Posts Tagged ‘special needs’

The “X” Days

July 11, 2018

It’s heartbreaking. Every mother jokes about the first day of school being the beginning of her vacation.  Our kids, as much as we love them, are a handful and many a mother will be drained, trying to keep up with their needs during the relatively unstructured summer months.

But then there are the others. The parents who truly cannot handle even one hour without the unbearable tension that accompanies life with a special child. As chaotic as a period of unstructured days may be, the parent of an average child cannot imagine marking her calendar with x’s on the days that he will be home.  One father of a special child did just that upon the realization and dread of the block of unstructured days coming up. Unfortunately, he is one of many.

Not to be able to relax for a moment. To be constantly dealing with the possibility of uncontrolled anger. To be unable to plan for even the next hour. To ache for your other children who ask nothing more than to be able to play a game in peace or perhaps read a few pages of a favorite book. To feel helpless, hopeless.

 Dear Ezer Mizion,

My wife and I have a special needs son, he is 14 years old and suffers from VEOS (very early onset schizophrenia) which manifests itself as SZ and PDD and ADHD.

He is, of course, being medicated and he dorms and schools in XXXXXX.

This year we await the long holidays with trepidation, 8 out of 9 weeks our son Yehuda is going to be home, through the long summer vacation and Holiday periods of Tishrei. (See attached calendar.) Without a suitable structure and framework we fear that we will not be able to entertain and provide for our son’s needs and those of the rest of the family.
If you have any program that may be suitable for our son, please inform us at your earliest convenience and direct me to the correct person to speak to.

Gratefully yours,

It is this need that Ezer Mizion seeks to address with its myriad of summer camp programs geared for varied requirements, its respite programs and its afternoon activity clubs. The programs help to alleviate pressure of physical demands and emotional strain experienced both by parents of a special needs child and his siblings. These beleaguered parents never stop expressing their gratitude.

My son is a 28-year-old boy with special needs. He partakes of many of Ezer Mizion’s programs including its summer camp and its simchas beis hash’oeva. These two events are literally his oxygen supply.

When he walks through the streets of Jerusalem, young men stop him, smile and greet him warmly. They remember him from the “Retreat.” Therefore, there is no way in the world that we could have passed this up and not registered him. Just as a person can’t go without oxygen, so, it simply was not possible for him not to attend the Ezer Mizion camp. And now that he has been accepted and his registration sponsored, I, too, can let the worry melt away from my heart, breathe a sigh of relief, and say with joy filling my heart –Thank You!


She Opened My Heart

August 23, 2017

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The gentle, loving glance of a freshly-minted chasan to his kallah as they sit on their new couch together, sharing their innermost thoughts. A special moment made even more special by the newlyweds themselves – two young people born with Downs Syndrome.


Marriage? Impossible, the naysayers had said. How will she…? How can he…?

But with the right kind of assistance, it became possible and many have found the ultimate in fulfillment with several organizations in Israel holding their hand.


How many times did she cry to her mother, I want to marry and have a home like my sisters and brothers. How many times did he look longingly at couples who had a closeness found only in marriage. They both ached to achieve what seemed so out of reach until a phone call was made. And the impossible became not as impossible as their families had assumed.


Lets visit a bit and watch them on their first shopping trip together. Such joy. Such togetherness as they choose the appropriate items from the shelves. Home again. To their own home. Delight as they turn the key and unlock their front door.  They’re hungry and prepare supper. He slices the cucumbers. She slices the egg. The pot is washed clean. The counter sponged to perfection.


But marriage is not about clean counters, you question. Can they relate?


Watch. Watch as she pours the Kiddush wine for her new husband. Their joy is palpable. Watch as they laugh together over the wedding pictures, sharing their own private jokes.  “She worries about my health. She cares about me,” their devoted glance at each other says so much more than his words. He becomes sensitive to her needs and brings her the perfect present to make her happy. She speaks about her marriage and he cannot resist planting a tender kiss on her forehead. He captures the essence of their marriage with the fond words: She opened up my heart.



All parents dream of the day they will accompany their child to the chuppah and see him found a family of his own. But for many parents, bringing that dream to fruition can be a nightmare! When the young man or woman has a condition that casts a shadow on his or her matrimonial future, the path to the chuppah may be strewn, not with rose petals and confetti, but with tears and frustration.

A few years ago Ezer Mizion decided to take up the challenge of advancing matches between people with medical issues. Its tremendous success has led the division to undertake the next step: Special Marriages.


Many such marriages have already been made. The sensitive caring provided by several organizations in Eretz Yisroel have made them a remarkable success. These organizations care for the couple after marriage. They operate and supervise apartments for special needs and provide mentoring for the couples. While these organizations assist after the wedding, none of them deal with the matchmaking, from beginning to end of the process. Ezer Mizion’s Strike A Match Division has recently partnered with them in creating shidduchim between special people.


Penina Raziel directed a Special Ed school for many years and has recently retired. But full retirement was not for a capable, energetic person like Penina and she began looking for a volunteer opportunity that would dovetail with her experience.  She discovered the perfect ‘match’ in heading the Special Department of Ezer Mizion’s Strike A Match Division.


Under Mrs. Raziel’s direction, Ezer Mizion recently held two introductory events, in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. The response was overwhelming.  Although the events were minimally advertised due to the high advertising cost, over 200  attended in Jerusalem and more than 250 in Bnei Brak, participants coming from all parts of the country.


We look forward to sharing many ‘mazel tov’s ‘ with you , our good friends, as the special kol sasson, kol simcha reverberates among the streets of Eretz Yisroel.


To share their joy:



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

What Would You Have Done?

July 17, 2017

pr special sunWhat would you do? What would you do if a fellow Jew stood there in tears begging you for help? If her situation was so difficult that you knew you yourself couldn’t handle it? If your heart ached to offer at least some relief? What would you do? Wouldn’t you say yes? Of course, you would! We’re Jews. Known for our compassion. And so that’s what we did. We said yes. We said yes to the mother of a special needs child who had already used up her allotted respite hours and called the office about Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp for Children with Special Needs. The father had passed away a few months ago. The mother was left alone to care for the family including a difficult special child. She knew she had no more respite hours left and would have to pay for the service.  She began giving over her credit card info but before she reached the last digit, her voice choked up into sobs and she could not continue.  The camp was essential for this most difficult child. And no less essential was the break it afforded the whole family who would be able to enjoy the healing time of togetherness without the continual, relentless turmoil created by a child who was incapable of joining the family


The Real Thing
CP young man experiencing the ocean for the first time in his life

Camp was crucial but so was food for her family. Basic food. Credit cards have to be paid at the end of the month and there was hardly any money. The heart-rending tears flowed and so we said yes. Yes, we will accept her child at no cost. Wouldn’t you have done the same?


And we said yes to the family that has not one but two special needs children. As if that is not enough, another family member suffers from severe emotional disturbances. She, too, had no allotted hours remaining but could we say no?


We said yes because we were confident that you, our friends and supporters, would do the same and your generous donations would cover the cost.


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Jeeping trip for cancer patients and their families

Every year, Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camps include camps for Special Needs Children, camps for Cancer Patients and their Families enabling the whole family to enjoy a rejuvenating vacation from cancer in a fun atmosphere geared for their needs and, beginning this year, camps for the Mentally Challenged and their Families.


Some excerpts from one of the many thank you letters received:

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High functioning special kids visiting the kosel

Survival mode. That’s the only way to describe it. When my daughter was out of the house, we lived normally. When she was home, it was all about getting from one minute to the next with the house, her siblings and my sanity usually less than more intact. Pandemonium reigned. Every day. My children hardly knew what it was like to live in a normal home. Invite friends over to study for a test? Absurd. Have a quiet talk with a child? There was no quiet. We had no end to look forward to in the foreseeable future. My eight year old dreamed of getting married and living in a calm house. Ezer Mizion came through over and over again with a variety of support, then with the biggest surprise of all – a summer camp geared just for kids like her. My children couldn’t believe it when I suggested a trip to the zoo during vacation.  Such a simple pastime but so out of reach with a special child at home. Ezer Mizion, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. May you all be blessed.


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

Special Needs: Accepting Those Who Are Different

June 8, 2017

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Summer for the Special Child

The summer break is a magical world of fascinating experiences for children, who enjoy the long days of vacation and fun, of frolic and adventure. At the same time, it can be quite a headache for parents, who are kept busy figuring out how to keep the children occupied and who will supervise them when the adults go to work and take care of other occupations.

This “headache” is twice as daunting when we are speaking of children with special needs and impairments, who need extra attention and even closer supervision. Their world is cramped into the limited scope of their families and they get lost in the lack of  routine, as dependent children who constantly need a loving look, a caress, and help in mobility. Their inability to adapt to to an unstructured day leads to chaos and misery both on the part of other family members and the child himself. the house is continually upside-down. Siblings cannot invite a friend over for a game or even read more than a page of a book without a sudden avalanche of the contents of dresser drawers coming tumbling down on them. The logistics of a simple trip to the local park make it an impossibility for the family to enjoy. Mommy cannot even dream of a more complex trip to the zoo. As frustrated as the family becomes, the frustrations are two-fold for the special child who does not have a clue as to how to productively occupy himself.  For special-needs children, the world of experiences is piled with challenges that may seem banal and self-understood. But for these children, one on one guidance is vitally needed for the success of even the simplest activity. An organized professional day camp is not a luxury. It is a necessity.

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Special Needs Fun at Amusement Park

Anyone who did not see the 130 children who came every day from the entire Southern region (Netivot, Ofakim, Sderot, Beesheva, and all the surrounding towns) to Ezer Mizion’s day camp for special-needs children – never saw what real happiness looks like. The day camp provided concentrated days of happiness and high spirits, fun and adventure for the children, and hours of substantial relief for the parents and siblings. In addition to the mobility accessories, playground equipment, fun workshops, entertainment, arts and crafts, chocolate-making, drumming, baking, musical activities, animal performances, dog training, trips, and attractions, the day camp was unique in the tremendous power of giving demonstrated by its more than 250 volunteers. Each child was assigned a personal volunteer who looked after him and saw to all his personal needs. The day camp had twice as many volunteers as campers, enabling half the volunteers to alternately rest and recharge their batteries, to be ready for the challenge of boundless giving that characterizes the day camp.

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Special Needs Summer Fun

“I am very happy and excited,” said one mother whom we met on the site, glowing with pleasure at the sight of her son in his wheelchair, grinning from ear to ear. “But my happiness is tempered by a bit of sadness.”  “Why are you sad?” we asked, surprised at the tears that seemed about to burst from her blinking eyes.” “I’m sad because tomorrow, the day camp will be over and my son will be back home, without a framework to keep him busy,” she said, looking longingly in the direction of the chairman of Ezer Mizion’s Netivot branch, Rabbbi Naftali Kuber. Rabbi Kuber is the engine moving the wheels of the day camp. He is in charge of the tremendously complex project of getting the day camp going and running smoothly, among other things – rallying the funds to provide the children with a rich breakfast and a hot, attractive lunch. You couldn’t miss the sense of anguish expressed by the mother. Naftali, who is used to emotional moments such as these, promised that “He who places his trust in Hashem will be surrounded by chessed, loving-kindness.” The father of a boy from Beersheva joins the circle: “There is nothing like this. This is a tremendous chessed enterprise with power that cannot be captured in words. My little boy comes home every day happy and cheerful, alert and full of joie de vivre, a stark contrast to routine days, when he returns exhausted and miserable.”

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Special Needs Children

The day camp took place on the Chemdat Hadarom College campus in the Sedot Negev regional council. A number of entities and companies sponsored the various activities, including: the Netivot Community Center, the Netivot Social Services Department, Sedot Negev Educational department, the various municipalities in the area, Klalit Health Services, which rallied with a warm heart for the cause, and the Dan Badarom bus company, which donated a bus to transport the volunteers every day. Every visitor who stopped into the day camp was struck by the love and special joy that prevailed in the day camp, and by the volunteers who devoted their personal vacation on behalf of the special children.

Rabbi Naftali Kuber, chairman of Ezer Mizion’s Netivot branch, warmly thanked Netivot Maor Yechiel Zohar for his outstanding assistance in organizing the day camp, and Tamir Idan, head of the edot Negev Council, who also rallied on behalf of the children and graciously provided all necessary assistance.

Help those on the waiting list for 2017!


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







Ezer Mizion Partners with Chemdat Hadarom for Special-Needs Children

March 9, 2017


pr special sun‘Each child is born with its unique value. It’s up to society to ensure that his development enables him to succeed to the limits of his potential.’ Thus spoke Naftali Bennet, Minister of Education in Israel at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Master’s Program at Chemdat Hadarom. The college has proven its goals as it trains its students to reach deep inside each child and help him reach the heights of his G-d-given abilities. At Chemdat Hadorom, special needs children are very special indeed.

And that is why the college has annually loaned out its attractive, spacious campus to Ezer Mizion’s Special Children Division to use for its Summer Camp. A special child works hard to gain each new level but the long summer break can destroy much of his gains. Ezer Mizion’s devoted staff makes sure that this does not happen. Each child is assigned his own personal counselor who devotes himself 24/7 to his charge. The counselors receive no financial remuneration yet they vie with their friends to obtain the coveted position.   Their salary comes in the form of an “I wuv you!” from a child who can barely speak. It comes in the form of the grins of his siblings on visiting day after having had a real summer vacation , perhaps for the first time in their lives, with a mother who was able to do the simple things with them, a bedtime story, a trip to the playground, a playdate with a friend…things that most children take for granted. It comes in the form of a marvelous of satisfaction at having made a real difference to a family dealing with a difficult situation day in and day out. The camp activities, geared especially for each child, are so terrific that many a younger sibling has been known to say, “ I wish I could go to the Ezer Mizion camp.”

Chemdat Hadorom shares the values and goals for the special child with Ezer Mizion and encourages its students to emulate the positive ambience pervading the Ezer Mizion summer experience. Each year it has offered its spacious campus as a venue for the camp. As the college grows and flourishes, Ezer Mizion looks forward to this productive collaboration growing and flourishing as well!

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





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