Posts Tagged ‘special children’

A Purim Happening

March 15, 2017

clownSpecial children are unique. Their abilities are unique. Their understanding is unique. Their needs are unique. Should that mean that they cannot participate in the joy of Purim, a day that is often termed ‘the children’s holiday’?  Is it possible to create a unique Purim atmosphere, geared especially for them?

A ‘Special’ Purim carnival?


The Ezer Mizion Special Carnival was a happening! Over 100 attended. The children were on a high. Their parents were riding right with them on cloud nine, ecstatic that these precious children were able to experience a Purim in a way that they never could have accomplished.



The carnival is in full swing. Come on in, dear reader, and lets take a peak. In every corner, there are volunteer clowns dancing with the children and creating that electric Purim atmosphere. There’s a live band that doesn’t allow anyone’s feet to remain still. Shmuly is getting a shoulder ride on one clown. Another one is letting Yossi “beep” his nose.

Dovi is wearing a mask that he just finished creating at the “Mask Booth”. Shuey is getting in line so he can make an even funnier one.


Wearing their new masks Shuey and Yitzy run to the Petting Zoo. Yitzy tries to put a mask on the rabbit but he doesn’t like it. His counselor helps him put the mask back on his own face and Yitzy settles down on the floor.  His face lights up as the counselor gently places a hamster on his lap. With one finger, he tentatively strokes the hamster’s soft fur. Shuey is holding a rabbit and softly singing Mi Shenichnas Adar to him. (On this glorious afternoon of miracles, we would not be surprised to hear the rabbit sing along.)


maskAt the far corner at the Balloon Booth, Avi and Nachy are watching in fascination as a red balloon suddenly becomes a horse and a blue one is transformed into an elephant. The counselor offers them the chance to create faces for them and the boys happily sit down to work on their masterpieces to take home to show Mommy and their siblings. It’s not often that they have something so special to bring home to their families.


Chaim races over to Avi, his best friend, and, with a flourish, hands him a package. “It’s Shalach monos,”he shouts in glee. “I made it myself!” He sure did! At the Purim Kitchen Booth where the children were able to make their own chocolate rum balls for shalach monos.  Everywhere you look, some little boys are handing brightly colored packages out to their friends. Others are clutching them tight, planning to give them to Mommy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Wow! There’s Zalmy almost as high as the sky. He’s jumping on the blown-up castle with Levi. Soon they topple in a heap of arms and legs, romping in delight.


Who’s that? It looks like a short clown, only three feet high. Oh, it’s Moshie. Looks like he’s been to the Make-up Booth where the volunteers gave him a terrific clown face. There he is dancing with one of the grown-up clowns, in rapturous ecstasy.


Soon this heavenly day began winding down. Ezer Mizion certainly didn’t expect the children to be able to settle down for a quiet supper in their homes so supper was served a part of the fun. The day was ending but not before each child was taken to the Photography Booth where his picture was taken and placed in a magnet to bring home to his family. For his other hand, he received a decorated goody bag plus a helium balloon, souvenirs of, what was for many, their first real Purim Fun Day.


For one mother, at least, this day marked a major change.  Paralyzed by shame, she has been unable to accept her child. Her child attended Ezer Mizion’s Afternoon Club for Special Needs Children and the mother always insisted that our driver never  stop in front of the house so people should not see her child. On this special day, the child’s volunteer, who accompanies her home on the van each day, called the mother as they were driving down her block. “This is a must see! You won’t believe this! I can’t wait to show you how cute she looks! And she has become best friends with a clown. You won’t believe it!” The mother actually got excited, came down, for the first time in public! In full view of everyone in the neighborhood! She asked the driver to stop in front (!) and she made him wait, as the neighbors looked on, while she took pictures of her little girl with the clown This was a real milestone for that mother in helping her accept her child!!


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         819 853 8400








A Special Graduation

November 4, 2010

Graduation. A new beginning. We all know the traditional phrases but at Ezer Mizion’s Music Room, these phrases took on a new meaning, a special meaning.  The girls at Ezer Mizion’s Beit Chana Activity Clubs for Children with Special Needs presented a unique concert  marking the conclusion of  a year’s music lessons.

The Activity Clubs program features a music room that is used for: group music activity, individual emotional therapy, drumming sessions, choir class and music lessons. The music lessons follow a unique approach adapted for children with developmental challenges, which replaces the regular music notation with colors.

Despite their special needs and challenges, the youngsters performed superbly. Some even managed to play full songs.

The joy of the parents at the accomplishments of the children, whose every moment is clouded with failure, was palpable. And the joy of the children…there faces were not large enough to contain the self-satisfied grin of triumph. We did it!

There is no doubt that this kind of “success experience” build’s the self-confidence in these children and contributes immeasurably toward uplifting their self-esteem.

Believe in me, these children beg the world. You’ll see how high I’ll go.

US Ambassador Visits Ezer Mizion

November 4, 2010

In an effort to get his finger on the pulse of the inner workings of this tiny Middle-East country, US Ambassador to Israel, Mr. James B. Cunningham, visited Ezer Mizion, Israel’s Health Support Organization, which has served Israel’s population since 1979.


The Ambassador was accompanied by his wife and embassy staff, including Ms. Bonnie Gutman, Counselor for Public Affairs, Mr. Leslie Smith, Senior Program Assistant at the embassy’s Public Affairs Office, Mr. Joseph Tordella, Deputy Cultural Affairs Officer, and others. They were escorted by Rabbi Yaakov Asher, Mayor of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Chanoch Zeitbart, Vice Mayor and municipal council members and Rabbi Aaron Dovid Davis, Director of the International Division at Central Agudath Israel in Jerusalem. 


The Ambassador, together with his celebrated entourage, was given an overview of Ezer Mizion’s broad scope of programs and its history. Never had the visitors seen an organization whose services ranged from geriatric care and prophylactic programs to varied undertakings to enhance the lives of the special child; from hi-tech equipment for the speech impaired to professional therapy for the child with cancer.  The ambassador was introduced to Ezer Mizion’s International Jewish Bone Marrow Registry which has saved the lives of so many cancer patients around the globe whose only chance of survival had been a bone marrow transplant. The presentation ended with a video of the emotional meeting between a bone marrow donor and an American cancer patient whose lifesaving transplant was facilitated by Ezer Mizion. The audience was brought to tears by the recipient’s expression of thanks to his donor and to Ezer Mizion.


Two Down syndrome girls then presented the Ambassador and his wife with a lovely oil painting and an exquisite piece of jewelry, both created by the girls at Ezer Mizion’s Beit Chana Activity Clubs for Special Needs Children. The ambassador was impressed upon hearing of the atmosphere of love and encouragement engendered by highly trained professionals and devoted volunteers at Beit Chana who have constructed programs enabling these children to grow and flourish and say to the world, “Yes, we can!”   



The girls enthusiastically told the guests: “We love coming to Ezer Mizion. This is our home! We have so much fun here. Would you like to see the club?” Ambassadors are very busy people. The schedule was tight and the hour was late. But one word from a very special child caused the hearts of assemblage to melt and the Goddess of Schedules to crumble. “Please?” she asked. The Ambassador and his wife – who were about to leave – turned around and went upstairs to visit the Beit Chana Activity Clubs where they graciously greeted a large group of special needs children together with the professional staff and many volunteers.


The tour of Ezer Mizion was an eye-opener for the Ambassador where he was able to see how Israel’s Jews care for one another. The Ambassador was deeply impressed with Ezer Mizion’s activities and saluted Chananya Chollak, who founded Ezer Mizion with his wife Leah in their modest apartment. “I am grateful for this opportunity to view up close an organization that grew from eight volunteers to 11,000 volunteers who work under a diverse, wide-ranging professional staff.” Jew helping Jew-this is what makes Israel the amazing country that it is.

Ezer Mizion: Their Challenges/ Our Mission.

Honorary Bar Ilan Doctorate Awarded to Founder of Ezer Mizion

November 4, 2010

The chareidi alumnus of Ponovezh Yeshiva sits draped in a collegiate cap and gown alongside a former Supreme Court Justice, the advisor to the Queen of England, two Chemistry Nobel Prize winners and others who have made history in their fields. Each is being honored for their achievements with a doctorate from Bar Ilan University.

“I never planned to make history,” says Rabbi Dr. Chananya Chollak, Founder of Ezer Mizion. “I feel good when others feel good. It all began in 1979. I was just married and my father in law was ill. He was in and out of hospitals during that first year and I got to see what life is like for the ill. I met a dialysis patient who had to pay for ambulette transportation three times a week. He couldn’t afford it but what could he do? Dialysis was his lifeline. I got a few friends together and we outfitted a van with the professional equipment that he needed and we all took turns driving him. There was a young girl hospitalized with a life-threatening disease whose parents were running themselves ragged staying at her bedside. I got a few friends to volunteer shifts to give the parents a break. The original eight volunteers have grown to 11,000.”

There probably is not a single resident of Israel that hasn’t heard about Ezer Mizion and many have family members who have benefited from it at one time or another. The original ambulance has become a fleet of 18 with many volunteers using their own vehicles. The disabled, the elderly all know Ezer Mizion’s phone number and use it regularly to keep their appointments for therapy, treatments, routine medical visits and even an occasional dream trip to the Kosel or to  visit a likewise disabled family member whom they haven’t seen in years. Volunteers deliver meals prepared at Ezer Mizion’s Food Division to family keeping vigil at the hospital bedside of a loved one. Others deliver food baskets to homes of the wheelchair-bound, the cancer patient and the octogenarian desperately trying to maintain his independence. Rabbi Chollak, who lives by the motto See Something Do Something, has undertaken many other projects since the early days of his marriage. Departments dealing with the terror orphan, the speech impaired, the special child, the mentally ill and the cancer patient are just a few of the many that have sprung up like mushrooms, each division professionally run, offering the latest in hi-tech equipment and regular workshops and therapy headed by experts in their field.

Rabbi Chollak tells of a large family whose father was ill. The mother, drowning in her own sorrow, brought her whole family of eleven children just to talk. I gave the oldest child a card with my phone number and told him to call me any time. The four year old whispered in my ear, “Can I have one also? If I hear my father moaning in his sleep, can I call you?” “And do you think she didn’t call? My phone would ring many times in the middle of the night. This little girl was terrified hearing her father’s cries.”

Rabbi Chollak beams with joy when he is reminded of his Persian children. The mother was ill with cancer. We helped them with food, took the children on trips, tried to be a parent to those suffering children. There were no relatives, not even an elderly grandparent or a distant uncle. Less than two months after the mother passed away, the father began experiencing symptoms. In six months he was gone. The Social Service Department had planned to scatter the children among different families. The oldest, a twelve year old girl, came to me: “Could we live with you,” she asked in all innocence. The major burden would fall on my wife but she came through like the dedicated soldier that she is and all four were adopted as part of our family. 

No one envies Rabbi Chollak of his job as Town Major. For years, the municipal authorities have delegated the job of informing the family of the death of a loved one. It must be done and Rabbi Chollak does it- with compassion, with empathy , with love. A tear forms in his eyes as he recalls some of these visits. “Two children were on their way to visit their mother in the hospital. I was asked to meet them there as their mother was no longer among the living. It started at the time of terror attacks in the Gush Dan area. I was asked to help out in informing the families and have been doing it ever since. Having a policeman appear at the door is shocking. I try to give it to them in little pieces.”

Rabbi Chollak sits in his office on the top floor of the giant Ezer Mizion Jacob Fried Building. On the various floors, a vibrant chessed momentum in progress. Dozens of volunteers, division heads and project directors scurry through the halls and thousands of people seeking the organization’s services stream through its corridors. They come from all parts of the country- religious, secular, Ashkenazic, Sephardic. As you enter its portals, you pass the security check manned by a chareidi fellow of Persian extract, one of the four children adopted by Rabbi Chollak and his dedicated wife, Leah, in addition to their own twelve children. Each person is entitled to the full gamut of humanitarian assistance offered by the organization free of charge.

It’s the end of the day and Rabbi Chollak is drained. His eyes are bleary. He had joined a trip as ‘one of the volunteers’. His cell phone rings for the thousandth time that day. “Tomorrow I’ll meet with the head of the department to hear what else can be done. The bleeding in the brain has stopped. That’s a good sign.” he comforts the distraught family member.  The doctorate is just an honorary title. It did not turn him into a medical doctor, even though his medical knowledge is vast. But sometimes one cannot help but wonder if the honorary doctorate is more than honorary.

“What’s your opinion on the divisions between the secular and the chareidi in Israel?” he was asked. “When President Ezer Weizmann inaugurated the Oranit Center for Children with Cancer and Their Families, he said that Ezer Mizion is the bridge between the religious and the secular and he was right. We demonstrate by example that there are no barriers and that the only thing concerning us is that everyone should be healthy. One of the foremost projects is the Bone Marrow Registry. We called on the public to help save a boy in critical condition. In one day no less than 62,300 people came to the centers. Do you see polarity here? Do you see hatred? I see nothing but unity. Nobody gave any thought to differences in ethnic extraction or religious affiliation. Everyone stood quietly in line and registered to be tested as potential donors for patients they didn’t even know.”  When people try to get Rabbi Chollak to talk about division, he talks about unity. When they bring up hatred, he talks about love. His face shines with a gleaming light and it’s impossible to get him to talk about anything negative.

“This should be published. People have to know,” Rabbi Chollak is told. “I am at my office a little after eight in the morning and leave between one and two at night. Our devoted staff doesn’t know the difference between day and night. We have no time for PR. We’re too busy doing.”

Is It Summer Yet?

February 16, 2010

Is It Summer Yet?

 Children shiver in their warm pajamas as a cold chill finds its way into the home but Dovie yawns, stretches his arms and with an expectant smile, and asks his mother, as he does every morning, “Is it summer yet?”

Dovie is a special child whose cognitive abilities may not be up to par but he certainly has a good understanding of what constitutes fun and good times. And he can hardly wait for Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp to begin again.

In 1989, Ezer Mizion opened Israel’s first summer camp for children with physical handicaps including brain damage, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, blindness, deafness and emotional disorders.

Today, Ezer Mizion coordinates 3 day camps and 2 overnight camps, called “B’Lev Same’ach,” for children with special needs, the highlight of the entire year for these youngsters.

Each of the B’Lev Sameach camps is staffed by professional administrators and has a nurse and emergency medical technician on premises. In addition, all of the children are paired with individual counselors, who shower them with one-on-one attention, care, and love. This powerful dose of attention and warmth is a balm for the children and ensures that they are lovingly and responsibly cared for. Two full-time volunteers are assigned to children with more challenging disabilities. These volunteers spend 24 hours a day with the children, attending to all of their needs and wishes.

Families of children with special needs also benefit greatly from the B’Lev Sameach summer camps. The highly successful camps operate when other educational frameworks are closed to these children. Caring for physically or mentally challenged children is often very taxing, and parents and siblings are grateful for the respite provided by the B’Lev Sameach camps. The camps allow parents to devote time to their other children and to themselves, making this a period of healing, rejuvenation and renewal for the entire family.

Dovie grins in anticipation but does not understand how fortunate he is. Dovie’s summer camp experience is sponsored by generous contributors to Ezer Mizion. Many of his classmates are envious as Dovie tells over his camp tales. Simply said, there is not enough money to go around and so many children must be left out, losing out on skills gained during the year, losing out on that one to one focused attention and encouragement that is so vital to a special child’s feeling of confidence, losing out on that special glow that says, “Yes, you can!”

For further information call: 718 853 8400