Posts Tagged ‘volunteer’

What the Kids Have Discovered

July 6, 2017

helping handssSome say that the new generation is steeped in materialism and can’t see past their ipod screens. Is it true? A recent event in Israel honoring junior volunteers yielded some surprises.

Last summer, M, a sixth grader, noticed something strange going on in her neighbor’s home. “There are two children living there, and I understood that their mother had cancer. She was undergoing treatments, and some of the time, was even hospitalized. And those kids were home alone.” M. decided to help. She invited the kids to her house, which turned into a regular practice. “They come every day after school, eat lunch, do their homework with me and play games. They go home only when a relative arrives to be with them.” M. didn’t see anything extraordinary about what she had been doing but the organizers at the event thought differently and she was singled out for an award.

S joined M on stage also unsure of why she was there. “We have an elderly neighbor with no children or family, and also, almost no money. I think that he doesn’t always even have what to eat. I come to him almost every day with food, sit with him a bit and speak to him. It’s just regular. Anyone would do it.”

Many of these children have discovered Ezer Mizion as the place where there is always a need for chessed. Z has been volunteering for Ezer Mizion since she was seven years old. She just walked in to Ezer Mizion and asked to volunteer. “They didn’t understand what I wanted. After all, I was just a little kid. They smiled and gave me a few jobs, thinking I’d soon get tired and go home. It’s been five years since then, and I’m still there. Twice a week (“Before Yom Tov, every day, and during vacation, all day”)

I come straight from school, put down my book bag in a corner, and get to work. I arrange meal trays, pack up vegetables, and give food to anyone who comes with a note. Sometimes, I go to the preschools and pick up non-perishable leftovers from lunch. Sometimes, I deliver food packages to people’s homes, and other times, I make order in the storeroom, depending on what needs to be done.”

Don’t you ever feel that your volunteering comes at the expense of other fun things, like music or art lessons, or spending time with friends?

“It gives me a good feeling to volunteer, and I also enjoy it. If I have a lesson or club, or if I make up to meet with a friend, I go there after I finish at Ezer Mizion. Before Yom Tov, I was there every day and I helped pack up food packages. I think that helping people who are in need is more important than all the other stuff. It also makes you feel good, in your heart. It leaves you with a taste for more.   I am the youngest volunteer they’ve ever had.”

D has found a different venue for helping others. One can’t help noticing her lovely hair. That hair is now on several other heads in addition to hers. D is grateful for her beautiful hair and feels it’s proper to ‘give back’ by donating it to Ezer Mizion. “When I was five, I saw a picture of a girl who was bald. My mother explained to me that the girl is sick and that part of the treatment for her illness made her hair fall out. To me, that was awful, and I knew that I wanted to help. I said I would give her some of my hair. It’s funny. Usually little kids have ideas that don’t really make much sense. Little did I know that my idea about giving my hair was a real possibility and done by many people. My mother said that I was too small. She assumed I’d forget about it. But I couldn’t. Every time I thought of that girl being so embarrassed walking around with no hair, I wanted to help. Finally, when I got to second grade, my mother agreed.

Did you have any regrets?

“No. I knew that I had plenty of hair and that it would grow back. I actually waited for my hair to grow in enough so that I could donate it again. This year, my braid reached the right length, so I went to have it cut and donated it. I had a lot of hair this time. They might even be able to make two wigs from it.”

D.relates that the day of her haircut was a happy day for her, “because it meant that there would be a girl somewhere who would look in the mirror and forget about her sickness, at least for a few minutes. I try to convince my friends to donate to Ezer Mizion, too, even though each one of them loves her hair and finds it really hard to part with it.”

The stage was soon filled with youngsters who had discovered what many adults do not know. What do you think? Will Ezer Mizion have any problem filling its volunteer slots next generation?

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








Being on the Giving End

June 21, 2017

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Rivi has spent the last two hours in her kitchen running from sink to counter, fridge to oven. The smells are mouth-watering. Roast chicken, potato kugel…just like you and me. What’s different, you ask.  The difference is the interruptions. Her cell phone seems attached to her ear. A cancer patient calls and is desperate for a ride to the clinic. Her planned transportation fell through and missing her appointment is not an option. She’s crying.  Can Rivi help? Chicken breast in one hand, Transportation Roster in the other, she scrolls down, makes first call. Negative. Second. Third. Bingo. A volunteer is able to drop everything and make the trip. Back to the schnitzel. But only until the next call. Mrs. D. was recently diagnosed with cancer. The family is falling apart. There’s no food for Shabbos. The father had planned   on eating cheese with challa for the seudos. More than that he couldn’t handle. Can anything be done? Schnitzel waits patiently on the counter while another roster – this time of volunteers to prepare meals – is consulted.

“How do you do it,” we ask. “How can you manage your own home while dealing with all these major problems?”

“I have strength. I can walk. I am capable of running my home. I’m so thankful. These people that call are not able to do so.”

Rivi Kossover is Assistant director at Ezer Mizion’s Jerusalem branch. She laughs when we ask what her hours are. “Sometimes I leave at three. Sometimes at six. It depends on what’s going on.” It’s quite obvious that Rivi’s work hours do not end when she arrives home. Like all Ezer Mizion staff, she doesn’t know the meaning of regular work hours. “Work is over when no one needs me,” she feels. “How can I relax with a magazine if a cancer patient is in tears a few blocks away?”

Rivi takes a lemon cake out of the oven and puts it on the cooling rack to await its lemon icing. Maybe it will get iced. Maybe not. It depends on the interruptions. Some weeks the cake is “iced” with chessed.  But it’s always yummy.

“I can put my housework on some kind of schedule but I never know what will be needed at Ezer Mizion. People go through crises and we try to be there for them. Like the call I got from a neighbor the other day. Five kids, two in their teens and three even younger, were taking care of their cancer-stricken mother. They were wonderful, putting their own lives on hold and giving everything they had to the mother they so loved.  But they’re only human and those kids desperately needed a break. Could I arrange something? Well, I have a picture of those kids waving from a boat, looking as if they don’t have care in the world. They had a wonderful day, just being kids and it gave them strength to go on. it’s called Vitamin Fun. They’ll need another shot of vitamins every so often. Ezer Mizion will make sure they get it.”

A little boy in one family is doing poorly in school. His father used to review with him every night but now Abba is either at the hospital or recuperating from chemo. The young child, forced to grow up too soon, tiptoes through his house, afraid to disturb. He doesn’t even mention his 40 in the last quiz. That’s all history now. Ezer Mizion has taken over with a volunteer to help him. He’s raising his hand in class with the best of them.

Meals. Rides. Help with the kids. Medical advice. A place to stay during treatment. Emotional Therapy when it becomes too difficult to deal with the fears. Rivi’s phone never rests and neither, it seems, does she but, as she says, “I’m just thankful that I can be on the giving side.”

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

Compassion Makes the Wheels Go ‘Round

May 10, 2017

When staff really cares. When it’s not just a job…punch in/punch out. When the CEO gives out his cell number to recently orphaned children telling them to call anytime (and they do). When volunteers are inspired to drop what thepr general hel;ioong hand in darky are doing, time and time again, to help out a someone in need… this is compassion at its best.

Sometimes it requires the utmost sensitivity. Like the kallah (bride) whose chassan (groom) was discovered shortly before the wedding to have leukemia. The wedding was rescheduled and the newlywed couple tried to build a home, albeit in a different way than planned, together. Ezer Mizion supported them in every way. The nightmare is over now. Please look over our shoulder, dear reader and supporter, as we read together the letter sent to the Ezer Mizion office. It is your gifts that enable Ezer Mizion to continue being the strong, dependable pillar for so many to lean on.

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An grateful thank you letter from our files

To the Fantastic, Special Organization: Ezer Mizion!

First of all, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your boundless giving and support, which helped us and gave us the tools we needed to get through a most difficult period, physically strong and emotionally healthy.

About two years ago, we got engaged, b’sha’ah tovah u’mutzlachat. The engagement period passed by pleasantly, filled with many hopes and dreams about the home that we would build together and the happy life we would share.

We do not know Hashem’s (G-d’s) calculations, but we do know that everything He does is for the best. And so, a month before our wedding, my husband was diagnosed with leukemia.

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Ezer Mizion, Israel

Suddenly, everything looked different… The wedding was pushed up to take place a few days later, and immediately afterwards, we began treatment. The physical and emotional pain and the challenges involved in these treatments are too complex to describe…

Amid all the agony and frustration, the Ezer Mizion team – a marvelous organization unmatched in its unfaltering assistance and support – appeared on the scene, truly loyal messengers. They helped us in countless ways, both practical and emotional. They were always there, even before we realized we needed something.

Ezer Mizion wisely and gently set us up with an expert therapist, which, in our sensitive situation, was truly a lifesaver!! She listened, supported, encouraged, and counseled us. She baruch Hashem (thank G-d) helped us in this very delicate situation, not to break down, but to remain happy, strong, optimistic, and full of emunah (faith), using our challenge to grow and form an even closer bond.

Again, we feel eternally grateful to those who were behind all this outpouring of chessed- those who helped, those whose financial support enabled this help…

We give you our heartfelt blessings that you should always be on the giving end, in good health, joy and happiness, and may Divine assistance accompany you in all your endeavors.

With our greatest appreciation,

Moshe and Chedvah


Cancer Support via What’s App

 Compassion…Sometimes it requires the flexibility of changing plans at the drop of a hat. A family with three small children recently emigrated to Israel from France. Resettling was hard enough but became overwhelming when the wife was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Rides to the clinic, professional emotional support, regular meals, child care assistance, medical advocacy would all be theirs in a short time.  But right now, this morning when Ezer Mizion became aware of their plight, they needed lunch. Food strengthens the body. Food invigorates the soul. Food enables the family to handle the crisis suddenly thrust upon them. And no lunch was yet on schedule.  A call went out to volunteers: I know it’s very short notice but can anyone provide a hot lunch for five people today and for the next two days? In 1.5 minutes, that’s ninety seconds (!), one of our angels responded. A delicious, attractively served lunch was prepared by one volunteer, delivered by another to the family on time as if it were weeks in the preparation.

Ezer Mizion: where caring and compassion provides the electricity that makes the wheels go ‘round.

Would you like to join the ‘wheel of compassion’?


The Kakoon Family- A Valued Ezer Mizion Partner

May 3, 2017

Kakoon Family ok to use - Dassy- fGiving. It’s the wheel that makes the world go around. Some people have discovered its joys and thrive on ‘being there’ for a friend or neighbor with a problem. The Kakoons are such a family.  Avrohom Kakoon acts as a chazzan (cantor) and spiritual leader at his shul (synagogue). In his spare time, he also volunteers as an emergency respondent for Hatzalah. His wife, Rina, volunteers as a doula, coaches new mothers and young families in managing their home and in parenting, and also cooks and bakes for families of women after birth. As infants, their seven children imbibed the satisfaction that accompanies giving and the sense of responsibility for those less fortunate.  Helping families after birth, running a used clothing center, mentoring youngsters in the community. Driving an ambulance, heading a branch of United Hatzalah, helping out families in the community who are undergoing crises, activity clubs for young people in the community.  The Kakoon siblings are involved in all of these. How can they not be? It was the ambience in the home they grew up in.

When the family discovered Ezer Mizion, they clicked with the organization like a magnet to a paper clip. An entity that does not recognize 9-5 hours, whose founder routinely gives out his private cell phone number to recently orphaned children and tells them to call anytime, whose teenage volunteers vie with their friends to obtain an unpaid position in Ezer Mizion’s summer camp for special kids… Ezer Mizion was the perfect partner for the Kakoons.

They helped out in any way they could. One has even undertaken to head the Ezer Mizion’s Modi’in Linked to Life   group and another its counterpart in the Migdal HaEmek area. Linked to Life is a What’s App Center which connects Jews throughout Israel and even Europe, the US and Canada in order to provide for the needs of people around the globe. A surgical device is needed and can’t wait for regular mail. A man from Eretz Yisroel forgot his vital medication and realizes it only when he a several thousand feet in the air, on his way to California. A wheelchair-bound young man living in the North would like to spend Pesach with his family in Jerusalem and needs a ride in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Hundreds of people like this are constantly being helped by heads of groups like the Kakoons and the volunteers who drop what they are doing at a buzz of their phone and race out to help a fellow Jew.

Avrohom and Rina planted strong seeds which continue to flourish into the next generation. Last summer vacation, while her peers were having fun in the pool and park, Avivah, a granddaughter, discovered another kind of fun. She gathered a group of friends and set up a refreshment stand. The girls popped popcorn and prepared gallons of drinks to sell to passersby. The money? It was donated to Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division to help sick children, of course. Ezer Mizion welcomes Avivah as its newest volunteer and awaits her latest ideas to help those less fortunate than herself. Congratulations, Avivah! You have discovered the much sought after key to happiness.

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

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




No Salary Is the Best Salary

March 23, 2016

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You may have sat next to her on the bus to Yerushalayim. Her name is Esther and she looks like any other typical frum woman. She doesn’t wear a sign but she is one of those special Ezer Mizion women who glow with the satisfaction that comes with giving. She already changed busses and has been traveling for almost two hours with another arduous trip to look forward to at the end of the day. Maybe she’ll sleep a bit on the way home. She’s going to be tired. Very tired. She will be spending several hours at the home of a mother who has given birth to multiples. What will she be doing there? It’s different each time. Some mothers can’t face the ever-growing pile of laundry and apologetically ask her if she can tackle it. It means the world to their emotional well-being to know that every sock in its right place. Other mothers don’t mind the clutter but want their family to come home to the aroma of a delicious supper and ask her to prepare a vegetable soup to use for the whole week. And still others, eyes drooping from tiredness, hand her one of the babies to rock as their heads blissfully touch the pillow, a rarity these days. Esther is happy to help no matter what she’s asked to do. Helping others is the gas that keeps her going. She, like most Ezer Mizion volunteers, thrive on giving. There is no salary, no dinner given in her honor, no reward points for hours logged. Yet, an Ezer Mizion volunteer canceling a commitment almost never happens. Why? What’s keep them going? Why don’t they take a day off every so often? Esther answers for all of them: “Why would I give up something that brings me such joy just to have a relaxed day at home?!”
Many have school-age children and feel that having Mommy volunteer is the best education they can give their kids. Of course, they make sure they are home when their kids need them. “My kids know that during ‘rush hour’ I am not available to answer the phone but if an Ezer Mizion coordinator calls, they call me to the phone. It gives them a sense of values without my ever saying a word on the importance of chessed.
No salary can compare to the reward of giving. Chani is a case in point. She works full time and pr moneyspends her day off doing volunteer work. Part of the day is feeding lunch to an elderly lady. Strange, isn’t it that when a toddler dribbles, spits out a spoonful that looks larger than what went in, splatters Mommy’s outfit with mashed peaches and takes over an hour to finish a meal—it’s adorable. But when his elderly counterpart does the same, it’s, well…not adorable. Chani has the patience to do this every week as do other volunteers who take the days that she is at work. However, there are many meals that the patient misses due to no one being available to spend the time and emotional energy feeding her. The patient’s family had what they considered an obvious solution. They would offer to pay Chani and perhaps she would come at other times. They understood that they cannot ask her to put in more volunteer hours but for pay? Of course, she’d agree. They didn’t get it. Money? No amount of money would be enough to pay for such an hour. But knowing that she was helping a helpless Jew —that was the salary that put a bounce in her step as she walked down the corridor toward the communal dining room and “her” patient.
Ezer Mizion…providing help to those who need and satisfaction to those who give.
For further info: 5225 New Utrecht Ave, Bk, NY 11219 718 853 8400 http://www.ezermizion .o

It’s Me, Kobi

August 12, 2015

Kobi – that’s me, Yaakov. Pleased to meet you.

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Two decades ago, I was first exposed to Ezer Mizion, an organization that was over ten years old at the time. Ever since then, I have been following it with love and with great awe – with love because of the “what” and with awe because of the “how.”
One day, a little over thirty years ago, a good-hearted young man in Bnei Brak suddenly had the idea that something ought to be done to help the people around him. He himself was confronted with a family medical problem and discovered a number of related problems that could be resolved. He and his wife went home, recruited a few friends and neighbors, prepared a few meals, went to the hospital, helped some families cope, and cheered a few hearts. Since he had a big head and an even bigger heart, things didn’t stop there. They continued to snowball, to gain momentum, to become established, and to expand.
Today, some thirty-plus years later, you cannot look at life in Israel without seeing Ezer Mizion. This beautiful organization, which earned public recognition in the form of the Israel Prize awarded to it a few years back, has become an integral part of the Israeli experience: Food for the needy, medical equipment, transport of patients and their families, medical counseling, support for cancer patients, services for special children, care and support for the elderly, a mental health division, community social services, and above all – the biggest interpersonal lifesaving enterprise in human history: Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
What exactly happened here?
What happened was that a civilian, social force entered a vacuum that was left unoccupied by the public authorities and filled it totally. Every citizen in Israel knows that when a medical or social service problem crops up, there is an address. Yes, thanks to the vision and revolutionary thinking of individuals who swept the masses after them, the face of society has changed. That is how you build a model bldg
I got to know this story from up close, through volunteering and working for Ezer Mizion. I had the chance to share a car with a patient whose life, for over a decade, would not be livable without Ezer Mizion; to look in the eyes of motherless children when volunteers come to their house to play with and care for them; to take part in and photograph the first encounter between a bone marrow donor and the one whose life was saved thanks to him; to see from up close men and women for whom this organization stands between their life-hungry smile and a paralyzing fear of the unknown; and above all, to lovingly get to know the precious people who are responsible for all this.
I’ve taken upon myself to tell you here the magnificent story of Ezer Mizion. It’s not really “a story,” but rather a chain of stories. At the heart of each one of them will be a man or woman, a boy or girl, whose life story is intricately interwoven with the story of Ezer Mizion.
I’m Kobi. This is the first story.
For further info:

Bella Stern’s Math Lesson

May 20, 2015

Bella Stern’s math lesson: When you have less, give away more and the total will increase.
It’s a tried and true method, says Mrs. Stern. It works every time. Mrs. Stern is past seventy and paralyzed from the waist down due to polio which she contracted as a child. She moves around with heavy leg braces on crutches. Many people who knew her from phone conversations are shocked when they meet her in person, never realizing the challenging physical condition she endures with such cheer and optimism. (more…)

Rabbi Chollak Visits

March 25, 2015

Yated Ne’eman – Yated Hashavua

Sept. 19, 2014

By: Y. Shalev


Ko’ach Ezer” – All-Embracing Help

At the entrance to the Oncology Ward, the world stops. A fight for life rages in every room, in every bed. And as in war, there are many forces involved: doctors and nurses, relatives and friends, social workers, medical clowns, and more. Each one and his job, each one and his part in the battle * But hovering over them all is the “Iron Dome” of Ezer Mizion, there at the ready to intercept every challenge, remove every obstacle that appears on the way, and take care of all the auxiliary matters, so that the people fighting for their lives can focus on the battle, and with Hashem’s help, get past it safely.

A hum of whispers accompanies Rabbi Chananya Chollak’s entrance to the ward. Doctors and staff members alike, parents and children, all look up to him with reverent eyes. This is the man who stands behind the two-word phrase, “Ezer Mizion,” a phrase that personifies for them the light within the darkness, the warm, enveloping embrace in rocky, frightening times.

Those who recognize Rabbi Chollak quickly inform the others of the identity of the one who came in, and they too join in eying the man who stands behind all the good angels filling the ward around the clock, all in one, single goal: to help relieve the patients’ burden.

But Rabbi Chollak does not seem to register the looks of reverence. He came here to visit the sick, wish them a speedy recovery, and he does so with the full seriousness that befits someone who knows all too well what this battle is all about and who believes that relieving the patient’s burden is literally a matter of saving life.

Hashem Will Help!

He dons covers on his shoes and a surgical mask on his mouth and nose and opens the door of the isolation room. A young couple sits there next to the crib of their baby son, who underwent a bone marrow transplant from a donor found for him in the Ezer Mizion Registry. Rabbi Chollak inquires of the details and the father tells him the type of illness, the treatment that was given and the doctors’ prognosis. Medical terms, their difficult pronunciation merely hinting at the real difficulty of actually coping with them, roll easily off this young man’s tongue. His friends are probably busy with terms from the world of weddings, or at most, the world of mortgages and projects going up for young couples. How is it that he is occupied with such terrifying terms?

Tears come to the eyes uninvited, but the young mother is determined: “With Hashem’s help, he will get better and this entire period will be like a huge wave that came and went, leaving us only with strengthened faith and a more developed relationship between us. But there is no doubt that a major part of our growth and strength is credited to Ezer Mizion. Without them, we would have fallen apart.”

In the ward itself, Rabbi Chollak goes from bed to bed, taking a sincere interest in each and every patient, showering words of encouragement and hope, and giving a sick child a bag of treats. At the conclusion of each visit, he asks for the name of the patient and his mother, closes his eyes in intense concentration, and prays – for Sarah bat Shulamit, may she have a full recovery among all the Jewish ill, for Shlomo ben Limor, for Chaim Uri ben Dalia, and for each and every one of the children – l’refuah shleimah b’toch she’ar cholei Yisrael.

“Hashem will help!” he encourages a group of mothers who stepped out of the room so that the cleaning help could do their job. The caring in his eyes adds depth of meaning to the words so often superficially tossed out. “Yishtabach shemo la’ad – May His Name be eternally praised!” responds one mother, a somewhat unexpected expression, considering her external appearance. But she does not leave any doubts. “Yishtabach shemo la’ad! That is my motto these days. We are strong! In this place, we see the Jewish nation that is all heart! So many organizations, so much help, so much caring! And it is all for the name of G-d and His children. There is no one like the Jewish people and none like their G-d. Yishtabach shemo la’ad!” she concludes, and you can tell that this is indeed the motto that helps her in the fight with her daughter’s illness.

A suspicious glint is seen in the eye of a mother carrying her son in her hands. Rabbi Chollak inquires of the details, and soon enough, the teary glint is contagious. This little boy was already healthy, but the illness returned in full force. The doctors say there is nothing they can do … Again, he asks for the name of the child and his mother, his eyes close, and the prayer is uttered. “Hakadosh baruch Hu can do everything. Don’t lose hope!” he says quietly. “We never give up hope,” the mother promises, holding the child close to her heart.

Resolute Mission

In the next room sits an Ezer Mizion volunteer next to the bed of a seven-year-old girl. “How long will you be here with her?” I ask. “Until another volunteer comes to relieve me…” she replies, and a slight spasm of her face hints to me not to go on and ask the obvious question: “And where are the parents?” Once outside the room, Yumi will tell me that the parents, wretched and impoverished, come to “visit” their daughter from time to time, but the ones who are with her on a regular basis are the Ezer Mizion volunteers.

We pass by a cart set up with refreshments for all those who come through the ward – a compact cafeteria, offering home-made cake and drinks. The “Ezer Mizion” symbol on the cups leaves no room for doubt. Next to the cart sits a pleasant-countenanced volunteer, who pours and serves the drinks, asks “How much sugar,” and wipes away a drop of milk that dripped on the cart, making sure everything is esthetic, dignified and respectful.

A sweet little girl rides a tricycle alongside her mother. Her bald head seems incongruous with the merry mischief dancing in her eyes. “What’s your name,” Rabbi Chollak asks, bending all the way down to the colorful tricycle. “Talia,” the girl answers in a tinkling voice, happily accepting the bag of treats he offers her. “I’m going to eat it all up and nothing will be left for anyone else,” she announces with amazing self-confidence. “How old are you, Talia?” inquires Rabbi Chollak. “Three,” she replies. “And when will you be four?” he goes on, but she is already riding away, checking out the sweets in the bag, and the question remains hanging in the air. We bless Talia that she should indeed reach the age of four, hale and healthy, with the horrible disease behind her.

From every direction, people come over, shake Rabbi Chollak’s hand in choked silence, exchange looks reserved for people of one family, even if not biologically related, and their eyes express the depth of the gratitude they concentrate into one immortal word: Thanks! Or at most, three words: Thanks for everything!

“You are our angels,” the phrase is heard again and again, and not as an empty cliché. On the surface, it seems as if everyone studied the same script, but when you hear the intonation and see the look that comes along with the words, and especially – when you hear of the cushion of warm, embracing help Ezer Mizion offers families of cancer patients, you understand the depth of meaning contained in the word “angels” appended automatically to Ezer Mizion volunteers: “Angels” are the agents of the Creator. G-d has many agents, and Ezer Mizion chose to be His agents in the Oncology Ward – counseling, guiding, supporting, and helping, in the hospital and at home, to parents and children, from the technical aspect and from the emotional-spiritual aspect. No wonder that they are seen as “angels”!

In the virtual telephone book of every person here are the personal phone numbers of these angels, representatives of Ezer Mizion in the Oncology Ward of the hospital and in the organization’s Cancer Patients’ Support Division: Yumi, Zevi, Blumi, Ophira, and all the rest. Every time there is a problem, question, difficulty, or request, they do not hesitate to call. Experience has already taught them that if they want to do Ezer Mizion a favor, all they have to do is call and ask, and above all – to accept what the help they want so much to give them.

The assistance is provided directly to the patients and their families, but also indirectly, via the ward staff. Here, a social worker comes over to Zevi and tells him about a problem she encountered with one of the children on the ward. You can tell by his expression how obvious it is to her that Zevi is the address for her problem and that is where the answers and the solution is to be found.

Another social worker approaches Ophira and informs her about a “new” family from Modi’in Ilit who arrived at the ward. She, too, knows that in spite of her professional training and rich experience, she could never give this family everything that Ezer Mizion will give it: Comprehensive support in every necessary area, with maximal understanding of the special sensitivities that flow from their being a Torah-observant family.

The cafeteria cart has not yet receded when another cart appears, led by a different volunteer, carrying trays with hot, fresh lunches cooked in the Ezer Mizion kitchens, to be given out to the people sitting beside the patients. It seems that nobody other than me is surprised by the sight. It happens here every day, and, as we know, routine dulls the sense of amazement.

Around the Clock, Day In Day Out

Rivky T. hosts me in the isolation room where she is sitting with her three-year-old Down’s Syndrome daughter, who has leukemia. Rivky’s eyes are gleaming and she shares her experience with me openly. “My children love Tehilla dearly, and dealing with her illness is not easy for any of us. Ever since she was born, we learned that every therapy and every entitlement, every allotment and every co-payment, even for a few dozen shekels, involves filling out countless forms, sending faxes, getting confirmations, and recommendations, and proofs… And suddenly, here we were exposed to something new: Someone who wants to give to us. Perhaps ‘wants’ is not the right word, but rather: aspires and pleads and hopes that we will agree to accept… and all this without our having to fill out a single form! Without investigating us and asking ‘Who are you, where are you from, how much do you earn, have you realized your employment potential, what newspaper do you read at home… without any bureaucracy and nitpicking, just with an amazing understanding of the needs of a family struggling with their child’s illness.

“Ever since we are here, I feel as if I am getting one long hug from Ezer Mizion, which infuses me with the strength I need to get through this tough period and backs me up with full support on the home front so that the house will continue functioning as if everything was fine. We receive a lot of technical support, and the children get therapies meant to calm them, mentors who are ready to give them the moon, and more and more.

Nechama C. sits outside the treatment room. In the carriage at her side is her baby, brother of the five-year-old sick girl. “I have been here on and off for three years already,” she relates in the tone of someone who has already made peace with the tough facts of life. “I think that everyone knows at least a part of what Ezer Mizion does for the patients and their families. For us, it came to particular expression in the time after I had the baby. They enveloped us all in everything you can imagine – and also what you can’t.

Yocheved sits alongside her two-year-old son’s bed and says Tehillim (Psalms). “You’re asking about Ezer Mizion?” She asks in wonder. “They are our family. They are our angels. For the last eight months, they have been our address for everything you can think of. Thanks to them, my head is clear of everything that would preoccupy a Jewish mother. They know that a sick child needs parents who are available – physically and emotionally, and everything they do and offer us is geared towards this objective. It is inadequate to try and list the things they do for us, because the whole is far more than the sum of its parts. The biggest help does not boil down to a listing of the specific areas of assistance that they offer at no cost, but to the fact that they are available and accessible and understand the needs of patients and their families even better than we ourselves know and understand.

“Let me tell you about the special clock we prepared for them – it is hanging in the ward – so you can understand a tiny bit of what I am talking about: On the clock face we wrote: ‘Ezer Mizion around the clock.’ Next to each of the digits on the clock, we wrote something connected to that number and connected to what Ezer Mizion does for us. For example, next to the number one, we wrote: ‘Number one in chessed’ Number three says, ‘Three nights at the summer retreat a vacation that puts us back on our feet with attractions for parents, for each girl and boy and all in abundance, with nachat and joy’; By the number five we wrote: ‘Every Thursday, a devoted volunteer cleans the house for free, in good cheer. And behind the door sits a box full of treats to make our Shabbat table complete. Number nine speaks of a unique type of chessed: On the fast day of the Ninth of Av. It’s the weary parents they are thinking of. So they take the little ones off the scene for a program of balloons and a trampoline… I’m sure that even if there were a hundred hours on the clock, we would have been able to fill each hour with another detail and another piece of the tapestry of tremendous help they do for us.”

In the middle of our conversation, Yocheved’s cell phone rings. “You have a ride coming home,” the indefatigable Transport Division secretary tells her.

“I didn’t even request it!” Yocheved says with amazement. “I just told them that I need a volunteer to relieve me for two hours in the afternoon to sit with the child. But they understood on their own that if I need a volunteer – I also need a ride home. There you are – that, in short, is the whole story of this remarkable organization and the people in it: They infer what you need, they are one step ahead and figure out what we are lacking before we ourselves know.

“We can never thank them enough for all they do. All we can do is try to link on to their tremendous acts of chessed – by donating money and joining the ranks of volunteers the moment this story will be behind us.

Mothers’ Seismographs

“The Kupat Cholim refuses to reimburse me for the cost of the ambulance we took when we rushed the child to the hospital because he got a fever,” A man grabs hold of Zev Freund in the hospital corridor, shoving a pile of forms in his hand. Zev takes them, as if it was self-understood. Who, if not he, will take care of the bureaucratic glitch that is disturbing the father and not enabling him to be fully available to his sick son?

One of the doctors comes over to Yumi and exchanges a few whispered words with him. Yumi nods and the doctor continues on his way calmly, his face showing that he is assured that the matter will be taken care of.

“What is your motto?” I ask these unflagging people, who spend more time in the Oncology Ward than anywhere else.

“Life here has taught us that the child is his parents’ seismograph,” Zev explains. “The sick child needs a hundred percent Ima, but his Ima has another few children and endless obligations. We are here to remove all those concerns from her shoulders. There are general concerns, like meals and housecleaning, that everyone needs, and there are the unique concerns of each family and every day. We take both kinds of needs on our shoulders so that the parents will be totally available to their sick child. When the child tells me with pure simplicity: “Today Ima is happy,” I know that baruch Hashem, we achieved our goal.”

What the Cards Revealed

“During summer vacation, I prepared a card game for my children, and I urge everyone to adopt the idea,” Rivky T. says. “On each of the cards, I wrote a different fact, and I placed the cards in a pile. The facts were, for example: Leukemia is a scary disease; I am embarrassed by Tehilla’s baldness; It pays to have leukemia; The food we get for Shabbat is delicious; I prefer the food that Mommy cooks; I want Tehilla to come home; and so on. Every child, and also we, the parents, took a turn picking up a card and reading what it said. If he felt that the sentence on the card was correct for him, he explained why and took it for himself. If not, he put the card in another pile.

“I was very touched to see that the cards the children identified with indicated that they were not experiencing difficult, black days, but rather saw many positive things that they had. I could have even been insulted by what the cards revealed – that the food I prepare cannot always compete with the food we get from Ezer Mizion, and the attractions I can offer my children do not even come close to what their mentors do for them. The same is true for the day camps and fun days that Ezer Mizion organizes for them. But don’t worry, I’m not offended. On the contrary – I am happy that this is what the cards revealed. I know that the fact that this period will be engraved in the memories of my children as an interesting, colorful time, though certainly challenging, is all to the credit of Ezer Mizion, which enveloped us in such an amazing all-embracing support system, and thanks to their vast experience, managed to preempt the difficulties by offering us every necessary assistance, even before we realized that we need it.

Merkaz Ha’inyanim Oct. 6, 2014 By: Shaul Weiss

Statistics inspire both amazement and pain as Ezer Mizion sums up another year of activity: 15,500 volunteers, 650,000 meals or the ill, 78,900 transports by ambulance and volunteer drivers

At this time, a new year of activity has opened at Ezer Mizion. With the conclusion of the past year, the organization sums up its work in the many different divisions operating all year with unflagging dedication. The statistics, only a small part of which are publicized, reveal the scope of Ezer Mizion’s broad, unprecedented chessed activity.

Ezer Mizion’s devoted volunteers report to Oncology Units across the country, day and night, to be there for the patients and their families. The large organization, with its roster of unique services, envelops patients and their families with unstinting help to ease their difficult battle for life as much as possible.

As of the beginning of 5775, Ezer Mizion’s volunteer network numbers more than 15,500 members in dozens of population centers across the country. 650,000 meals were distributed over the past year to the ill, elderly, and needy. More than 724,000 potential donors are registered at present in Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Thanks to this registry, third largest in the world, 1,600 life-saving transplants have already taken place.

More statistics: Over 80,000 medical and rehabilitative devices and equipment were loaned at no cost this past year and more than 78,900 patients and handicapped individuals were transported by ambulances and volunteer drivers. Thousands of children with special needs were cared for by the Special Children’s Division, tens of thousands of calls came in to the Medical Counseling Center, thousands of people required counseling, care, and rehabilitation at the Mental Health Division, thousands of seniors benefited from projects and services at the Geriatric Division, 407 families of Alzheimer’s patients received assistance at Ezer Mizion’s Tzipora Fried Center, 57 chessed branches operated under the organization’s auspices, helping over 670,000 people.

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A Volunteer from Elad Speaks…

December 24, 2014

Yerucham Turner, a volunteer at the Ezer Mizion’s Elad branch, speaks.
About a year ago, a moving article appeared in an Elad publication asking for local volunteers to join Ezer Mizion. The article spoke to me and, without hesitation, I knew I wanted to be part of this. Something unique began to grow in our city…quietly…unobtrusively… out of the spotlight.
And so, I joined, at first, as a volunteer driver to transport patients to and from the hospital. Slowly but surely, I learned more and more about this special organization and all the amazing work it does here in my city. The Elad volunteers are ordinary citizens from all sectors of the public and from all the different communities in the city. But Ezer Mizion arouses in them the common inner spark of generosity and the intrinsic desire to do good. Together, they work in wondrous unity and amazing efficacy on behalf of everyone, not for personal profit or publicity – but because we are all brothers.
Ezer Mizion’s volunteer network in the city was formulated within less than a year. Nevertheless, it is already big and extensive, branching off into a wide variety of areas. I am not a spokesman for Ezer Mizion, and thank G-d, our city is flowing with other special chessed organizations, but I feel I must give voice to what I see. I would like to share just a few cases and glimmers of light that I was privileged to see with my own eyes during this past year.
For example, I had the opportunity to participate in a musical Melave Malka, together with another thirty volunteers, in the home of a resident of the city who has cancer – a young father of six. Beyond the genuine joy at the event that broke down all barriers, his wife told me the next day, “It’s unbelievable. I got my husband back! Until yesterday, he was depressed and broken and wouldn’t eat anything. But since you all were here, he doesn’t stop speaking about you. The color returned to his face and his joie de vivre is back. He agreed to eat. You gave him hope.”
This family is just one example. I have seen how Ezer Mizion envelops these families with genuine caring. Volunteer drivers take them to the hospital for treatments and bring them home. Women volunteers cook hot meals for the family for the weekdays and for Shabbat. High school girls come to help with light household chores and play with the children. Volunteer teachers come to study with the children and do homework with them. Only people on the inside can grasp what this kind of help and chessed does for a family. Other volunteers take turns doing laundry and ironing, making sure the children have clean, pressed clothes. Hospital volunteers go to the hospital to visit the patient – and this is just for one family!!!
Unfortunately, the cases in our city are many, too many. There are so many people fighting cancer,– young parents and even little children, aside from other cases of illness and hospitalization. But Ezer Mizion is everywhere, ready to help!
In almost every incident and tragedy in the city – they are there, efficient and unobtrusive. I remember that in the case of the kidnapping of Eyal Hy”d, one of the three boys that was murdered early this past summer and whose family lives in Elad, I was exposed to the sheer numbers of Ezer Mizion volunteers in the city. I saw how they all reported for duty, without exception, and helped in any way possible, day after day.
And how can we fail to mention Operation Protective Edge, when hundreds of residents of the South were hosted in our city for a long weekend – Thursday, Friday, Shabbat, and Sunday. There too, I witnessed the dimensions of Ezer Mizion and its strength, as well as the large number of volunteers. Everything was planned out, to the last detail, including programs and activities for the children. The parent shed tears of joy and said that for a month, their children had not even left the house.
Just a year ago, it was all a dream. Today, the Elad branch of Ezer Mizion is an accomplished fact. More than 300 wonderful volunteers are active in the branch – good people with a big heart, who want so much to help, all absorbing the Ezer Mizion maxim of caring and compassion in gigantic doses but always coupled with dignity and respect.
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