Archive for the ‘Charity in Israel’ Category

As Life from Me Is Infused into You

March 13, 2019

helping-handTo My Dear One

You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but that is what makes everything so much more amazing.

Some time ago, I received the most thrilling phone call, informing me that I was found to be a match for a stem cell donation to someone who needed my cells to live. I was beyond words, in the clouds.

Two years ago, I had received a similar call to save the life of a 23 year old man. But unfortunately, the patient weakened and he was in no condition to undergo the transplant. I had been devastated.  “This cannot be!” I thought to myself.

To my great joy, I received another call and this time it was about you.  Today, I had the opportunity to donate my stem cells to you. For this privilege, I am forever grateful!!!

Throughout this process, I didn’t stop thinking about you for a moment.

pr bmr cell bag
Stem cell transplant: his only chance to survive

I thought all the time: How are you feeling? Are you happy that a matching donor was found for you? Are you optimistic, in spite of the great difficulty involved in such a daunting challenge?

When, occasionally, there was pain or fears at some stage of the process, I immediately thought of you and instantly knew that I had no right to complain, when it was you who are fighting for your life. It had been insanely important to me, and I stubbornly had insisted that they pass on to you and your family that you should not be worried about the donation; I was willing to donate, no matter what would be involved.

To everyone involved, I want to send you tons of “likes” for the ability to accept and deal with this, each in his own way, and to embrace me with a big hug from afar.

I intentionally chose to write to you by hand, so that you could become familiar with at least one personal aspect of me in this long and discreet process.

pr bmr stem cells
Stem cell transplant: saving life after life

I pray and hope that my stem cells will be absorbed in your body in the best possible way and that, with G-d’s help, you should recover and regain your strength so that you will once more stand on your own two feet, raise your head, and, above all, be proud of yourself for emerging victorious, in a big way.

Yours forever,

Your anonymous donor

The letter writer is just one of over three thousand caring Jews who cannot believe their good fortune to have been chosen to save a life. In a year or two, donor and patient will be permitted to meet. Can you imagine the joy as they embrace…brothers in blood, their souls entwined! 

There are close to a million potential donors in Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Registry, the largest Jewish registry in the world. But even the largest is not large enough. Our goal is to expand so that virtually every request is met with the exhilarating words: Yes! We have a match! 

 

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Your Friend in the Sky

March 6, 2019

bmr Nissim Yakubov 3Nissan sat in the chair opposite his doctor, his fists clenched in tension. Read on as he tells his story.

“I don’t want to sugar coat it. You have leukemia and it doesn’t look good.”

“These were not the words I was hoping to hear. The hardest part was informing our entire family.

After two rounds of chemotherapy, I was told to contact my brothers and sisters immediately as I needed a bone marrow transplant. “I don’t have a brother or sister,” I whispered in a barely audible voice. “I’m an only child.”

The doctors were pessimistic and said that finding a matching bone marrow donor is rare and time was not on my side. They also said that coming from a stranger there was no way there would be a 100% match. The range could be 50% to 90%. I felt totally helpless.  There was no way I could ignore God’s intimate care of every detail of my life now.

I felt the love I have for my entire family, a love that feels infinite, endless. And then it hit me: all that love doesn’t come close to the love God has for me. At that moment, lying in the hospital bed, I told God, “I am going to love you until my last breath, nothing you decree will ever change that,” and I fell into a deep, restful sleep.

bmr Nissim Yakubov 2

A few days later, Ezer Mizion informed us that they had found a donor that was a 100% DNA match. The doctors could not believe it.

I thought, is this really happening? Is God really going to grant such a wonderful thing? Maybe it was too early to be excited.

It was December 2017, during the holiday of Chanukah, a time for miracles, when the medical team told me that they usually collect 5 to 6 million stem cells, but they somehow managed to collect 9.5 million. “And there is more good news. Their quality is superb! On a scale of 1-10, these stem cells are a 10+! Do you realize how lucky you are?!”

“No, it’s not luck,” I said. “This is a gift from God, don’t you see it?”

One of the nurses said, “Yes, I do see it!” Her words brought tears to my eyes.

As an outpatient, my first bone marrow test was with Dr. Noga ShemTov. She told me she doesn’t know how much of the bone marrow my body will accept and how, in some cases, it may be rejected even if it’s a 100% match. “If there is even 1% trace of leukemia in my bone marrow, we’ll have to start the whole process over again.”

She also warned me that the new bone marrow may attack my organs and that there may be damage to the heart and kidneys from all the chemotherapy. She finally concluded, “Your hemoglobin will never be higher than 10 because it’s not your own bone marrow.”bmr Nissim Yakubov 1

Thank God, the results of the first bone marrow test indicated my body accepted 100% of the new bone marrow. I was in complete remission; there was no trace of any leukemia and my hemoglobin was 11.25.

I cannot stop thanking Ezer Mizion for being G-d’s messenger in saving my life, without Ezer Mizion, the bone marrow donor could have been living right next door, and I would have never known.

I am presently still in complete remission and my hemoglobin averages 15. From my first to my last bone marrow tests, each test revealed a 100% acceptance by my body, a true gift from God.  There were no complications, no organ damage, and no infections. Dr. ShemTov told me a lot of this had to do with, “Your friend in the sky.”

“He’s not just my Friend, he’s our Father” I said.

 

 

A Small Drink…A Big Thank You

February 20, 2019

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.  Sometimes it’s an elderly parent who is ill, sometimes it’s a spouse or a small child. For the caretaker, the hours are lonely and filled with angst. Vital decisions have to be made and the caretakers are drained, running on empty.  Their faces light up when Miriam arrives in the Ezer Mizion uniform bearing a hot, nutritious meal spiced with a warm, compassionate smile. Knowing that someone cares makes all the difference. It gives them strength to ‘be there’ for the patient, strength to deal with the myriad of logistics, strength to continue for another day.

 

Miriam’s deliveries went very smoothly today. There was time for a break before heading home to meet her son’s bus. She headed to the hospital cafeteria to purchase a cool, refreshing drink. As she approached the cash register to pay, she was told by a smiling clerk that her drink was already paid for.

 

“Huh? What do you mean? I didn’t pay yet.”

“No but that man over there paid for it.”

 

Completely puzzled, Miriam turned to the man at the nearby table. “Thank you but do you mind telling me why you paid for my drink?”

 

“I see by your uniform that you are from Ezer Mizion. My family and I have been receiving Ezer Mizion meals for weeks.  You have no idea what the meals and warm words of sympathy from your team mean to us. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to express our appreciation and give back a little bit…”

 

Miriam smiled at him and wished him well. Then she walked, no, not walked – she  floated – towards her car. Appreciation can do that to you.  Even before she turned on the ignition, she sent an email to her fellow Ezer Mizion volunteers so that they, too, will fully understand what it is they do each week.

 

Her story will be added to the many other stories like the time a group of people at a hospital emergency room, including a maintenance man working nearby, clapped and clapped as slightly embarrassed volunteer approached. And the story of the man who had just given a generous donation the night before and then found himself in the hospital caring for his young son, now the recipient of the chessed he had donated for. Story after story…meal after meal…Ezer Mizion is always there when it hurts.

 

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.

Battling the Stigma of Mental Illness

February 6, 2019

Stigma — one of the more difficult aspects of mental illness that patients and their families encounter again and again — is the subject that took center stage at the annual seminar held by the Ezer Mizion Mental Health Division’s Family Counseling Center, together with Israel’s Health Department.

The well-known authority in the field, Professor Avraham Weizman, head of the Mental Health Center research unit at Geheh and director of the Flossenstein Center for Medical Research at Tel Aviv University is deeply involved with people in this sector and is in constant contact with Chananya Chollak, Ezer Mizion International Chairman. Prof. Weizman discussed the effects of stigma in the overall protocol when dealing with mental health patients. The statistical data and studies he presented were intended to refute many of the common stigmas regarding people with mental illness.

Chananya Chollak spoke about the damage that concealment causes by preventing people from obtaining the appropriate treatment in time. He called upon the public to display responsibility and get help as soon as possible, so as to increase the chances of optimistically resuming life routine. How many times have professional staff members cried to him, saying, “If only he had come to be treated earlier! The prognosis would have been so much better.”

Prominent community leader, Rabbi Moshe Stein, a dayan on Rav Wosner’s beis din, discussed the halachic issues relating to mental health. He emphasized that it is important to present the true story to the rabbanim who will be discreet in advising when and how much should be revealed and to whom.

Rabbi Avraham Rubinstein, mayor of Bnei Brak, greeted the seminar attendees and lauded the tremendous contribution of Ezer Mizion in general, and particularly their Mental Health Division, to the Jewish people. Ezer Mizion offers a variety of psychological support services and rehabilitative programs for people suffering from psychological disorders, emotional issues and mental illnesses. These services include:

A Big Brother/Sister Program that pairs individuals suffering from mental illnesses with trained mentors who provide companionship, offer assistance with basic daily function, and teach the skills necessary for independent living.

Rehabilitative employment centers that provide mentally handicapped people with basic vocational training and employment, and ease their integration into free market employment.

A psychological referral team that recommends appropriate psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors to people grappling with emotional disturbances, mental health issues or difficult relationships.

A network of psychiatrists and psychologists throughout Israel who provide their services at a discount to patients referred by Ezer Mizion.

A 24-hour crisis hotline for non-medical emergencies, including mental health crises such as suicide attempts or severe manic episodes.

As the seminar closed, the hundreds of participants expressed great satisfaction at having received so much knowledge and empowerment in the subject of mental health as a whole, and specifically in the area of stigmas. Attendees hope to have more similar lectures which will gradually affect public opinion and look forward to a time when mental illness will present no more of a stigma than any medical condition.

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.

 

RX: Smiles

January 30, 2019

pr l2l upsherin cake 1No adoring Grandma and Grandpa took a turn to snip off a bit of his sweet, little curls. There was no hair to sweep up from the floor. No peyos (sidelocks) adorned his little face. But there was a yarmulke and tzitzis and there was joy. The family celebrated his upsherin, his first milestone, with joy, with hope and with prayer that there would be many more milestones to celebrate in the future.

There hadn’t been much joy in the family lately.  Their tiny son has been battling cancer. There was no emotional strength to create a celebration when he turned three but, oh how badly they needed some light and happiness in their lives. It would do wonders for their spirits. It would put a smile on the child’s forlorn, little face, something that hadn’t been there in so long. It would give them strength to continue the battle.

pr L2L upsherin cake 2
Smiles and chemo join together to cure cancer

And so word was sent out to the members of Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life network. “Could anyone help with the logistics of setting up an upsherin (celebration of first haircut)  for a 3-year-old boy with cancer?” G-d must have been so proud of His children. Every detail was taken care of by L2L members including not one but two cakes for our wide-eyed little hero.

It’s amazing how much warmth and love there is in this wonderful group, how much drive to give, to embrace, and to pamper. We cannot cure the illness, but we can certainly support and bring relief and hope to a patient and family as was done to a young mother, a cancer patient, who has been living in dread of leaving her small children to grow up as orphans. Her birthday was coming up. Ezer Mizion knew the family needed a lift and contacted the Linked to Life division to create a happening. In just thirty minutes an event was put together that can put even the most exclusive catering establishment to shame!

Ricky, Sara, Goldie, Bracha, Rachel, Rochi and Tova offered to bake cakes.  Racheli F., Racheli E. and Sari will create salads. Nechami, Yehudis, Chasi, Tamar and Atara put themselves in charge of kugels. The replies kept coming.  Pupah and Hodaya the pasta and Shani, La’el, Penina and Sora the drinks. Tammy, Esther, Debbie, Ruti- the sweet table and Shulamis- the fruit platter. Shani, Yael and Hadaar will do the disposable, the flowers and the gift.   Only someone that was there could fathom the electrifying  atmosphere of happiness that brought a boost of encouragement to a distraught family.

Dudi Marder, CEO of Malchut Waxberger, salutes Ezer Mizion “Linked to Life” Network:

Linked to Life is a chessed empire on wheels, the brilliant Israeli invention of the millennium, a unique innovation that combines chessed and social media for the benefit of others. It is my honor and pride to be a partner in this tremendous, special international chessed project.

The worldwide chessed organization of Ezer Mizion, in addition to its countless divisions, branches, and wonderful work on behalf of every individual facing any kind of health challenge, has taken a giant step forward in their mission to help others: It established an amazing, gigantic chessed network known as Linked to Life, a mobile chessed program that operates dozens of What’s App groups a day, linked up by wireless connection to tens of thousands of special people, all of whom are at the ready for any call or request regarding a medical need.

That includes: Providing a lift to hospitals, delivering medical documents from abroad to Israel, transferring blood samples and tests from Israel to overseas, delivering hot meals to the homes of their needy recipients. Thousands of people of chessed are partners in this undertaking, linked up to help give people life. The way I see it, Ezer Mizion Linked to Life project is Israel’s most unique national product.

Playing Twenty Questions in the Hospital Room

January 23, 2019

hospital 5 Sara felt helpless. Her grandmother felt helpless. Each one frustrated, until Sara remembered a course she had taken three years ago.

Sara obtained the email address of her former university teacher, Yonit Hagoel Karnieli, Director of Ezer Mizion’s AAC (Alternative Augmentative Communication) National Center and sent her the following message:

Hi Yonit.

I attended your AAC course as part of my Speech and Language Practitioner training three years ago. Now, my grandmother is in the hospital, intubated. I wanted to ask if you have any advice. She is fully conscious and her cognitive condition is absolutely normal. She’s been trying to communicate with lip movements and gestures, but cannot always make herself understood. It’s so hard to see her trying to tell me something and not being able to get across. Sometimes we both sit there, reduced to tears. How many stories did she read to me when I was a child! How many deep conversations we shared during my teenage years! And now, when she needs me, I’m not able to help her.  I’d really appreciate if you could guide me.

With sincere thanks,

Sara

That same day, a reply landed in her inbox:

Hi Sara.

I really hope that your grandmother has a speedy recovery. As part of that process, check out Ezer Mizion’s website. Go to the AAC Center link – https://www.ami.org.il/augmentative-communication/  and download the “Handbook for the Hospitalized Patient.” You’ll find a range of aids and tips for improving communication.

The handbook is built in the form of a flowchart. By answering “yes” and “no” questions, you can easily arrive at the most helpful communication solutions. It’s like playing Twenty Questions and enables you to zero in on what your grandmother wants to say.

Yonit

Within a short time, Sara had accessed the handbook and devoured its contents. She was blown over by its clarity, practicality, and user-friendly setup. “Wow! The handbook that you put together is nothing short of amazing! Thanks for your help!”

Says Yonit Hagoel-Karnieli: “This is just one example of the feedback we get on a daily basis about the ‘Handbook for the Hospitalized Patient’ that we compiled and posted on the website. It is indispensable for people like Sara’s grandmother, who are in communication crisis situations and without professional intervention.”

Ezer Mizion’s AAC Lending Center — along with its associated projects, such as the Handbook — is truly a one of its kind service.

Every person deserves the right to express himself, and Ezer Mizion’s AAC Division is helping people in Israel exercise that right in the best way possible.

What Does it Mean?

January 16, 2019

Image result for rav meir baal haness imageDivision of Cancer Support. What does it mean? What does it mean to support a victim of cancer? Some answers are obvious. Helping out with the kids, providing meals, transportation, offering therapy to patient and members of the family that are finding it difficult to cope – all these will certainly be included. And then there’s the not so obvious.

During an illness, a patient experiences a sense of loss. Her very identity as a human being is threatened. No longer is she able to nurture her children, care for her husband leave alone volunteer to help others. She feels like a nonentity. Expressing a desire and having it fulfilled empowers the patient. “I count for something!” It raises her spirits and gives her a reason to live.

Ezer Mizion’s Make-A-Wish program has created ‘special days’ for so many. The destinations are as varied as the people they serve and range from a trip to Meron for an elderly man to a tour of the old neighborhood for a nursing home patient, from ‘policeman for a day’ for a small boy to an elderly housebound mother visiting her cancer-stricken daughter. Many trips with the ill have a happy ending with the patient recovering and ‘paying back’ by registering as a volunteer to help others.

With some, a happy ending is not expected and support during this trying time is all the more needed. Such was the case of a terminally ill, young woman, mother of a large family. Each year, Ezer Mizion takes its 25,000 volunteers on a major trip to pray at various holy gravesites. She so much wanted to be part of it but that was impossible. A whole day? Crowds of people? Out of the question. Yet it was this year, more than any other year, that such a visit was sorely needed. And so a special trip was arranged, just for her. Her own vehicle. Her own itinerary-one kever (grave) only.  She chose R’ Meir Baal HaNes. Much too weak to walk to the grave, Ezer Mizion volunteers carried her on a stretcher. The flow of tears began the moment they reached the grave. Tears of joy at being able to connect in such a deep way to  holiness. The visit came to a close. Her tears ended but those of the volunteers just began when she smiled at them and said, “Now I’m ready.”

 

 

 

A Soul Comes Home

January 9, 2019

amb boy 10yo kosel 12 18

He was ten years old. Every child knows that after ten comes eleven. It is as certain as night following day.  For a small number of children, though, it may not be. These children, too mature to have the devastating information hidden from them, yet oh so young, oh so pure …these holy souls … have risen to levels unimaginable to their peers.

The cancer had almost paralyzed him. His breathing was weak and oxygen was necessary to keep him alive. He lay there, more soul than body. But what a soul! This young child, whose thoughts should be on collecting Rebbe cards and his latest chol hamoed trip, had one wish: to daven (pray) at the kotel in order to  come closer to the Creator of the world, perhaps for his last time as a human being of flesh and blood.

Ezer Mizion, who had been helping the boy and his family in so many ways, heard his request. What heart could remain passive? He was so weak that he could barely utter his entreaty.  Logically, it made no sense. But since when does logic enter into the picture when a soul is crying?

The first step was consultation with the physicians handling his case. These hardened medical people, normally inured to emotion, found themselves inexplicably moved and surprised even themselves by joining the Ezer Mizion staff in finding ways to make it happen. And so step number one was accomplished. The doctors would give the ok but only if a myriad of logistics could be met.

Over the years, Ezer Mizion has developed relationships with many authorities. Now was the time to make use of them. It would be necessary to drive all the way up to the kotel, normally forbidden by law. An area would have to be legally completely cleared since his immune system was compromised and he could not be placed in a crowd. In short, the logistics were tremendous and a miracle was needed.

There were phone calls, emails, in-person meetings with the top people at the Police Department, the Border Police, the Authority of Holy Sites, the Western Wall Authority. The passionate pleas of Ezer Mizion staff moved many ‘immovable walls’ and, bit by bit, plans fell into place. A small amount of time was set aside at the kotel for the boy, about thirty minutes.

Now the tension only increased. Would his condition allow him to go on the appointed day? If not, the whole procedure would have to begin again. A timely arrival was essential. Would hospital personnel cooperate so that he can leave in time? So many factors. So many places for things to go wrong.

Soon there he was. Ensconced in a stretcher in an Ezer Mizion ambulance. It was a special ambulance, donated by the well-known Farajun family of Toronto, used mainly for Make-A-Wish trips. Not only was it equipped with medical needs but it also boasted lighting, music, videos – so much to make even the traveling part of each Make-A-Wish trip enjoyable. It is in use daily for the octogenarian who hasn’t visited her sister in years, for the holocaust survivor who wanted so much to make a blessing on seeing the ocean, for the small cancer patient whose dream it was to see the police station and now for this precious ten year old child.

The Hand of G-d smoothed the way. Soon the miracle actually happened and there he was, lying on a stretcher inches away from his beloved kotel. With the help of the trained Ezer Mizion drivers, he was able to turn to the side, reach out and kiss the stones. A kiss that resounded in the heaven as the tears of the angels mingled with those on the plaza who were watching from afar. A soul had come home.

The Bat Mitzvah That Almost Wasn’t

January 2, 2019

What happens when the pillar holding up the structure begins to wobble? And the walls that had lost their prop fall to the floor? The building that had appeared to be solid now topples, breaking into smithereens.

The Berger* family was such a structure. Mr. Berger was the strong parent whom everyone leaned upon. His wife was his helpmate, relying on him to make decisions, small and large. Emotionally, she was not capable of playing the leader and that was just fine as long as the status quo remained. But then cancer entered the family structure and Mr. Berger was no longer able to offer his strength. His condition was grave and, without the pillar that she depended on all of her married life, his wife could no longer lead the family.

A sick husband, a traumatized wife, bewildered children were left to each fend for himself with no support at a time when it was so desperately needed. But not for long. Ezer Mizion was notified of the situation and they took charge. Various departments were brought onto the scene to provide for both practical and emotional needs. Rides to the hospital, hot meals, someone to do homework with the kids, someone to hold the house together, fun days for the kids, retreats for the whole family to raise their spirits, professional therapy for each member of the family and so much more.

Ezer Mizion became the new temporary pillar with its staff of caring people whose only goal was to ease the plight of a Jewish family in trouble. Heavily involved in the details of their life, it was only natural that they soon heard about Malky* who was soon to be twelve. No Bas Mitzvah plans were in the offing. Who had emotional energy to even think of such things? But Ezer Mizion staff did. They pictured the smiles. They pictured the family togetherness. Both so rare these days. And they got to work.

With so many joining in with their specialties, the result was fantastic. It is not likely that any girl ever had a Bas Mitzvah as nice as Malky*’s.

Ezer Mizion cannot cure the patient but, with the help of all of you, our supporters around the world, we can be there for them when it hurts.

 

The Other Side

December 26, 2018

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One of the many grateful letters that land on the desk of an Ezer Mizion staff member:

Now I see what it’s all about. I never knew. I’m a nice person just like everyone else. I like to help others. I often volunteer to drive people to the hospital and such. But I never really understood. Until yesterday. I was scheduled to undergo eye surgery at Hadassah Ein Kerem. Driving was out of the question. It was Chanukah vacation and my husband had to be home with the kids. I had no one to ask to drive me and it occurred to me to call Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life – that’s you! I’ve been a member of Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life for ages but this time I was ‘doing it backwards’ and had to look up the number that people call. Normally I answer requests, not make them. The people at the call center were really nice. The experience was amazing. I saw the post appear in the queue that I always check to see if there’s anything I can help with and, for the first time, I felt what it’s like to be on the other side, as a recipient asking for help. Then I got to see in real time how it works.  The speed was unbelievable. My bell rang almost immediately. Suddenly, I understood what a tremendous chessed (good deed) you do. I understood now why the women I take in my car so easily can’t stop thanking me and saying what a huge help it is. Now I understood, because I felt it on my own skin!

helping handsI want to thank you and tell you how fantastic you all are and how much happiness you bring with this marvelous work that you do. I also want to personally thank Racheli, the wonderful person I never knew until yesterday, who drove me to the operation, and as soon as I got out of the car, asked to pick me up to take me home. She even asked if I’d like her to accompany me to the surgery, since I was compelled to come to the hospital alone.

A giant thanks to dear Sarah, whom I also met for the first time, who drove me back from Hadassah yesterday evening, after the operation and, with such sensitivity and offered to walk me to the door because of the big bandage covering the eye that was operated on. Racheli drove me home from Hadassah today after my follow-up visit and treatment.

Of course, in addition to all the trouble they took and their great help, their sincere good wishes and hearty blessings warmed my heart. You really touched me, Linked-to-Lifers! You caused me to be deeply moved by the beauty in this chessed that we all do.