Maor Cohen is known at Ezer Mizion as the Lego Man. He runs a workshop for kids with cancer and their siblings using lego as a medium enabling them to cope with their fears and anxieties. For those children who are unable to attend the workshops he makes hospital visits. Always smiling on the outside, one cannot imagine where he finds the strength to continue his mission of chessed. Read on to share his thoughts. Continue reading Opennnn!
At 61, Betzalel N. was just beginning grandfatherhood. He had three children and several tiny grandchildren. His drawer was filled with lollipops and his mind was filled with future plans: trips to the zoo with Grandpa, graduations, dancing at their weddings…until the day it all came crashing down. Leukemia. There would be no holding the hand of a grandchild as she gingerly feeds a baby goat at the zoo. Weddings would take place but there would be no glowing Zeidy (grandfather) to dance with the chassan (groom). It was over. He’d be gone. The doctors had tried everything and there was only one procedure left. A bone marrow transplant. If a genetically matching donor could be found somewhere in the world, he’d have a chance. If not, … Continue reading Two Grandpas: Their Sole Chance of Survival Was a Bone Marrow Transplant
Their mother has cancer and is in a very precarious condition. Her situation is shaky. The family is shaky. And terrified. And numb. And overwhelmed. And beaten. And disoriented. All at once.
it’s all about giving. A day of fun, of pampering can work wonders for the spirit. I ask them what they would want. Unable to think past their dire situation, they say, “A trip to Teverya, to pray at the gravesite of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes, to daaven for Ima to have a nes, a miracle…
Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life is not staffed by mere people. It is staffed by angels. When there are angels along the way, things looks different…
It starts with a phone call to Shmulik of Ezer Mizion’s Transport Division, who works on the logistics for the family trip to Teverya.
Family bonding. A vitamin called ‘Pleasure’ to strengthen the spirit. Vital ingredients for this Special Day. And so it gets better: First thing in the morning Yishai, the nicest volunteer driver in the world, reports at the door with a huge smile and takes them for a banana boat ride on the Kinneret, funding donated by SL from Teverya. Smiles are contagious and tentative replicas begin to appear on the faces of the family.
And even better: They continue on to a gourmet meal at the Caesar Hotel, funding donated by AAA from Caesarea. Long-forgotten feelings of happiness well up in them as they continue their day of pampering.
They reach the gravesites of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes in Teverya and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron and daven with every fiber of their being. Their arms around each other, they leave strengthened. They’re a family. They can cope.
More Vitamin P, shared together, empowering them for the difficult days ahead: a fantastic performance to suit their mood (funded by MH from Hadera) tops off the day.
Because that’s the way it is with Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life in Israel, when there are people there who care about you, who are sensitive to your needs and want with all their heart to pamper you…
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.
Love at first sight, that’s what Maor Cohen felt when he got his first Lego set at age five. “My Mom came home from a visit in Tel Aviv, the ‘big city,’ with a humongous Lego set that must have cost half her monthly salary. You have to understand that back then, in the beginning of the 1980’s, this was no trivial matter. I was so excited that I went to sleep at night hugging the box and the next day I couldn’t wait to come back from preschool and play with it.”
“From that moment, which remains vivid in my heart more than thirty years later, I never stopped developing my hobby. Every birthday present was Lego, and every bit of money I saved up as a child remained in my piggy bank until enough accumulated to buy a new set. I lived at the time in Yavneh and I would ride my bicycle all the way to Rechovot in order to buy Lego and save the cost of a bus ticket.”
Throughout his youth, Cohen never abandoned his hobby. But, of course, as he matured, his focus turned to adult occupations. He served in the army, completed an officers’ course, and today, after finishing his academic studies through the army, is serving as a Major in the Manpower Department.
One day, he recalls, after realizing that he had accumulated in his home an unimaginable amount of Lego, worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, he decided that it was time to pass the pieces on to somebody else who would enjoy them. “I wanted to do something good with the Lego. I turned to my friend, Rabbi Eitan Eckstein, who suggested that I donate the collection to Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s Donald Berman Rehab Center for Support of Cancer Patients and their Families.
When I arrived at Oranit, my plans changed. Drastically. “I came there intending to simply donate the Lego and go my merry way. Oranit staff had a different idea. “Suppose you keep the Lego and use it for a club, showing the kids how to use it. You’ve got the skills. You’ve got the know-how. You could accomplish so much. You could put life into those kids (and maybe even adults). Dealing with cancer is frightening. It’s depressing. Having a project like Lego to look forward to would work wonders.”
“They were so convincing that I tried giving the workshop that very day. I recall hesitantly entering the playroom with a few pieces of Lego and three children and we started building. Well, it worked. The kids loved it. Every week, the number of kids increased, and today there are almost thirty children participating.
From that moment five years ago, Maor Cohen has been running the Lego Club in Oranit on a volunteer basis. With time, the project expanded. Others volunteered to assist him. Nir Solomon, who served as Cohen’s brigade commander in the past and is now retired uses his free time help Maor run the club. Four other volunteers also come regularly. Even Maor’s immense collection has its limits but many have been fascinated by the project and offered to help finance new Lego sets. Maor’s brother is one of these. “He was very excited by the idea and asked to donate money so that I could buy the kids Lego as a gift. That would enable them to have Lego not only during the club time but also at home and with them during their treatments.”
Neither sun, nor rain, nor the security situation can deter the energetic Lego man. “The club is now in its fifth year, and it takes place once a week, no matter what. At most, I push it off a day, because I know that the child and his family are waiting for me. In addition to the club, I also make the rounds in the Oncology wards of the hospitals 3-4 times a week and build with the hospitalized children.”
Why Lego? “First of all, Lego is great fun. I also think that it is especially important for these kids, because with Lego, there is a feeling of continuity. All that planning gives them a sense of a future.
Dr. Bracha Zisser, Director of Oranit, explains that Oranit was founded in order to relieve patients and their families during the difficult period of treatments. “We operate as a guest house that enables families to sleep over in the Center of the country near treatment centers to avoid the long, grueling hours of traveling. We also organize trips and social activities. In addition, we provide many forms of therapy for both patient and his family. We are constantly expanding our activities in order to enable every person, the patient or his family member, to connect with activities that speak to him.
Maor has got to know Oranit and its staff over the years. “Oranit is an amazing place. They provide support in the most difficult moments, both to children who are sick and to children with a sick parent, and actually to the entire family, in the knowledge that the family is the circle surrounding the child.”
If you’d like to join the LegoMan in his humanitarian work, just click here and type lego into the memo field.
We tend to take our abilities for granted. Scratching a mosquito bite, calling out to a friend across the street, running for a bus, licking an ice cream cone…these are all simple daily activities until one finds he no longer is capable of performing these previously effortless actions.
Muscular movement is controlled by the neurological system. Motor neurons ‘tell the muscles what to do’. But if they don’t? That is when we begin to realize just how complex our bodies are. A person finds he can no longer perform actions that have been part of his life since infancy.
This is what happens in ALS. The motor neurons are gradually lost and the muscles they control become weak and then non-functional. ALS stands for amyotrophic (without nourishment to muscles) lateral (affecting the side of the spinal cord) sclerosis (the hardened nature of the spinal cord). Its onset is gradual and, at first, the symptoms are merely annoying: dropping things, tripping, perhaps slurred speech. Slowly, other muscles become involved including those that help us breathe. Up until five years ago, life expectancy was short with death often due to respiratory failure and lack of ability to ingest nutrition but due to recent technological advances in prolonging life, some ALS patients can now live for decades.
The question then arises regarding the quality of life of these patients. A typical end stage Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis patient is not mobile at all. He lies in his bed or recliner, unable to lift his arm to reach for a tissue, unable to swallow food, unable to ask for a drink. He is completely dependent on his caretaker for every need. Continue reading When ALS Robs Its Victim of Every Skill He Had
Autism is frightening. It brings to mind a child that not only has physical or cognitive disabilities but also cannot relate to and join normal society. There is a tremendous lack of understanding about the ASD spectrum which leads to compounding the fears of the average parent. Continue reading Autism: What It Is and What It Isn’t
What 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. Continue reading A Special Yes