Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion with its Founder, Chananya Chollak Part 3 of a Three Part Series

chananya cholak speaking at camp
Rav Chollak speaking at a retreat for cancer patients and their families

The many tragedies that Rabbi Chollak, founder of Ezer Mizion, is exposed to in the course of his work did not immunize him against the personal tragedy that struck: About three years ago, Leah, his wife and the mother of his sixteen children, passed away after battling cancer. She was 57. From the start, the doctors had said that for her kind of cancer, you can usually stretch things out for about eight years. Sadly, it did not take even that long; she died a little over a year later.

“I have been asked difficult questions,” says Rav Chollak, “For instance: You and your wife took care of so many sick people, and now, she herself succumbed to the illness. Do you feel any anger? Continue reading Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion with its Founder, Chananya Chollak Part 3 of a Three Part Series


So, So Much More

Written by an Ezer Mizion volunteer who gained more than she gave during the months that she sat at Leah’s bedside.candle

We stood at the door, needy and poor

Searched for words, but none would appear.

For you, Leah, mere words could never express,

Just a hot and glistening tear.

For whatever we’d say, any words we’d outpour

You were so, so much more…

You were so, so much more…


A mother and daughter, sister and wife,

Your “flock” always there at your side,

With devotion and will, and always so calm,

Your children you gently would guide.


You had such a pure and pleasant demeanor,

Your genuine joy captivated.

You knew to be silent, even in pain,

A true inner wholeness radiated


I felt your strong image obligating us all,

For we saw a life story of courage,

A tale – short, yet long – from which we must learn,

An epic to urge and encourage.


I saw your figure arousing, demanding –

So simple, yet sincerely so pure.

Teaching: What value has a transient world

Versus Torah heights that endure?


I merited seeing how one can and must

Live with rivers of flowing love

For every mitzvah, for each creature,

And for the Creator above.

I had a walking textbook before my eyes,

Of how to feel the pulse of time as it flies.


Pearls carefully strung, pieces of life

Stories too many to count,

You were… You said…

You left us a legacy…

A wondrous lifetime account.


Volunteering at your bedside was a privilege indeed,

Your radiant character inspiring,

Days and nights, how you hoped and believed,

I was awed by your faith, never tiring.


You lay in your bed, wounded and aching,

Your body, in agony and pain

Yet you did all to give a good feeling, a sweet,

Thanking us again and again.


As the sand in your hourglass neared to its end,

You knew how to utilize your time.

To inquire about our new job, a shidduch to suggest,

As if you were feeling in your prime.


Your modesty was rare, O, what a loss!

You were a sacrifice, for the rest to atone.

They surely rejoiced up Above when you came,

But, Leah, we were left here, alone!


We’ve lost mother and daughter, sister and wife,

Our finest, alas, has moved on!

Our heads are bowed, we weep on end,

The “thorns” need their “rose,” but she’s gone…


I know that the prayers and the tears that were shed

Carved into our hearts their impression

They built and transformed, worked wonders indeed,

With their painful, yet penetrating lesson.


For, we, too, want to be pure as were you,

To rise above matter, beyond “why”

And, like Leah, to amass innumerable merits,

To lead a life of truth, to try.


The final lines, the music fades,

The tears are reluctantly dried.

I’ve written and shared, yet my words cannot paint

Your greatness – I’m just not qualified


No, I just couldn’t capture your towering image,

Not your life, nor the secret of who you are.

All we can do is to learn and to yearn

To be like you, though we are so far.


See, Leah, the fruits of your labor,

The light that you kindled still glows

It continues to shine and illuminate

The Kiddush Hashem yet grows.


The paths that you blazed, rare in their beauty

Many more will yet tread them again,

For this path is not far, it’s within our reach

Yisgadal v’yiskadash shmei rabbah,” Amen.




Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion with its Founder, Chananya Chollak Part 2 of a Three Part Series

Rav Chollak - child brocha
Rav Chollak bringing small patient to be blessed by Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau

Rav Chananya Chollak chuckles when he recalls the modest beginnings of Ezer Mizion in 1979 during his shana rishona (first year of marriage).

“Everything was done out of our little apartment. The “receptionist” sat in the kitchen or the children’s bedroom. I sat in a cubicle of sorts at the entrance, and in the half-room sat the people waiting for consultations. Volunteers came to us to work on meals for distribution and they organized themselves in the bedrooms. The medical equipment that we gave out was stored in our home, although how it fit, I cannot imagine. The house was wide open to everyone – people in need, volunteers –  all the time.

“Three years later, we felt that the apartment had become too small to accommodate the needs of Ezer Mizion and that the time had come to expand the work of the organization in an orderly manner. We moved to a larger apartment but the organization quickly outgrew that, too. A philanthropist helped us buy the apartment next door. Later on, we rented a few more such places around the city and Ezer Mizion continued providing services for its existing departments and developing further, without a stop. We’ve come a long way, baruch Hashem ((thank G-d).”

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Hot meals being delivered to family members sitting 24/7 at bedside of patient.

 At the start, meals were delivered by the Chollaks and their friends to a handful of families. Today, hundreds of meals are delivered each day to family members spending their days at the bedside of a loved one in the hospital. Meals are also provided to afternoon programs for special children, and to families whose exhaustive attention to a patient does not allow them to cook for the rest of the family.

Today, Ezer Mizion works from a countrywide deployment of 57 branches. In addition to the original departments, Ezer Mizion now includes the loan of medical equipment, a hydrotherapy pool, a center for medical counseling and referrals, a division for social services, day nurseries for special needs children, a child development division, assistance for families dealing with mental health challenges, programs for the elderly and more. The organization has a network of over 25,000 volunteers throughout the country. The Bone Marrow Registry, the largest Jewish registry in the world, has close to a million registrants and has facilitated 2700 life-saving transplanted around the globe.

Twelve and Four Equal Sixteen

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Ezer Mizion has grown from the tiny Chollak apartment

Not only are Rav Chananya Chollak’s  work hours, which include nights, Shabbos, Yom Tov, geared to chessed but even his personal life He is the father of 16 children, four of them adopted.

“I met them in the course of my work at Ezer Mizion. There was a family of immigrants from Iran. Adjusting to a new country can be hard enough. This family found themselves to be living in a nightmare when the mother was stricken with cancer. There were four little children. I came for a home visit and saw the terrible poverty in which they lived. The refrigerator was totally empty. We brought volunteers to help with the child care and delivered daily hot meals for the family that had been living on almost nothing. We provided medical advice and referrals regarding the mother’s treatment. But, sad to say, two years later, she passed away. Things could not get worse, or so we thought until   half year afterwards when the father also died of a brain tumor. The four orphans remained all alone.”

“After the shivah, the oldest daughter, who was then 13 years old, came to me,” he says, and in spite of the many years that have elapsed since, his voice trembles with emotion. “She cried when she told me that they were informed that the plan was to split them up among different institutions. Suddenly, she looked me in the eye and asked, “Maybe you could adopt us…?”

“Let me ask you, can anyone  ignore such a plea?”

“I spoke with my wife and said to her: ‘It is entirely your decision.’ My wife, Leah A’H, the tzaddeket (righteous woman), agreed to take them,” he said with visible admiration.”

Rav Chollak relates very naturally to the four orphans and explains that they are his children in every respect. “They were little orphans who had simultaneously lost father and mother. True, the beginning was not easy as you can well imagine. But our natural children received them with a lot of love and they became an inseparable part of the family. Today the four are already married and we have grandchildren from them,” he says proudly. (To be continued.)



Because of You!

website bmr update template



February 2018Bone Marrow Donor Registry

25 lifesaving transplants
18 from personalized donor pools
2,742 total transplants
892,428 members in the registry

bmr 2 18
Bone marrow transplant in process


Below are the donor pools that saved lives this month, and their total transplants. Continue reading Because of You!


Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion with its Founder, Chananya Chollak – A Three Part Series

pr gen R' Chollak IMG_9149A full night’s sleep is a rare luxury for Rav Chananya Chollak, founder of Ezer Mizion. Those that need him are told that they can call anytime and they do.  It is not unusual for his phone to ring at 3:00 A.M. Rav Chollak hears a panicky voice of a son, whose father is terminally ill and on oxygen. “The tank is almost empty! What should I do?!” Rav Chollak’s soothing, caring voice calms the son. Another tank arrives almost immediately. Rav Chollak does not return to his bed until he is certain that it has come, is set up and the father is doing well.   His phone remains at his bedside, ready for the next opportunity to help another Jew. Continue reading Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion with its Founder, Chananya Chollak – A Three Part Series



helping hand in darkDid you ever feel so overwhelmed that it was impossible to take one step forward on your own? Most families do not experience such trauma in their lives but some do.  They’re people just like us – the man who sits in the next row in your shul, the woman you were conversing with on that long supermarket line – regular people until suddenly their world caves in and nothing is the same. It is then that, without someone to hold their hand, they and their family will collapse from the unbearable anguish. Continue reading Traumatized!


The Boeing Corporation Saves Lives

David Ivry

Can one even begin to imagine the helplessness of being in a plane thousands of feet in the air when the plane is no longer responding to the control mechanisms? You  – a tiny speck in the vast sky –  and the hitherto dependable controls now no more than bits of disconnected metal and plastic… alone… exposed…powerless. David Ivry, former Israel Ambassador to the United States, the ninth commander of the Israel Air Force and the first director of the Israel’s National Security Council was a man used to being in control. Yet, he tells of his experience in the scenario described above. “It seemed to be all over. Then I remembered I had one chance: the ejection seat. I used it and I was saved.” Continue reading The Boeing Corporation Saves Lives


The Ezer Mizion Family


pr inv ty 2 pr inv ty 1It seems like it was just yesterday that we were זוכה to make both Meir’s בר מצוה and Tamar’s בת מצוה together with עזר מציון. Those two nights stand out in our minds as the most special and inspiring moments in our lives. The exciting, enthusiasm and pure joy of the saintly נשמות of the children of the Beit Chana Activity Club and B’Lev Sameach camps remains tangible and real to me. Tears swell up in my eyes every time I flip through the photo albums and recall the energy and love that I felt on those magical evenings. Those events were true שמחות and a קידוש השם, as we celebrated the milestone with the עזר מציון family.   Continue reading The Ezer Mizion Family


A Holocaust Survivor Reaches Out to Others

holocaust - yellow star
Healing the wounds of holocaust survivors

As one who went through the nightmare, Tziporah Abramowitz (77) is more capable than anyone else to connect to the depths of the souls of the holocaust survivors in order to help them with the emotional challenge of coping daily with the horrible memories, which do not leave them alone for a moment. She has become a beloved volunteer at Ezer Mizion’s social club for holocaust survivors. Her encouragement, her compliments, her ability to engage the members and her weekly presentation on the Parsha (Torah portion of the week) all serve to bring that elusive smile to the faces of these elderly victims of a horror that defies description.

Tziporah was one of those saved by Raoel Wallenburg. She was hidden, together with hundreds of children, in the cellar of one of the many buildings rented by Mr. Wallenburg. In the 17th century there had been a terrible fire in London that killed many. When the “Pest’ section of Budapest was built, it was required that from every building, there would be a way to escape to another building. Continue reading A Holocaust Survivor Reaches Out to Others


Because of You!

website bmr update template



bmr 1 18 b

bmr 1 18
Bone marrow transplant taking place

26 lifesaving transplants
19 from personalized donor pools
2,717 total transplants
890,925 members in registry

Below are the donor pools that saved lives this month, and their total transplants. Continue reading Because of You!