A conversation with Rabbi Chananya Chollak, International Chairman of Ezer Mizion
For the Yamim Nora’im, Ezer Mizion has set out on a major fundraising drive to raise the money needed to finance scanning tens of thousands of stem cell samples, so as to expand its International Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Rabbi Chananya Chollak, the organization’s International Chairman, took the time to speak with us personally about the need for public support to fund lifesaving activities, to tell us about Ezer Mizion’s goals, and to convey a message to the public. Continue reading We Need You Now!
Cancer is devastating. For the patient and for the whole family. A typical scenario involves a young mother. Her husband is traumatized. His world has collapsed. He is too young to even fathom the possibility of death. His wife is – was – vibrant, full of life. He can’t even utter the D- word. And amid the horror of grappling with what cannot – please, G-d, please – will not happen, he also has to cope with homework, laundry, the full gamut of running a home.
And the kids? They are utterly confused, terrified to leave their home each day. Some will sleep in the hallway outside Mommy’s door somehow feeling that their presence will ensure Mommy’s being there in the morning. Others are afraid to step outside on the ground for fear of stepping on someone who has died. Guilt, anger, terror, dread, confusion all entangled inside a vulnerable, bewildered child. Continue reading Staff Guidance
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!
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.
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
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. Continue reading Cancer Support: Being on the Giving End
Maor Cohen is a highly sensitive man who is known at Ezer Mizion as Mr. Lego. He raises the spirits of both children and adults battling life-threatening diseases with his Lego Workshop in addition to his hospital visits to those who cannot attend the workshop. Many have asked how he manages to create deep relationships that are too often broken when his ‘lego-friends’ leave this world. Share his thoughts below. Continue reading When Cancer Necessitates Saying Goodbye
Life goes on. Minor ups. Minor downs. Only the expected appears on the horizon. Day after day. Year after year. Until suddenly a violent gust swoops down and grabs you like a ferocious tornado. It picks you up from your familiar life and hurls you into a world of terror, of helplessness, of bewilderment. You feel like a tiny child, lost in a busy department store with no mommy to hold your hand.
In recent years, Ezer Mizion has tried to be that ‘mommy’, providing the emotional, psychological and practical support for those that have suddenly been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Both they and their families find themselves in a maelstrom of fears with no coping mechanism in place. A center to turn to for support was sorely needed. Thus was born Ezer Mizion’s Division for Support of Cancer Patients and their Families. Countless letters are received from grateful families using the words: We never could have made it through without Ezer Mizion.
Encouragement from one who has ‘been there’ is extremely strengthening and that is why Pascale Berkowitz was invited to speak at Ezer Mizion’s Division for Cancer Support. Pascale had lost both of her legs in a horrifying train accident when she was sixteen years old. From one day to the next she went from being a bouncy teen, ready to conquer the world to being unable to fend for herself in basic ADL’s. In front of her were two roads – allowing herself to fall into the abyss of self-pity or moving forward from her new reality. With her i-can-do-it personality, Ms. Berkowitz chose the high road. Continue reading Devastated by Cancer…and Alone?