy.

 

“Now I have the strength to return to the hostel.”

“Thank you for putting us in a place where we are respected like everyone else.”

“I missed my brother’s wedding because the dates coincided but I just couldn’t miss the retreat. It’s like oxygen to me.”

“For years, I have not felt such pleasure in learning Torah. The ‘v’haarev na’ (pleasure in study) was back.”

“I felt like a mensch. Ezer Mizion thought of every detail.”

“I have never felt so much love. A strengthening for the soul.”

“I gained so much joy and I feel strong enough to resume routine living.”

“What a feeling of togetherness! It erased the loneliness that I feel every day. I experienced such a feeling of connection.”

The family members and staff have seen dramatic changes in the participants. The father of one of the clients called the rehab mentor in tears: “My son has barely stepped out of the house for the last three years. He only agreed to go to the retreat after we pleaded with him. He came home unbelievably happy.” The counselor reported that following the retreat, the client is more emotionally stable and able to go out of the house and be part of the world.

The mother of one of the participants called the Sunday after the retreat and to thank us and tell us that her son had sat at the Shabbat table like an equal. “He’d always sat there silently. He didn’t have anything to share. This Shabbat, he was the star of the show.”

The director of the hostel called up after the retreat, and told us that one of the participants had been on the verge of hospitalization. They debated as to whether he was up to going on the retreat. Now, he wanted to know how the client had functioned. The counselor said that he’d functioned fully and very happily. The hostel director couldn’t believe his ears!

The director of the residence network for rehabilitating the mentally ill sent an email with quotes from the participants about how much they’d enjoyed the retreat and how they’d experienced such special attention. She concluded her words with a question: “Explain to me – how did you do it? How did you take these people and give them a new horizon? How did you do it?!”

Perhaps it all stems from the source, Rav Chananya Chollak, founder of Ezer Mizion who treats each patient with the ultimate in compassion and dignity. His mindset flows down and imbues each staff member, from the professionals to the volunteers, with a plethora of love and respect for all who knock on the doors of Ezer Mizion.