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!

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Phone Beeps…

April 18, 2018

people helping people around globeMazel tov’s were resounding in room after room as newborns arrived to the joy of their families. But one room was quiet. A new baby was born but something was wrong. It seemed to be a heart defect. The doctors conferred.   Top Israeli pediatric cardiologists were called in for consultations. The defect was a rare one and none of the specialists had any experience with it. A solution had to be found soon. Rabbi Shimon Rogoway, Director of Ezer Mizion’s Medical Referral Department, was brought into the picture. “Yes, I do know of a doctor who has experience in this type of defect but he’s in Boston. We need to get Meir Quinn involved.” Meir Quinn is the Director of Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life, a WhatsApp group that networks to produce emergency rides to the hospital, get vital meds from here to there etc. etc. Linked to Life has members in almost every Jewish community on the planet.  In moments, a posting went out: Urgent! Need to get medical disc from Haifa to Boston for consultation. Phones beeped and responses came in. Sara from Haifa picked up the disc and delivered to Naftali who was traveling to Bnei Brak. Naftali passed it to Shmuel in Bnei Brak who delivered it to Ronnie who was flying to Boston. Leah picked it up from Ronnie and within hours delivered the precious disc to the doctor.  Soon cautious mazel tov’s will be heard in the infant’s room as a course for treatment is set up. As this tiny human being matures to adulthood he will never be aware of how many people around the globe rushed to his aid, each one playing his part in saving the life of a fellow Jew. 

pr L2L Meir Quinn

Meir Quinn, director of Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life

Ezer Mizion, whose logo incorporates the words: “Choosing Life” and whose  prime division, its Bone Marrow Registry,  has been saving lives since 1998, is always happy to cooperate with other organizations in facilitating a life-saving procedure.

We were grateful for the opportunity to do so when a call came in to the New York office from Renewal, a non-profit dedicated to assisting people suffering from various forms of kidney disease. A patient was desperately in need of a kidney transplant. A potential donor had been located in Ashdod but further testing was needed before the transplant could take place. Blood samples had to be drawn and delivered within 24 hours to the lab in New York. Various entities in Israel had been contacted but none were able to do so even though full payment for expedited service was offered. That is when the anxious call came from Renewal to the Ezer Mizion NY office. Can we help?

With Ezer Mizion’s Linked2Life program already in place, helping was simple. Even the 24-hour framework was a challenge but not insurmountable.  Ezer Mizion’s  “Linked to Life” knows how to get things done, with the help of the volunteers’ huge hearts, even in cases where financial and bureaucratic ‘bumps on the road’ abound.

Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry provided the specialized blood tubes and complex paperwork for international transport. A volunteer, a nurse by profession, responded to the first request to draw the blood in Ashdod right after Shabbos was over. A second volunteer made a special trip to Ben Gurion Airport to deliver the test tubes to a third volunteer, who took them to New York. Within less than 24 hours, another international Linked to Life campaign was crowned with success.

Of Meds to China and Preemies Going Home

April 11, 2018

pr L2L Meir QuinnPeople care about each other. It’s part of being human. We’d love to help out when another person is need but so many times we are not aware of the need. Perhaps he needs a ride from here to there and I am going from the same ‘here’ to the same ‘there’ but I never find out about his need until it’s too late. That’s what Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life is all about – a What’s App group of thousands, both in Israel and around the world, who are anxious to help when another is in need. With extensive networking, a vital item may be passed from hand to hand until it reaches its destination halfway around the globe. Life-saving medication, vital medical equipment, MRI’s, blood samples for asap testing – they’ve all made their way via the L2L Train. Here is one of the many thank you letters received.

 

Shalom!

My name is Hila. I am a cancer survivor. I currently take a preventative medication called Tamoxifen on a regular basis.

Less than two weeks ago, I left for a trip to various places in the Far East for about a month and a half. After the first few days, I discovered that, due to some miscommunication, I did not have a sufficient supply of the medication with me for the rest of my stay. I wrote a post on Facebook asking for help with sending the medicine from Israel. Of course, people really tried to help but no one knew anyone flying from Israel to Saigon. So I called Idit Sever, Ezer Mizion’s cancer support social worker and she immediately came to my assistance. She contacted Meir Quinn, director of Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life What’s App groups. Miraculously, within a very short time, he networked among the thousands of Linked to Life members and found someone who was coming to Saigon and was willing to deliver the meds to me directly. I couldn’t believe it! I never imagined, that it would happen so fast.

So,­ to Idit Sever, Meir Quinn, and Levi Friedman ­–­ the angel who brought me the medicine – and to everyone who took part in this project, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help!

Sometimes it is people in your neighborhood that you never knew but helping them in their time of need, you become like family. Every L2L member in the town rejoiced when a notice was posted about the young couple that they had been helping for a year. Their baby girl was born at 700 grams. Daily rides for the parents were found to and from the hospital. Rides were found for other family members who came to relieve them. Deliveries were made to them. Anything to ease their plight during this difficult time. And now the members were notified that the baby has reached 9 kilo and is being released today! What joy! Each one walked around that day with a happy smile, sharing the family’s elation from afar. One member merited to be part of this parade of happiness when he responded to the request for an SUV to transport the parents, the baby and all the equipment needed for the next step of Life at Home with Mommy and Tatty.

Anyone, wherever you live on the planet, who would like to join Linked to Life: SMS: 011 972 52 580 8936

For further info:      www.ezermizion.org              5225 New Utrecht Ave BK NY 11219                   718 853 8400

 

Yair Wins the Lottery

March 28, 2018

bmr Yair MoznonSome people buy lottery tickets every week and sit by the phone waiting for Arela to call. I didn’t buy any ticket but I got the call anyway. Or so it seemed. In fact, it was even better. Better than winning the lottery. I got a call saying I was the only one in the world that can save the life of a thirteen-year-old boy with leukemia.  Can you imagine what that felt like? Saving a life. That’s the ultimate in goodness, in honor. And it was awarded to me!

 

My name is Yair Moznon. I am 21 and from the Otniel Hesder Yeshiva. After the call, the procedure was explained to me. First came deeper genetic testing. They warned me that this testing may show that I am not as good a match as they wished so I wouldn’t get my hopes up but, as it turned out, I was a great match for this boy. We weren’t allowed to meet but I felt very close to him as we both prepared for the transplant. I was given injections that stimulated the production of stem cells while he underwent a strong chemo treatment. I can’t believe that a 13-year-old kid has to go through this.

 

Then came the big day. My blood was taken from me, the stem cells removed and the blood returned to me. The procedure was repeated until there was enough stem cells for the transplant. I would have loved to hug him as my cells were going through his body, giving over my wishes and prayers into his being, but we aren’t allowed to meet for a year. Every registry has to follow those rules. And so I daven for him every day that my cells will cure him and allow him to grow up like every other boy his age.  In a year we’ll meet and I look forward to it like I’ve never looked forward to anything in my life. It’ll be like having a younger brother, a brother that I never met.

 

Ezer Mizion, with its close to a million registrants has facilitated 2700 life-saving transplants, 307 in 2017 alone. Due to its agreement with the IDF, a very high percentage of new registrants are between the ages of 18-25. Studies show1 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. In addition, younger registrants will remain on the database for more decades than their older counterparts. See charts below.

 

Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion with its Founder, Chananya Chollak Part 3 of a Three Part Series

March 21, 2018

 

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chananya cholak speaking at camp

Rav Chollak speaking at a camp for cancer patients and their families

he many tragedies that Rabbi Chollak, founder of Ezer Mizion, is exposed to in the course of his work did not immunize him against the personal tragedy that struck: About three years ago, Leah, his wife and the mother of his sixteen children, passed away after battling cancer. She was 57. From the start, the doctors had said that for her kind of cancer, you can usually stretch things out for about eight years. Sadly, it did not take even that long; she died a little over a year later.

“I have been asked difficult questions,” says Rav Chollak, “For instance: You and your wife took care of so many sick people, and now, she herself succumbed to the illness. Do you feel any anger?

“My answer is: ‘Look, I don’t know any more than you do. Hashem does only good, so it cannot be that He did something not good to me. We are merely human beings and it is clear to me that there are things that cannot be understood by the human mind. It’s our job to be good people. Nothing more. Nothing less.’

Rav Chollak idolized his wife. “It is important for me to stress that Leah z”l built Ezer Mizion together with me, with her own hands. I didn’t do anything alone. She was a great woman, full of life wisdom. If she had not dedicated herself to this project – it definitely would not have been able to grow and develop with the systematic, all-embracing programs that help the patient from those first terrifying moments to the happy ending that they daven for.

“It often begins with a woman becoming ill. She needs medical counseling, a caring professional to ‘hold her hand’ to determine what to do next. Sometimes she can be confronted with an appointment for a crucial test being made for three months hence. We make it our job to change that absurd appointment to something closer.

“The children at home are going through a difficult time with their parents unable to be there for them, physically or emotionally. We try to take over in many, many different ways. A Bar Mitzvah where there would otherwise not be one… a trip to buy school supplies…someone to do homework with the kids…a center with professional therapeutic activities… family retreats…and, most important, someone to talk to. I give my cell phone out to a lot of kids who need it and tell them to call me whenever they like. They know I care so they’re not shy.

“We have programs for the parents, everything from professional therapy and support groups to fun days and trips.  Having personally experienced this challenge of a sick spouse, I know exactly what it means to see the person closest to you suffering and fighting a battle for life. It tears the heart to the core,” he sighs.

“Services are provided to all applicants,” Rabbi Chollak stresses. “The entire range of the Jewish people comes to us – secular, religious, Chareidi, everybody.

“You see it tangibly at the meetings of stem cell donors and their recipients. They embrace emotionally – a secular fellow who saved the life of a Chareidi, a Dati-Leumi who saved an irreligious person.” And you see it very powerfully at our summer retreats, how everyone spends time together in amazing unity. We are all brothers in times of misfortune.

Rabbi Chollak recalls how, at one of the retreats, a mother from a kibbutz said defiantly, ‘I am irreligious and an extreme Leftist. When I came to the retreat, I was afraid that you’d try to convert me into a baalat teshuvah. Now I see that all you want is that we should enjoy ourselves at the retreat. Excuse me, I just can’t understand – why is it important to you that I should be happy?’

Perhaps Rav Chollak has found the key to kiruv: caring, sensitivity, understanding and a deep desire to give to others.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion with its Founder, Chananya Chollak Part 2 of a Three Part Series

March 14, 2018

 

Rav Chollak - child brocha

Rav Chananya Chollak chuckles when he recalls the modest beginnings of Ezer Mizion in 1979 during his shana rishona.

“Everything was done out of our little apartment. The “receptionist” sat in the kitchen or the children’s bedroom. I sat in a cubicle of sorts at the entrance, and in the half-room sat the people waiting for consultations. Volunteers came to us to work on meals for distribution and they organized themselves in the bedrooms. The medical equipment that we gave out was stored in our home, although how it fit, I cannot imagine. The house was wide open to everyone – people in need, volunteers –  all the time.

“Three years later, we felt that the apartment had become too small to accommodate the needs of Ezer Mizion and that the time had come to expand the work of the organization in an orderly manner. We moved to a larger apartment but the organization quickly outgrew that, too. A philanthropist helped us buy the apartment next door. Later on, we rented a few more such places around the city and Ezer Mizion continued providing services for its existing departments and developing further, without a stop. We’ve come a long way, baruch Hashem.”

 At the start, meals were delivered by the Chollaks and their friends to a handful of families. Today, hundreds of meals are delivered each day to family members spending their days at the bedside of a loved one in the hospital. Meals are also provided to afternoon programs for special children, and to families whose exhaustive attention to a patient does not allow them to cook for the rest of the family.

Today, Ezer Mizion works from a countrywide deployment of 57 branches. In addition to the original departments, Ezer Mizion now includes the loan of medical equipment, a hydrotherapy pool, a center for medical counseling and referrals, a division for social services, day nurseries for special needs children, a child development division, assistance for families dealing with mental health challenges, programs for the elderly and more. The organization has a network of over 25,000 volunteers throughout the country. The Bone Marrow Registry, the largest Jewish registry in the world, has close to a million registrants and has facilitated 2700 life-saving transplanted around the globe.

Twelve and Four Equal Sixteen

Not only are Rav Chananya Chollak’s  work hours, which include nights, Shabbos, Yom Tov, geared to chessed but even his personal life He is the father of 16 children, four of them adopted.

“I met them in the course of my work at Ezer Mizion. There was a family of immigrants from Iran. Adjusting to a new country can be hard enough. This family found themselves to be living in a nightmare when the mother was stricken with cancer. There were four little children. I came for a home visit and saw the terrible poverty in which they lived. The refrigerator was totally empty. We brought volunteers to help with the child care and delivered daily hot meals for the family that had been living on almost nothing. We provided medical advice and referrals regarding the mother’s treatment. But, sad to say, two years later, she passed away. Things could not get worse, or so we thought until   half year afterwards when the father also died of a brain tumor. The four orphans remained all alone.”

“After the shivah, the oldest daughter, who was then 13 years old, came to me,” he says, and in spite of the many years that have elapsed since, his voice trembles with emotion. “She cried when she told me that they were informed that the plan was to split them up among different institutions. Suddenly, she looked me in the eye and asked, “Maybe you could adopt us…?”

“Let me ask you, can anyone  ignore such a plea?”

“I spoke with my wife and said to her: ‘It is entirely your decision.’ My wife, Leah A’H, the tzaddeket, agreed to take them,” he said with visible admiration.”

Rav Chollak relates very naturally to the four orphans and explains that they are his children in every respect. “They were little orphans who had simultaneously lost father and mother. True, the beginning was not easy as you can well imagine. But our natural children received them with a lot of love and they became an inseparable part of the family. Today the four are already married and we have grandchildren from them,” he says proudly. (To be continued.)

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.

 

 

Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion with its Founder, Chananya Chollak Part 1 of a Three Part Series

March 7, 2018

pr gen R' Chollak IMG_9149A full night’s sleep is a rare luxury for Rav Chananya Chollak, founder of Ezer Mizion. Those that need him are told that they can call anytime and they do.  It is not unusual for his phone to ring at 3:00 A.M. Rav Chollak hears a panicky voice of a son, whose father is terminally ill and on oxygen. “The tank is almost empty! What should I do?!” Rav Chollak’s soothing, caring voice calms the son. Another tank arrives almost immediately. Rav Chollak does not return to his bed until he is certain that it has come, is set up and the father is doing well.   His phone remains at his bedside, ready for the next opportunity to help another Jew.

Nighttime, Shabbos, Yom Tov…these are not off times for Rav Chollak. Praying  in synagogue Friday night, he feels a tap on his shoulder, not an unusual occurrence. A fellow congregant motions for him to close his   prayerbook and follow him outside. He knew the news was not good. A young father, who had been in an accident together with his wife, had died. The wife was still hospitalized. Someone needs to inform the children, someone who will know just what to say and how to say it. The traumatized wife asked that the message be delivered to her children by Rav Chollak who, with his immense sensitivity, is often called upon to perform this task.

In his work, he has seen what most of us never do. One of his most heartrending stories is of the dying mother who taught her son herself how to say Kaddish (Prayer for the Dead) when the time comes. “G-d, when will it end?” he cries.

It was his own personal experience that led to the founding of Ezer Mizion. A young newly married man, he found himself spending more time in the hospital during his first year of marriage  than with his new (bride. His father-in-law, a relatively young man, had suffered a sudden stroke. It was there that he himself underwent the struggles of caring for a severely ill family member. At the hospital, he was also exposed to other families, one of which was a patient on dialysis who was forced to spend a lot of money from his dwindling savings for ambulances, six trips per week. Young Chananya spoke to a friend who owned a van and convinced him to donate it to the cause. The van was then professionally outfitted as an ambulance, enabling the dialysis patient and so many more like him to be transported free of charge to their clinic appointments.  Thus Ezer Mizion’s Transportation Division, with its fleet of ambulances outfitted for the mobility impaired and the respiratory impaired, was born.

While spending time with his father-in-law in the hospital, he noticed the parents of a small girl with cancer who did not leave her bedside for a moment. “How can they do it?” he thought to himself. “And what about the other kids at home?” he and his wife, LeaH A’H, discussed how they can help. Leah began cooking meals for the family and they recruited friends to take turns relieving the parents so they can spend time with the other children. The immense pots on Leah’s stove gave rise to Ezer Mizion’s Food Division which sends hundreds of thousands of meals to families dealing with serious illness.

To the uninitiated, Rav Chollak is the CEO of Ezer Mizion. To those that know, the countless people that have benefited from his deep compassion, he is the soul of Ezer Mizion. His days and nights are spent in bringing comfort and a feeling of security to frightened Jews whose world has come crashing down, hurtling them into an abyss of despair and terror. To them, small children, teens and mature adults alike, he is the father figure – sensitive, caring, a tower of strength.   (To be continued)

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.