Posts Tagged ‘illness’

Hospital Rounds

April 19, 2017

helping handssI was trying. Friends and relatives were also helping. The situation was beyond hopeless and I was helpless to keep things together.   I had three children in three separate hospitals, located in various parts of the country. One was in a mental hospital, two in medical hospitals. Can you imagine the anguish, the sights I witnessed daily? The despair when I had to leave one to visit another. The tiny bewildered faces at the window at home watching Mommy leave…again. The exhaustion- both physical and emotional. The frustration when twenty-four hours were far from enough in each day. The astronomical expenses incurred on top of less money coming in.

A friend gave me a number to call. “Perhaps these people would be able to get you a ride once in awhile,” she suggested. I was skeptical. “Why would anyone outside of my immediate circle want to help?” I wondered. But I was desperate and thought I would give it a try. Even one ride would be something. Well, that number enabled me to enter a world I never realized existed. A world where complete strangers really cared and gave up their time and energy to help. It was the number to Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life, a What’s App program connecting people in Israel and even around the world.

A friendly, sensitive operator answered and said she would pass on the message. I thought that would be the end of it and was surprised to be contacted almost immediately. It was a short Friday and I needed to visit all three children. “Perhaps he could drive me to the first one,” I timidly asked. Well, Yossie drove me to the first one, came back to pick me up and drive me to the second, returned to drive me to the third where I would be staying for Shabbos, delivered a car-full of delicious Shabbos food to my home, food that my family had not seen in weeks, plus Shabbos food for me at the hospital. Yossie and his family continued to help. It was only later that I found out that he had made a bris for his grandson during that period and his help was certainly needed at home. Yet he and his family rallied to help me, a person they had just met.

More volunteers came after Shabbos- some to do homework with the kids, some to help with housework, some to take the kids out to buy much needed school supplies (with ice cream afterwards for a treat). The food continued to come daily, delivered by people who really understood. For rides, all I needed to do was dial the number and a driver would materialize at my doorstep, always a person whose caring could only be matched by that of the next one.

Ezer Mizion was my family’s savior. We never could have made it through that period without them.

Linked to Life…We’re all connected!

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.

For further info:              5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219               718 853 8400






Do you live on #Whatsinitforme Road or #Howcanihelpout Avenue?

January 11, 2017

helping-handsDear Linked to Life Family,

I want to share with you a special experience I just had. I had a problem that needed the input of some people in power. I had tried political connections. I had applied pressure. I had clicked ‘send’ on email after email and made call after call and got… nowhere. It was an uphill battle with me on one side and everyone else seemingly an opponent. And it wasn’t even about myself. I was trying to obtain a benefit for an oncology patient, a small child from Beit Shemesh.

At long last, one of my emails was forwarded to Shuki L. who, in spite of his position, saw things from the same vantage point as I did. Of course, he did. Shuki is a fellow Linked to Life member.

From that point, we communicated directly, as one ‘Link’ to another and everything will be taken care of, b’ezrat Hashem.

For the hundredth time I discovered that Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life is not just giving rides. It’s a way of thinking, it’s a philosophy, it’s an attitude that’s says, “Let’s make this work for the fellow Jew who is suffering.”

Thanks Shuki, thanks Meir and Elchanan, thank you to everyone who stands at the head of the biggest army of chessed in the world. The Ezer Mizion Linked to Life family! We have tremendous power! May we merit doing only good things with it!

The writer is a member of Linked to Life, an Ezer Mizion What’s App group. Screens light up all day long enabling emergency rides for those dealing with life’s crises, vital forgotten medication to be brought where needed, sometimes across the ocean. It’s a system based on the simple concept that fellow Jews are often traveling from here to there but unaware that someone else has an emergency need to also travel or send something vital from the same ‘here’ to the same ‘there’. They would be happy to help but usually find out about it days later if at all. Or perhaps it is a connection or a source of information that is critically needed like in the above letter. While many are using What’s App for passing around jokes, Ezer Mizion has harnessed its power to create a WorldWide Web of chessed.

Ronit is another case in point. She is a very special human being who is suffering from cancer. And things do not look good. She has been under treatment using a highly expensive medication which no longer has an effect on her condition. While despair would be a normal human reaction, Ronit has discovered another pathway. Chessed. Through Linked to Life, the connection was made, all legalities were taken care of. The medication was cleared for allocation. Read all about it in her reply below. May she merit a speedy recovery in the merit of her selflessness.

Shalom Ezer Mizion!

Thank you for the update and for your kind wishes. I’m so happy that the medicines I sent were delivered and have arrived at their destination. I pray that the Creator should add to those medicines a complete and speedy recovery for the patients who receive them and for the entire Jewish people.

Thanks so much for your dedicated work. It is heartwarming and inspiring to know that there are amazing people like you who go to such lengths to help others. May you be blessed!

I also wanted to share with you the story behind these medicines. Unfortunately, these medicines no longer have an effect on me. The oncology doctor who is overseeing my care told us about a new treatment that has been proven to save lives and do wonders for the patients who receive it. It has been approved in the U.S. but is not covered by insurance.

The cost of treatment is $100,000, a staggering amount that unfortunately, we are unable to come up with at this time. I could have sold the medicines I have in my possession and begin collecting the amount I need for the new treatment. But I decided not to do that, and instead, to lovingly offer my remaining medicine to others who need it, so that G-d willing, they will recover.

I am hoping and praying that Hashem in His kindness will find the right way to help me, whether it is through this new treatment or by any other way He sees fit to cure me and endow me with a life of joy, growth, blessing, and giving.

I have a great deal of gratitude towards the Creator for the many kindnesses he has done and continues to do for me, and also towards the wonderful people like the Ezer Mizion staff and volunteers He sends into our lives at this trying period.

With all my blessings,

Thank you,


Living in the US and want to join Linked to Life? SMS: 011 972 52 580 8936

Behind the Wheel with Yisroel

November 16, 2016

car-driving-man-city-46591018They always say thank you but, in truth, I am the one who feels privileged, as an Ezer Mizion driver, to transport so many very special people who have been battling illness and often have gained a clear insight of Hashem’s loving hand. A family   had requested a ride to the kvarim to give thanks to Hashem upon their young son completing a set of treatments.

At 7:45 I met six-year-old Noam Chai and his parents, exuberant after a 5-month long hospital stay. Their story is amazing, a story of blazing faith, of pure love of Hashem.

They came to these shores not for happy reasons, but rather because of the disease that ravaged their son’s lean body. From their very first words, I could tell what a special family they were, their faith engraved in stone, resistant even to gale-force winds, and the mitzvah of loving their Creator above all, guiding their steps at every moment. I was jealous. Their tribulations did not deter them. On the contrary, they just empowered the parents and their sweet child to accept the heavenly judgment with love.

The first stop was at the gravesite of Shmuel Hanavi, where we poured out our prayers for the complete recovery of Noam Chai. Our next stop was breakfast. I derived special pleasure seeing the 6-year-old boy being careful in the laws of netilat yadayim, making the brocha on a whole roll, eating politely, like a grown boy. And so, we continued traveling, while hearing words of Torah and inspiration, until we reached the grave of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes. In awe, the family poured out their prayers at the holy site.

From there we went on to the gravesite of Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva, and then to the kvarim of the great Rambam and of the Shelah Hakadosh. Rivers of tears flowed. Near them, with the intensity characteristic of a grown yeshiva bachur, the young Noam Chai prayed tearfully and slowly, saying word after word as if he was counting golden coins. I am certain that the heavens shed tears and cleared the way for the prayer of this young child, fighting a cruel and terrible illness.

From there, we continued to a lighter experience – a boat ride. The boat owners had donated their time as a gift for the child who captured the heart of all who met him.

Tzefas was our next stop. We visited the special candle factory, and saw scribes at their work writing a miniature sefer Torah, and then resumed our travels to the gravesite of Rashbi in Meron, stopping first for a meal.

The child, who was now able to put real food in his mouth after being nourished for long, hard months by IV, was visibly thankful. When we went to wash netilat yadayim, he stood politely, his hands clasped behind refusing to wash before his elders would do so. You could see the marvelous middos cultivated by the upbringing of his mother, who is meticulous about everything, big and small.

I dropped off this special family, now recharged with holy energy, anxious to thank Ezer Mizion and the devoted volunteers who are at their side day and night, ready to meet all their needs. From rides like this to transportation to and from the clinic, from daily hot meals to detailed advocacy and medical advice. Whatever their needs, Ezer Mizion was there for them. Praised is your nation, Hashem where a Yid is never alone!

All that remains is to give our blessing to Noam Chai ben Chami, for a complete recovery among all the ill of Israel, and that his dear parents should enjoy much nachas from him, in good health and happiness, and merit to be oleh laregel with all the Jewish people in the holy land very soon.

And to you, the amazing Ezer Mizion family, who teaches us what real chessed is, I thank you for enabling me to be a small agent in this holy organization.

With the blessing of a Kohen,

Yisrael ben Reitcha Raitzel

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.

For further info: 718 853 8400    5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219


Lottie’s Kitchen

June 22, 2016

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Nine hours! Can you imagine spending nine hours with five small, rambunctious children in a hospital setting with no supplies?! It’s the stuff of nightmares but it actually happened to a young mother who became worried about a medical issue in one of her kids and, having no place to leave them, ran out with the whole family to the hospital emergency room. The last thing on her mind was to pack food for herself and her brood and so there she was. Endless waiting with children who needed the comforts of their home. This test. That test. More waiting. Children climbing the walls. Literally.

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Lunchtime passed. As did suppertime. Hungry children do not make for good behavior. It became embarrassing. She understood the looks of her fellow ‘waiters’. “That mother doesn’t know how to discipline her kids!” Mommy also had had nothing to eat since breakfast eons ago. She was worn out, frazzled and worried about her sick child who still had no diagnosis. And then she appeared. A Lottie’s Kitchen volunteer with an attractively packaged meal for Mommy and each of her children. The food was spiced with an encouraging pat on the shoulder, an understanding hug and a promise of snacks later on if they are still there. And there in the hospital emergency room, the sun shone once again. The children became calm and Mommy was strengthened. She felt that she could handle things once again. “Those Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers are angels,” smiled the elderly woman in the seat next to her who, only minutes before, had been glaring at the children and muttering under her breath.

Yes, they are angels. Each one exudes a warmth, an enveloping comfort. They’ll listen, really listen, as the caretaker unloads her concerns. Often, they’ll have a bit of advice. Perhaps a suggestion to connect the family to another segment of Ezer Mizion’s services that will ease the burden: rides to the hospital, a volunteer to do homework with the children while Mommy is busy attending Grandma at the hospital, volunteers to create a Bar Mitzvah celebration which Mommy does not have the emotional stamina or the time to handle… Each Lottie’ s Kitchen volunteer tries her best but rarely fully understands the impact she makes on a family undergoing a crisis. Unless…lkl ok to use IMG-20160616-WA0087

Lets call her Mindy. She volunteers for Lottie’s Kitchen once a week. One day she found herself on the other side of the tray cart. “I’m sorry. I have to cancel,” she told the coordinator. “My husband is sick. He’s hospitalized.” The coordinator heard the tension, the tears in her voice and noted the necessary information onto her daily roster. That afternoon, Mindy was visited by a fellow volunteer bearing a hot, nourishing meal and some encouraging words. And Mindy burst into tears. You don’t understand- I never understood- what it means to sit here hour after hour, so worried, so worn out and exhausted. The doctor had asked me to make a decision regarding a procedure and I felt so dizzy, I could hardly think. I haven’t had a normal meal in days. I just run home at night to spend a quick hour with my kids. Then it’s back again at the hospital. Breakfast was a coke from the machine down the hall. Lunch I skipped. For supper last night I grabbed a yogurt as I was rushing out of the house plus a bag of chips to eat at the hospital. You can’t understand what this means. I want so much to take care of my husband but no one is taking care of me. The volunteer held her as she cried, emotionally spent. The next day, the scene repeated itself. Mindy was, once again, overcome with emotion at the sight of someone arriving to take care of her. For one month, Mindy spent almost all day with her husband and each day, as her strength would ebb and her spirits would fall, she would anticipate the daily visit with someone who really cares. Drained, beyond exhaustion, she cried each day using almost the same words: You don’t understand what this means! She could hardly wait to rejoin the volunteer force with a heightened concept of what she is giving to ok to use IMG-20160616-WA0090

Giving is the name of the game. Volunteers search out ways to give. During one visit, a patient asked the hospital staff for a specific juice. Apologetically, they answered that it was unavailable. The adult in her understood that she would have to forego her favorite juice. But the child in her, so vociferous lately as she faced serious illness, felt saddened. She was fortunate that a Lottie’s Kitchen volunteer was in the room at the time. The volunteer leaped at the opportunity and drove to the nearest supermarket, braved the long lines and, juice in hand, triumphantly made her way back to the patient’s room.

Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers. They are everywhere. In each hospital. In the emergency rooms, in all the wards. How? It’s because of all of you. This year Lottie’s Kitchen Event will be held on July 7 at the home of Frieda & Joey Franco in Deal NJ in loving memory of Manny Hamowy & Robin Ashkenazie. lk ok to use IMG-20160616-WA0069

See you there!

For further info: 718 853 8400     5225 New Utrecht Ave, Bk NY 11219




Of Rabbits and Tantrums

May 18, 2016

pr cancer support maoz 2013Things are ok now but nightmares are something that you never really get over. Hadas recalls those months of terror in the hospital with Maoz, her tiny son. “Ima, what are they doing to me?” he would ask.  The chemo bag was marked ‘Danger’ and its contents were dripping into his little veins. Maoz looked like a tiny, helpless laboratory mouse. It began with nausea and continued on to non-stop vomiting. She tried to be upbeat for his sake, “Pretend that you’re superman and the ‘chemo juice’ will kill those bad cancer germs inside you and make you super-strong.” But her too-mature-for-his-years son answered, “Mommy, superman is a fairy tale. And this, this is real!”


“The tension was exhausting,” Hadas continues. “The only bright spot was the Ezer Mizion volunteers. They seemed to be everywhere. They brought me meals when, even though I was faint with weakness, I didn’t even realize I was hungry. They were there to explain things and offer comfort. For those that live far from the hospital, they offered a suite to live in during the duration. Someone to do homework with the other kids. Someone to keep the house going while we can’t. Someone to care. A shoulder to lean on…”


It’s all over now. Maoz attends pre-school like a regular kid. But his mommy is still shaky. Maybe he is also and that’s why he threw a tantrum today. He used to love the activities at Ezer Mizion—therapeutic activities that enabled each family to come to terms with what was happening in our lives. The petting zoo was a favorite of his. And his hero was Yumi who would frequently come to the hospital in an Ezer Mizion ambulance. “Today I brought Maoz to school like every day but he refused to go in,” Hadas reported her friends at the Ezer Mizion staff.   “I had to get to work. I can’t be late. But there he was with a full-blown tantrum. ‘I’m not going to school unless Yumi will promise to take me to Ezer Mizion afterwards. I’m not…’ I glanced at my watch. I was late already.  My boss wouldn’t be too happy. But Maoz didn’t let up. In the old days, I could handle a situation like this. But now, after everything we had been through, I just didn’t have the strength. Officially, we were off the Ezer Mizion roster   but I knew that Ezer Mizion didn’t take its cue from officialdom. Should I do it?” Maoz was whimpering now, ‘Yumi…Yumi…Yumi…’ I did it. Desperate, I called Yumi.”

‘Just say ok to Maoz and afterwards we’ll see how to work it out,’ not a trace of annoyance in his voice. Yumi spoke with Maoz and together they planned how Yumi would come at 2:30 to take him to Ezer Mizion.

“At 2:10  Maoz was already driving the assistant teacher crazy, “Why hasn’t Yumi gotten here yet?”

“Needless to say, at the promised time, Yumi was there to take Maoz from kindergarten. He drove him to Ezer Mizion, where he spent an enchanting afternoon – he cut vegetables for the rabbits in the wildlife pavilion, fed them, played, and had a terrific time.

“This story might seem trivial to you. I personally was so touched by Yumi’s dedication, by his presence in the lives of these children, both the ones who are sick and the ones who are physically, but not yet emotionally recovered, by the unwavering support he and all the Ezer Mizion staff provide to their families. That a small child’s request should trigger a change in an adult’s schedule is cause for immeasurable admiration and appreciation.

“Ezer Mizion is not just another organization. The support, sensitivity, and dedication sown in the heart of the recipients enables them to truly move forward in their battle for life.”

For further info:    718 853 8400       5225 New Utrecht Ave, Bk, NY 11219


Behind the Ambulance Wheel

November 26, 2015

pr amb row 1690_ne_related_content_a_pic_4dfbeShmuel Strauss was hired as a driver. His job: to transport the elderly and disabled from here to there. But reading between the lines, he knew that an Ezer Mizion driver could do so much more.
“I often see the same people week after week and develop relationships,” he says. “One of my clients was a young mother of three whose husband had died four years ago. Now it was she who was battling for her life. I take her to the oncology clinic for treatment several times a week. Worries color her every waking hour. Will she…? What will be with her children afterwards…” Shmuel would speak warmly to her. His encouragement left her smiling, albeit wanly. One trip found her even more depressed than usual. He had a scheduled break between this and next call. Breaks are nice. They can be used to buy himself a soda or run an errand for his wife. But like all Ezer Mizion drivers, Shmuel understood that he had been given a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone undergoing a horrific crisis. “My time is all yours. What would you like to do?” he asked her. They spent the next hour at the marina, watching the ships slowly making their way over the ocean waves. The calming sea performed its magic and the cloud of depression lifted. A productive break indeed.
And sometimes the roles are reversed and it is he that gains spiritually. “How do you do it,” he asked an oncology patient who is wheelchair-bound and requires a CPAP. “How do you keep smiling?”
“It’s the best way to fight the disease,” she answered… with a smile, of course. She did not allow the disease to encompass her being. She had goals. She wanted to accomplish. She was a physicist, specializing in musicology. Living with cancer day in and day out resulted in her formulating an innovative idea: Perhaps ultrasound would be able to enter the body and destroy the cancer cells. This was her field. It was a theory that made sense to her. But would it work? And so she did her research. After many months, she came across a webinar that was discussing a related subject and enrolled. During the webinar, she was given the opportunity to interact and presented her theory. The response from the expert was, “It makes a lot of sense but no research has as of yet been done.” In a flash, she sent her findings over cyberspace. Further work was done and the idea reached the experimental stage. And at least one patient, a former farmer, underwent what appeared to him to be a miracle. One of the first people she shared her joy with was, of course, her driver, whose encouragement had supported her every step of the way. On one of the subsequent trips, Shmuel asked about her research project. Her face lit up as she joyfully shared the results of the successful experimental treatment.
Ezer Mizion’s Ambulance Division consists of 20 ambulances whose drivers are kept busy all day and part of the night. Almost 79 thousand trips are made each year in both ambulances and volunteer cars. The professionally trained drivers transport the ill and disabled to and from dialysis treatments, physical therapy, chemotherapy, doctor appointments, the occasional ‘make-a-wish’ trip and family simchas. The vehicles are outfitted to handle mobility, respiratory and many other challenges and the drivers are certified technicians, trained to handle any emergency. The cost for the patient? Not a cent.
It’s not an easy job. It’s emotionally draining…but oh, so satisfying when looked at with the right lenses. One day, an assistant was needed and, with none of the regulars being available, a man was taken off from the cargo department and asked to help out on a call. He did his job well but later told Rabbi Strauss that he’d never do it again. “Why? Why do you feel that way?”
“How can you ask such a question? Look at these people. Each one more pitiful than the next. I can’t stand seeing so much sadness.”
“Fine,” answered Shmuel. “ I respect your feelings. I just ask that you repeat the following. Say it three times until it enters your being. It may change your perspective. This is my motto. Now lets say it together: We are not part of the problem. We are part of the solution.
In keeping with his motto, Shmuel leaves his home each day looking to build and his positive attitude filters down to his patients. One of his regulars was bemoaning the current political situation. Using an example from the Torah portion of the week, Rabbi Strauss explained that Avrohom Avinu was told ‘lech lecha’. Each step was a step into what seemed to be nothingness but he knew that it was a step further into building. “Look at those buildings,” he pointed out as they passed by a group of high risers. “They were built upon what had been shanty town. Bad isn’t necessarily bad. It can be a new step towards good.”
Each rider gets Rabbi Shmuels’ individual ‘treatment’ according to his needs. While Daniel, a young man almost fully paralyzed with CP who thrives on inspirational music enters his vehicle, Rabbi Strauss turns the CD volume up— way, way up— as high as it would go. It may be absurdly loud but he knows what will make Daniel happy and that is his goal.
That is his goal with each patient like the wheelchair patient that seemed a bit nervous going up the ambulance elevator. He began singing a famous song about the travels of Sir Moses Montefiore, made popular by Yehoram Gaon. He was gratified to see the patient relax and sing along. However, he was astounded to see the Phillipino attendant also join in singing in perfect Hebrew.
Surprises abound in his job like the chiloni kibbutznik, a professional song composer, who created a beautiful song using the words “Esah einai el haHorim…” When questioned, he answered, even chilonim need something to uplift them spiritually. Only in Israel… Shmuel, who seems to come equipped with everything under the sun that he may need and then some, slid a shlock rock CD into the player. His patient glowed, “That I can relate to. It’s my type of music.”
The ambulance driver/therapist/rov uses his trips to raise the spiritual level of patients when he can. Like the cancer patient who was furious at chareidim due to an abusive, outwardly observant husband and furious at Hashem, due to the many trials in her life. “Yes, you are not dati,” he explains to his patient. “but you are an ‘emunit’. What is your favorite song?. “
“Ayecha,” replies the non-dati patient.
“No”, shouts her daughter who is accompanying her. “Don’t put it on. It will cause her to cry!”
“It’s good that she cries. She is trying to find Hashem.” The CD slid into the player and almost immediately, the tears began to fall.
“See, I told you. She’s crying!”
“Yes, but it’s good crying.”
“He really understands,” answered the patient, her voice choked up with tears.
“Now, do you see why I call you an ‘emunit’?”
The ambulance driver/therapist/Rov/ Yid puts her telephone number on his list to call frequently just to say hello and gives her name to the gabai of his shul for a mishebeirach.
And then there are the times that he is on the receiving side of mussar. A young lady of about 22 is incapacitated by CP. Her appearance is like that of a twelve year old. She cannot stand or do many of the things that we all take for granted but she has plans to become a teacher and is currently taking a teaching course. Rabbi Strauss often takes her to classes. A recent trip was traumatic when the bracelet that had been given as a gift from her husband was nowhere to be found. “Please look for it,” she begged when she realized its loss. Rabbi Strauss combed the vehicle but the bracelet was nowhere to be found. She was distraught and he shared her pain. On their next trip, he asked her, “Did you ever find the bracelet?”
Her bright smiled belied her next words. “No, it seems to be permanently lost.”
“But you seem happy. How come?”
“Well, you see, I had seen a program discussing health issues and daavened to Hashem that he not give me any more health challenges but take my possessions instead. See, He answered my t’filos. Of course, I’m happy.”

Just as he and the other Ezer Mizion drivers love their patients, their patients love them equally. Mrs. S is over ninety but doesn’t let a little thing like incapacitation stop her. She attends an adult day care program and is not only an attendee but gives shiurim to the other attendees. She is meticulous in her preparation and is often found awake at 2:00 AM perfecting the shiur to be given the following day. In Mrs. S.’ pocketbook there is a bag filled with “tzetlach”, squares of memo paper with the names of each of her drivers together with the names of their mothers. “For t’fila, of course,” she explains. “They help me so much. It’s the least I can do.”
A recent patient showed his love in a most unusual way. It was the yahrzeit of the Ben Ish Chai when he asked Shmuel for some water. The ambulance is equipped with water for the drivers who are on the road for many hours and Shmuel was happy to share it. He was puzzled when the patient carefully poured the water into a silver goblet and then handed it to him. “Make a brocha,” the patient invited. “What is this?” “It’s a becher that belonged to the Ben Ish Chai! It is a big segula to drink from it on his yahrzeit.”
And then there are those whose needs require only that he listen. M.D. was a CEO who is used to giving orders. Giving them and having them obeyed. You know, the take charge type. And what he needs is a docile employee so that is what Shmuel provides for him. “Take this route.”
“Yes, sir. Whatever you think best.”
“Switch to the other lane.”
“Of course, you are so right.”
When not giving directions, he spends every moment saying over divrei Torah and Shmuel, himself a knowledgeable Yid, listens carefully like a student.
Each Ezer Mizion driver is a qualified MDA technician and these skills are, too often, needed. It is not unusual to be called upon to respond to a medical emergency at one of the Pre-School programs for Special Children in the Ezer Mizion building. .
A driver must always be on the alert for anything unusual. A routine trip to the oncology clinic turned into a nightmare when the patient seemed flaccid and unresponsive, ‘melting’ into the chair. One look at her told him that a chair will not do and he ran to get the stretcher plus a mobile oxygen tank. After oxygen treatment, the patient became responsive and thankfully, no further incident occurred as the patient was safely brought to the clinic.
For a disabled patient, it is not only the trip that is impossible without the services of the Ezer Mizion vehicle but even getting down to the sidewalk before entering the vehicle can be a major problem. A patient living on the third floor must be carried down. Two drivers will do it together obeying all safety regulations. But safety is not the only issue. Dignity is at stake. In former years, she may have run a home raising ten rambunctious children and he may have been head of a large corporation. To be now reduced to having to be carried is emotionally traumatic. And that is where the driver’s skills come into play. Each technician develops his own mode of showing respect to the patient, reducing the humiliation of the experience. One may ask him to talk about his past as they descend. Another may ask his opinion on Israeli politics. The goal is the same: that each patient feel himself to be a valued human being.
Many patients, although not in any real danger, are fearful. It is frightening to be transported in a wheelchair down a flight of steps. Often there is a blind spot where, from the patient’s point of view, nothing can be seen but empty, scary space. Of course, he knows that there are steps under him but knowledge and feeling them are so far from each other. When Shmuel notices that look in a patient’s eyes, he takes that as his cue to begin his comedy routine. Often a chuckle is all that is needed to disperse the fear. For others of a more serious bent who cannot be cajoled out of their fear, he may inject a bit of mussar as he carries the patient down several flights of stairs. “Really you’re perfectly safe. I know it and you know it. But it seems scary. If you’re going to be scared, why not utilize that fear to daven, thereby gaining in the process.”
Of course, safety is on top of the list for each driver. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to improvise to retain the highest level of safety and still provide the service. Like Mrs. Y who needs dialysis three times a week. She lives in an elevator building so there is no need to send an assistant to carry her down the steps. But an elevator building is only an elevator building if the elevator is working. And one day it was not. Now what? It is essential that she arrive on time as being late will result in her losing her place in the dialysis unit. Mrs Y.’s health precludes her missing a dialysis session. Her 63-year-old daughter had planned to accompany her but was incapable of helping out in lifting the wheelchair. And so some creativity was called for. Shmuel devised a plan. The daughter would stand in front of the wheelchair with her hands on the bars as he lifted the wheelchair down each step. One step at a time. Slowly. But safely. Safe for Mrs. Y and safe for her daughter. Step. By step. By step. What would normally take three minutes seemed endless as they descended. Step. By step. A short drive and then a breathless race into the dialysis clinic. Yes! They were on time.
And then there is Meron. The very name sparks a feeling of awe in the heart of a Yid. It seems as if the whole country makes its way to Meron on Lag B’Omer. But for some, it is impossible. The parking lots are far below with shuttle busses bringing people up to the village of Meron. Even then the busses stop way below the tzion and people are expected to walk. What if one is incapable of walking? Like a young man with CP? Or an elderly Yid who has gone to Meron for the last 60 years and cannot fathom admitting defeat and staying home? Or a wheelchair –bound cancer patient who yearns to daven at this special mokom (place)? That’s where Ezer Mizion comes in. The specially –fitted vehicles meet the patients and bring each one directly up to the tzion. Up and down, up and down. All day long. The vehicles drive from the three parking lots to the tzion and back. Drivers work long hours and then stop for a rest at Ezer Mizion’s tent which is filled with refreshments for the exhausted drivers. A brief rest and they are back again at the job. Another tent provides sleeping quarters for the drivers who work continually for 48 hours without even going home for a normal night’s rest. The crowd is enormous and the police are needed to keep traffic moving. Rabbi Strauss recalls the year that the police system collapsed. A nightmare. A four-hour traffic jam!!! And it became even more of a nightmare for one diabetic woman who was On a shuttle for over two hours when suddenly she realized that she had left her diabetes kit in the car. An emergency call for a medic! Shmuel was available to respond. “What do you need?” he asked the near-hysterical woman when he reached her. “Sugar. I need sugar. I feel as if I’m about to collapse.” Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Shmuel reached into his pocket. As hashgacha had conveniently arranged, there were the few packets of sugar that he hadn’t used yet for his morning coffee. With the crisis over, the woman and her friends grinned as the ambulance made its way up to the tziyun, passing all those trudging up the road and bypassing the 4-hour traffic jam.
A familiar sight on the roads of Eretz Yisroel are the Ezer Mizion ambulances. On the outside the well-known Ezer Mizion logo. In the inside caring, giving, compassion.

Back to Routine?

October 14, 2015

Fall Coloured Leaf Clip Art at - vector clip art online ...Summer is over and Yom Tov has come to an end. It’s back to the routine. Lost homework, missed busses and all the rest. For most people.
As we wait outside in the rain with a shivering first grader who refuses to wear her raincoat, a neighbor looks on in envy. She would also like to be back to routine but her first grader is lying on a hospital bed in the oncology ward. She has her own routine: chemotherapy treatments, tests, pain, and anxiety.
It’s so hard. The endless, complex red tape, the demands of the other children who cannot understand why Mommy is hardly home, the regular household needs, the emotional needs of her precious child lying so pale and wan—it’s all so overwhelming. And then there’s the fear- the terror that engulfs, the horror that crushes, the monster that you don’t want to face but it faces you and you are forced to look into its ghastly eyes, helpless.
You pass by the lady at the bus stop. Her first grader sports a new Hello Kitty knapsack. She’s jabbering about how she can jump from the third step. They seem to be living on another planet. You try to walk this road named Cancer but you stumble. Your strength wanes. You reach out…and there alongside you appears another. Her voice is kind. She holds your hand. “We’ll walk with you,” she says. “It’s too hard to walk alone.”
It is Ezer Mizion. Sometimes in the guise of a driver whose friendly words lift your spirits as he brings you to and from the hospital daily. It may be a warm, caring woman bearing a hot meal when you didn’t even realize that you hadn’t eaten any real food since the meal she had brought you yesterday. Or it may be a trained professional who will guide you through the tangles of bureaucracy or a psychologist offering supportive sessions at no cost. Perhaps a fun trip or a retreat. Or maybe a lovely suite to live in with your family, close to the treatment center to avoid long hours of travel. Or household help, babysitting, homework helpers. Or….
And then, finally, someone to rejoice with when the good news comes: Remission. Relief. Joy. You wave goodbye to the hands that shored you up during the many nightmarish months of horror. They wish you well as you move back to the planet of Normalcy. You meet your neighbor at the bus stop and chat about bedtimes and sibling rivalry. Finally, it’s back to routine for you , too.
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October 7, 2015

Cooking for Yom Tov? Don’t forget the people who are coping with a crisis situation!
Thus read the opening sentence to a pre-Yom Tov post.
pr food deliveriesThose days before Yom Tov, the Ezer Mizion’s kitchens were humming with activity as they engaged in large-scale preparations to send Yom Tov meals to families of the ill and disabled and bring the joy of the upcoming chagim into their homes.
Leah Kupferstein’s* kitchen normally would boast a counter full of culinary delights prepared for Yom Tov. But while the calendar had told Leah that Yom Tov will be arriving in a matter of days, her mixer remained on the shelf, unproductive, as desolate as its mistress who sits by the bedside of little Avi* at Schneider’s Oncology Clinic. Will the aura of Yom Tov enter their home at all this year? That was the question back in Elul. Ezer Mizion, the support system of a family in time of crisis, made sure it did. The special foods and the accompanying distinctive Yom Tov atmosphere were provided by a cadre of Ezer Mizion volunteers who care when a fellow Jew is in trouble. Some cooked, some packaged and some delivered…all joining together to lift the spirits of a family who cannot even begin to create the holiday ambience on their own.
Every Thursday, Ezer Mizion sends out hundreds of freshly-cooked Shabbat meals throughout the country to such families. The month of Tishrei, which is replete with days of Yom Tov, presented Ezer Mizion with the challenge of multiplying the scope of its activity many times over:
On Thursday, 26 Elul, triple deliveries were sent to homes of families with a sick member, including meals for Shabbat and two days of Rosh Hashanah.
On Thursday, Erev Shabbat Shuvah, the regular delivery went out, and almost immediately afterward, on the following Monday, meals for the Erev Yom Kippur seudah mafseket (meal prior to the holiday) and for Motzaei Yom Kippur (meal after the holiday) were prepared, packed and delivered.
Only a few short days later, it was time to send meals for Shabbat and the first day of Sukkot.
The final double-size delivery took place on Thursday, the third day of chol ha’moed, to cover Shabbat chol hamo’ed and Simchat Torah that follows.
Daunting? Yes. Impossible? No. Not with so many caring people joining together.

Aharon Saltzberg, head of the Municipal Social Services Division of Herzliya is just one of the many heads of municipalities throughout the country that thanked Ezer Mizion for rallying to the cause in providing baskets of chicken, fish, wine, honey, cake and a variety of basic products for 200 Herzliya residents.
As in every Ezer Mizion project, the goal is not to achieve the minimum but to maximize the joy of each family. Towards that end, the meals were accompanied by a surprise: a special Yom Tov gift for each child. No, not a gift for the family to share but an individually wrapped gift, addressed by name, to each child, complete with a personal note. How we wish that all the private individuals, schools, stores, manufacturers, importers could be present as the gifts that they donated to Ezer Mizion for this project were delivered. One can only imagine the natural, childish pleasure of children that have almost forgotten what the sensation feels like. This year 1100 gifts were distributed to families battling with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

Merits for the Day of Judgment
Naturally, this huge increase demanded a significant boost in the corps of volunteers who collect the meals and distribute them, the volunteer packaging team at the Ezer Mizion’s kitchens, and above all, in the team of women cooking fresh and satisfying yom tov meals.
In order to meet the challenge, Ezer Mizion rallied additional volunteers to put in extra time, effort and reap added merits by cooking more than their usual amount. The call went out for more manpower, to those who have not yet joined the network to sign up for this special volunteering opportunity, which illuminates the Shabbat and chag for families coping with a crisis situation. This surely gained volunteers and their families numerous merits for the Day of Judgment, in addition to giving them the tremendous satisfaction of knowing that as they sat down to the Yom Tov meals with their families, another family was also enjoying those home-made delicacies, thanks to their generosity and willingness to rally to this vital volunteer work.

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Lottie’s Kitchen: Yellow Sunshine in a Black Hole

July 15, 2015

Life was fine. There were the usual bumps in the road. Nothing to write home about. That was before I fell into a black hole.

It had been a frustrating few weeks. My son wasn’t feeling well. It threw my schedule off what with having to take off so many days from work. Appointments had to be cancelled. Some clients weren’t too happy. The doctor prescribed some medication and I thought we were done but a few days later we were back in his office, another day off from work. It was really getting to my son also. It was no fun for him to hear all about the funny things that happened at school from friends at night. He wanted to be back on his regular schedule. He even missed a school trip. We were both in lousy moods, frustrated at not being able to get back to our routines. The phone rang one afternoon. They were calling from the doctor’s office. Finally a diagnosis. “Mrs. P, the doctor would like you to take your son to the Hematology Emergency Room.” I got excited. I had no idea what all that meant. All I could think of was that we were finally getting somewhere. Well, we did get somewhere. And that somewhere was a big, frightening black lk pix preparing food

I sat there in front of the doctor’s desk, part of my mind wondering if I could still make my afternoon appointment. That’s when I heard the words that no mother ever wants to hear. Deathly ill, he said. I sat there stunned. I couldn’t absorb it. I was shell-shocked. How could I have been frustrated at schedules?!

Work began immediately. For the hospital, it was routine. For me, it was a horrific nightmare. The staff was professional. Well, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted them to be unprofessional! That meant pages and pages of applications to be filled out when I could barely focus enough to provide them with my address. Blood tests. My son was terrified. He needed a strong Mommy and I was a fragile reed. X-rays, more blood tests. Hours and hours of waiting for results, only to be told that another test was needed. I felt faint. I rested my head on the table, barely aware of my surroundings.

I have no idea how long I lay there. Drained. Depleted. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. A gentle touch. So caring. “ You’ve been here a long time, I’m told,” came the soft voice of an angel. “You’re worn out. Have something to drink. You’ll feel better.” She helped me sip the hot, comforting drink, all the while holding my hand and assuring me that she and all her co-staff members will remain with me throughout the ordeal. They’ll be there to advise me every step of the way. They’ll send someone to stay with my son so I can have a break. They’ll care for the other children when I’m at the hospital. They’ll….so many things. I couldn’t even remember them all. She brought me a hot meal and sat with me while I ate. I felt like withered plant now rejuvenated under the rays of the warm, healing sun. She’d be back. Every day. Infusing me with spirit. But on that day, I didn’t even have the strength to say thank you.

Thus began my love affair with Ezer Mizion’s Lottie’s Kitchen.

Whatever I needed, Ezer Mizion was right there. When my son needed platelets for 42 days straight, I had no idea where to turn. I was told to call Ezer Mizion and it was Ezer Mizion that found 42 donors who were happy to spend a few hours in the hospital to help a little boy that they didn’t even lk 2012 1440_ne_photo_stories3_ae974

The Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers would often know what I needed even before I did. Rides to the hospital, a place to stay near the hospital, even a fun day off now and then with someone to stay with my son while I recharged my batteries. And they would help arrange it, notifying one of the Ezer Mizion departments of what was needed.

I was certain that we would have to postpone the Bar Mitzvah of my older son. Planning a Bar Mitzvah required time and energy and I was overdrawn on both. But Ezer Mizion was there for that also and offered us a choice of their setting up the whole thing from top to bottom or providing us with enough help so that we can do it on our own. Regardless of our choice, they said, Ezer Mizion would remain with us helping, supporting in whatever way is needed.

I met others during our months at the hospital. Others who had a similar story. Like the woman who looked so put together- the type who always knew her way around. She was from overseas and had flown in to be with her sister who was seriously- very seriously- ill. She went straight from the airport to the hospital and spent hours at her sister’s bedside. She knew no Hebrew and had no contacts in the country. She knew nothing of how to get around in Israel and couldn’t leave her sister even for a moment. She was beyond exhausted and didn’t know where to turn. She realized that if she didn’t get help soon, she would be the next patient. She was familiar with Ezer Mizion and even supported its Cancer Division. A quiet knock on the door introduced her to Lottie’s Kitchen, one of Ezer Mizion’s other divisions. No brochure could have explained as lucidly and poignantly the mission of Lottie’s Kitchen, she told me. The taste of that first meal, the caring voice of the one who delivered it will always be one of her most moving memories. Like clockwork, the Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers appeared each day for months, bringing nutrition for both body and soul.

An older woman staying with her very ill daughter told me how on the first Shabbat after the diagnosis, the family had planned that the husband would be with his wife over Shabbat and the children would be farmed out. Then, three hours before Shabbat, she decided that she would stay in the hospital with her daughter, so that the father could be home with his children.
A small light flickered on fifty screens: “Shabbos meals needed for a family of ten.” In fifty homes, they started setting aside portions from the food that was ready, defrosting ingredients, rolling up their sleeves, and sending out flickering, glowing messages: “We’ll prepare ten portions of fish, “Three salads – taken care of,” “Five challahs waiting here for pickup,” “Seven portions of chicken and a tray of oven-baked potatoes, “Ten schnitzels will be ready in another fifteen minutes, “Dessert for two meals,” “Shabbos will be here in another hour and a half, and I’m starting the pickup now…”
And so, within an hour, the dishes were collected and brought to the family’s home. Only Lottie’s Kitchen could have pulled that one off, she said.
A young couple described their recent hospital stay with their tiny son. “We are both in the ward non-stop. A month in the hospital! A month! Twenty-eight days… when all you see are syringes, doctors, nurses, and patients, lots and lot of patients. Parents trying to cope, people whose whole reality was turned upside down. Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers flit through, giving out hot meals to everyone, and then again with a wagon full of prizes for the sick child, and yet again with refreshing coffee and cake for us.”

A woman I met in the ER during the recent war told me, “I live in Ashdod. The constant sirens, running to the shelter, the unrelenting tension – were grinding us down. Finally, I decided we needed a break. My husband couldn’t leave his job, but I took the kids on the bus and headed for Jerusalem, to family, to get some peace and quiet.
“On the last leg of the bus ride, the driver had to make a short stop. My son flew forward, knocked his head and got a nasty cut. I knew it’s not serious, but… Three weeks in Ashdod, and not a scratch, baruch Hashem. And now – this…” She was there in ER for hours and her little boy was starved. She was so overwhelmed. But not for long. Two hot meals, sandwiches for later, and warm, reassuring words. The woman from Ashdod came to life at this show of attention, and her son smiled for the first time. They are really unbelievable, those Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers.”
It seemed as if everyone I spoke to in the hospital had a ‘Lottie’s Kitchen story’. Not surprising when you see the extent of what is provided each year:
81,600 Hot Meals
83,200 Sandwiches
13,000 Cookies / Cakes
The backbone of Ezer Mizion’s Lottie’s Kitchen is all of you, our dear friends and supporters. The long-awaited 2015 Lottie’s Kitchen Event took place on July 8 at the magnificent home of Rina and Eli Cohen in Deal, NJ. Professional food demos, a most unique Kitchen Boutique, a choice of the most lavish Chinese Auction packages and, of course, Portraits with Susan Menashe. The guests left with bags of winnings, elegant pastries purchased at the Lottie’s Kitchen Bakery and the glow that comes from a fulfilling day of giving to their sisters and brothers across the ocean.

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Planting Seeds

May 27, 2015

Springtime: “When The Seeds I Planted Began to Sprout”
Farmer: Rivi Kosover, Assistant Director, Ezer Mizion Jerusalem Branch
“And thank you so much for the lovely gift,” she tried to smile as her visitor left the hospital for the real world. She fingered the soft folds of new robe. “Something to make you feel pretty while in the hospital,” her friend has said. It truly was lovely but it spoke of illness, of helplessness.
Her eyes lit up as I came into view. “I brought you a gift,” I said. “It’s a cookbook for when you leave this place. I hope you’ll find some new recipes and please don’t forget to invite me to taste them.” There was nothing forced in the patient’s smile as she eagerly perused the Table of Contents.
The sentence I planted:
We sat and planned…an orange sherbet recipe which her elderly mother will love when she comes to visit…a whole section of chocolate recipes for the widower who lives next door and lights up when she brings over a chocolate concoction for Shabbos.
The talk turned to Ezer Mizion where I work as assistant director. I told her about the project we have of preparing meals for families dealing with cancer and how we never have enough volunteers. Her eyes shone with anticipation. ‘Put me down for two mornings a week. I’d love to help.’ She hugged me when I left and called me later on my cell to ask some details—should she bring her own apron or do we provide…do we need people to deliver or only to prepare the meals…
“The conversation at Ezer Mizion always centers around nurturing, strengthening sentences. Sentences that plant hope for the future. The woman I visited was dealing with a very challenging situation. She had been hospitalized for a long period and unsurprisingly, perhaps even expectedly, her state of mind was in keeping with that fact. The underlying reason for her profound dejection was the fact that, due to her situation, she was on the side of the takers.”
“All the time I am dependent on other people. I need help for every little thing,” she sighed to me one day.
“I understood her very well. It isn’t easy to be the needy one, always on the receiving end.
And so a sentence or two about her soon being on the giving end made all the difference.
The Sentence that Sprouted:
After some time, with G-d’s help, she recovered and switched sides to become one of the givers. Hours upon hours of volunteering and such joy on her face as she worked.”
“It is all thanks to those encouraging words during my difficult period,” she said. “That cookbook was the nicest gift I received in the hospital. Remember when we sat and planned my volunteer work? Your words suffused me with the strength to see the dim light beckoning at the end of the dark tunnel.”
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