A Lego Maniac Mitzvah Project By Michele Justic Taken with permission from Five Towns Jewish Times

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Rx: Lego

It all began with a video. I don’t believe too many positive stories begin this way, but I’m proud to say this one does. This was an Ezer Mizion video of IDF Major Maor Cohen’s special mission for nine years: to help children with cancer escape into the world of Lego. His message spoke to me immediately. In the video, one mother explains “Cancer broke my family apart and Lego rebuilt it anew.”

My son always made a beeline to the Lego area at Mommy and Me each week. For his second birthday, I decided to buy him a big builders’ box of Lego. He got croup shortly before his birthday so I decided to give him the present a little early. I remember the miraculous sound of clicking and clacking and the total absence of the scary cough he had beforehand. While STEM educational models point to the mathematical and engineering benefits of Lego, I had forgotten the mindfulness aspect of it until seeing this video.

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A Bar Mitzvah boy learns hands on what it means to give

I contacted Ezer Mizion to see how we could be a part of it for Michael’s bar mitzvah project. Hadassah Somosi, an incredibly warm, caring, devoted, and capable director of Resource Development at Ezer Mizion, connected all the dots for me and we had our date set and plans in place of which Lego sets to bring for our Israel trip.

Can there be a more appropriate location for Ezer Mizion’s Oranit cancer patient guest home and center for its cancer support services than Petach Tikvah—defined as “opening of hope?” Built in 1996, with the generous assistance of the Bracha & Motti Zisser Foundation and the Rosinger Family, Oranit is located amidst three major hospitals that treat pediatric cancer and provides them with an oasis while enduring difficult treatments. The Andrew and Margaret Rosinger Residential Wing provides housing for children and families for short-term stays as well as endless options for recreation at the Donald Berman Rehabilitation Center—the Rinat Bakshi Wildlife Pavilion, the cleanest petting zoo around, arts-and-crafts including a full ceramics studio, music therapy including a recording studio, a movie theater, snacks, slushies and meals, indoor and outdoor spotlessly clean Malka Lazarus playgrounds, and, of course, what drew us there: the Lego room. As Hadassah explained on our tour, “We want to make them happy in the hope it will help make them well.

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The Justic family urges all of you to join Ezer Mizion in its very special work

Thanks to import taxes, in Israel Lego can cost triple the price as in the United States, so many children do not have any Lego sets. At Ezer Mizion – Oranit, they have weekly Lego workshops and their projects are stored while under construction and displayed once completed. Families usually do the projects and escape into this alternate world together, letting the cancer suffering vanish for a precious hour or two. Maor writes about his personal connection to family illness: “Ever since I was five, my father, may he live and be well, has been a heart patient. I never had the security of knowing that just because I saw my father at breakfast would he be there at supper … Through the years, Abba got better and then was sick again, and that cycle kept repeating itself. As a family, we learned to live with this reality.”

DONATE-TODAY-BUTTON-3As my family took it all in, Hadassah had more special plans for us. As some of the children actually walked in to join the Lego workshop, Michael had the rare opportunity to give a set to a few children in person. They exchanged hugs and warm words. The only dry eyes in the house were on the Lego figures.

I can’t daven (pray) now without thinking of these special families and hoping for a refuah sheleimah (complete recovery) for everyone. I hope to continue supporting Ezer Mizion and I encourage our readers to do the same.

Contact hadsom@ezermizion.org to coordinate a bar or bat mitzvah project with Ezer Mizion.

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Cancer Support with a Vro-o-o-m

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Cancer support with a vro-o-o-om

Cancer is frightening. It’s a nightmare that even Mommy’s hug can’t make go away. The child, and often his siblings, are often paralyzed with fear.   A relaxed, happy frame of mind, so vital to the battle he must wage, seems so far, far away.   Even an itty bitty smile becomes a distant stranger to the tiny face that mirrors only terror and pain.

Ezer Mizion cannot cure the cancer but we will move heaven and earth to create a giggle. Professional staff and volunteers spend hours creating programs that bring happiness to the cancer patient and his whole family, to lighten their burden both practically and emotionally. Ideas abound. Birthday parties, trips, story hour, music clubs, lego sessions, even a petting zoo. And recently balloons. Continue reading Cancer Support with a Vro-o-o-m

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Keep Running

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Joy and chemo working in tandem in the battle for life

“His face lit up” – a phrase so often found in stories of someone who received something he never expected. What does it mean? How does a face light up? Surely it is the spirit inside him that is generating the electricity.

If that is the case, then joy would be the prescription to raise the spirits of those demoralized by serious illness. Rx: fun. Happiness and chemo working in tandem. Body and spirit together engaged in the battle for life.

Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division incorporates this truism into its Battle Plan with fun days for mothers, trips for kids, birthday parties, make-a-wish outings and so much more.

Harel was a case-in-point. Close to his father, the two enjoyed doing things together. One of his father’s favorites was running. Feeling the wind, the rush of adrenalin, the flush of reaching the finish line. Pure joy. And sharing it together was the icing on the cake.

The Annual Petach Tikva Run was scheduled.  His father was one of the first sign up. But this time, there’d be no young son beside him, sharing the elation. Harel longed to be there. Oh, how he longed to be there. But a monster had taken over his life in the form of an illness, curable only with a bone marrow transplant.  The transplant had taken place recently and Harel was beginning to mend. But running? Out of the question!

Out of the question but feelings don’t ask questions. They just feel. And Harel was feeling miserable. An emotion not very conducive to strengthening his body.

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We’re cheering you on! Keep running!

Enter Yumi, one of the most beloved members of the Cancer Support team. Yumi never sees ‘no’. He just sees ‘how’. How can it be made possible for Harel to join the race together with his father? Nothing is simple when it comes to a transplant. But Yumi is used to that. He met with Harel’s father. Tossed out possible plans. Brought the plans to a meeting with physicians. Changed, refined, re-did. Met with the race organizers. Back to the physicians. And soon. There it was. A real plan. One that he hoped would work.

The day arrived and there is Yumi. As excited as Harel and his father. Video camera on hand, recording every moment. Cheering, cheering, cheering!  The lanes are filled with runners. And there is Harel’s father also running, pushing a wheelchair in front of him. Grinning behind his face mask sits Harel absorbing the excitement in the air. They’re almost there. The finish line is in sight. They stop and Harel exits the wheelchair, stands behind it and begins to push. The wheelchair supports him. His father’s   shouts support him. And Yumi’s continued cheering supports him. There he is crossing the finish line with the rest of them.  Way to go, Harel!

Keep running, young man. Keep running until you reach the finish line, until you reach perfect health and can do all the things you long to do. We’re all behind you, cheering you on, Harel.   Keep running!

https://www.facebook.com/EzerM/videos/2252697554810334/

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Rx: Fun on Mt. Hermon

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Strengthening the spirit as it partners with the body to win the battle against cancer

It’s hard to smile when you hurt. It’s hard to smile when you’re scared. It’s hard to smile when a monster named Cancer has taken over your life and nothing is the same as it used to be.

My friends are in school, all together, following a normal routine…feeling safe. And me, I’m lying on a hospital bed tense – scared that a lady in a white coat will come in again to do a painful IV and scared, very scared, about something that I cannot even say, can’t even let myself to think about. Continue reading Rx: Fun on Mt. Hermon

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Rx: Smiles

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Raising the spirits to partner with the body in curing cancer

No adoring Grandma and Grandpa took a turn to snip off a bit of his sweet, little curls. There was no hair to sweep up from the floor. No peyos (sidelocks) adorned his little face. But there was a yarmulke and tzitzis and there was joy. The family celebrated his upsherin (celebration of first haircut) , his first milestone, with joy, with hope and with prayer that there would be many more milestones to celebrate in the future. Continue reading Rx: Smiles

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What Does it Mean?

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Gravesite of Rav Meir Baal HaNes

DIVISION OF CANCER SUPPORT. What does it mean? What does it mean to support a victim of cancer? Some answers are obvious. Helping out with the kids, providing meals, transportation, offering therapy to patient and members of the family that are finding it difficult to cope – all these will certainly be included. And then there’s the not so obvious. Continue reading What Does it Mean?

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A Soul Comes Home

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Cancer Support at Ezer Mizion

He was ten years old. Every child knows that after ten comes eleven. It is as certain as night following day.  For a small number of children, though, it may not be. These children, too mature to have the devastating information hidden from them, yet oh so young, oh so pure …these holy souls … have risen to levels unimaginable to their peers.

The cancer had almost paralyzed him. His breathing was weak and oxygen was necessary to keep him alive. He lay there, more soul than body. But what a soul! This young child, whose thoughts should be on collecting stamps and his latest chol hamoed trip, had one wish: to daven (pray) at the kotel in order to  come closer to the Creator of the world, perhaps for his last time as a human being of flesh and blood. Continue reading A Soul Comes Home

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The Bas Mitzvah that Almost Wasn’t

pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 9pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 1What happens when the pillar holding up the structure begins to wobble? And the walls that had lost their prop fall to the floor? The building that had appeared to be solid now topples, breaking into smithereens.

pr l2l bat mitzvah Oct 18 2pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 3The Berger* family was such a structure. Mr. Berger was the strong parent whom everyone leaned upon. His wife was his helpmate, relying on him to make decisions, small and large. Emotionally, she was not capable of playing the leader and that was just fine as long as the status quo remained. But then cancer entered the family structure and Mr. Berger was no longer able to offer his strength. His condition was grave and, without the pillar that she depended on all of her married life, his wife could no longer lead the family.

pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 8pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 10A sick husband, a traumatized wife, bewildered children were left to each fend for himself with no support at a time when it was so desperately needed. But not for long. Ezer Mizion was notified of the situation and they took charge. Various departments were brought onto the scene to provide for both practical and emotional needs. Rides to the hospital, hot meals, someone to do homework with the kids, someone to hold the house together, fun days for the kids, retreats for the whole family to raise their spirits, professional therapy for each member of the family and so much more.

pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 5pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 4Ezer Mizion became the new temporary pillar with its staff of caring people whose only goal was to ease the plight of a Jewish family in trouble. Heavily involved in the details of their life, it was only natural that they soon heard about Malky* who was soon to be twelve. No Bas Mitzvah plans were in the offing. Who had emotional energy to even think of such things? But Ezer Mizion staff did. They pictured the smiles. They pictured the family togetherness. Both so rare these days. And they got to work.

pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 6pr L2L Bat Mitzvah Oct 18 7With so many joining in with their specialties, the result was fantastic. It is not likely that any girl ever had a Bas Mitzvah as nice as Malky*’s.

Ezer Mizion cannot cure the patient but, with the help of all of you, our supporters around the world, we can be there for them when it hurts.

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AMIA Leadership Mission Visits Ezer Mizion

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Argentina delegation tours Ezer Mizion with Dr. Bracha Zisser

Dr. Agustin Yigdal Zbar, president of AMIA, the association of Jewish communal services in Argentina, together with Mr. Diego Emilio Salem, Deputy President of Argentina’s Jewish School Federations, recently visited Israel.  The purpose of their visit was to rally Israeli government funding for a teachers’ training project in the Jewish communities in Argentina and for development of a new Health Services Division, to be housed in the AMIA Jewish Community building in Buenos Aires. Continue reading AMIA Leadership Mission Visits Ezer Mizion

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