Special Children/Special Parents

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Jeeping at Ezer Mizion’s summer Camp for Special Children

Some special needs children have very special parents indeed! Ayelet Sanens is a person of many facets. She is a pre-school teacher by profession who devotes hours to preparing the presentation of a concept to her tiny charges. She fully understands the educational benefit of breaking down ideas based on her vast experience with her special needs daughter, Tamar. Of an outgoing personality and a sense of responsibility, she is an active member of the community, initiating and supporting worthwhile communal functions. In addition, she tries to publicize, wherever she goes, the need to recycle household items to protect the environment. Often heard from Ayelet by her friends: ‘Don’t buy it unless you need it and, once you do buy it, recycle it when your family no longer has any use for it.’

 

It’s not often that all of these facets come together as they did in the recent Ashdod Environmental Preservation and Recycling Fair.

Aware of the many special needs children who can benefit from Ezer Mizion’s special summer program in Ashdod, she brainstormed and came up with an ‘out of the box’ idea of promoting her opinions on recycling to raise funds for these kids. Thus was born Ashdod’s amazing Environmental Preservation and Recycling Fair!

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Ahdod Recycling Fair to Benefit Ezer Mizion’s summer Camp for Special Children

Items on display included toys, cosmetic products, costume jewelry, clothing, household items, and more, all tastefully and attractively arranged in booths.

The event brought the Ashdod residents closer together as they rallied to provide a much-needed communal program.  In attendance at this charming event, in addition to the local residents, were the Education Department supervisor and other local municipal staff representatives.

The creative event was enjoyed by all, and the proceeds will be put to good use: helping to finance Ezer Mizion’s summer repertoire for Ashdod’s children with special needs. These children have been benefiting enormously from Ezer Mizion’s newly expanded program serving children with special needs in the local area and the surrounding region, under the able direction of Mrs. Estie Koenig.

Ezer Mizion has long been in the forefront of providing services for special needs children throughout the country. Ezer Mizion’s Beit Chana Activity Clubs provide supervision and constructive activity in four major cities in Israel for children with special needs after school hours, weekends and holidays.

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Special Needs Kids Visiting the Kosel and Pouring Out their Heart in a Very Special Way

Ezer Mizion’s training courses provide Developmental Aides with the fundamental concepts and techniques of speech, occupational and physical therapy, enabling them to provide this therapy under the direction of professionals. .Because early intervention is crucial for children with developmental difficulties, Ezer Mizion offers subsidized physical, occupational and speech therapy to children from birth through age eight. Through Ezer Mizion’s unique Developmental Aide program families are offered these therapy sessions at a minimal cost.

Ezer Mizion’s network of special needs summer camps has grown to include camps to service thousands of children with physical handicaps, brain damage, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, blindness, deafness and emotional disorders. For these youngsters, Ezer Mizion’s summer camps are the highlight of the entire year.

Fifteen thousand hostings by respite programs and twenty day care centers for children are more of  the many ways Ezer Mizion attempts to increase the child’s chances of reaching his full potential and to alleviate the plight of families dealing with special needs.

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CFC: Giving at the Workplace for Federal Employees

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CFC #11583

Since 2007 Ezer Mizion has been chosen as a participant in the U.S. government program’s Combined Federal Campaign that offers federal employees the opportunity of making contributions to non-profit organizations by payroll deductions. Continue reading CFC: Giving at the Workplace for Federal Employees

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Bein Hazemanim Break: Perfect Opportunity to Build Character

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Special Children – Special Opportunities

In a quiet moshav, an enigmatic natural phenomenon is going on. Unfathomable chessed is being done by youths who have chosen to enable parents and families of special-needs children to vacation.

Bein Hazemanim (vacation). Families are on the road from here to there. Yeshivas are traveling to summer camp. And those who aren’t — go out on day trips, looking for a change of atmosphere, at the seaside or on trails throughout our beautiful Land of Israel, to gather strength for the year to come. Continue reading Bein Hazemanim Break: Perfect Opportunity to Build Character

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The “X” Days

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Helpless to cope
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Helpless to cope

It’s heartbreaking. Every mother jokes about the first day of school being the beginning of her vacation.  Our kids, as much as we love them, are a handful and many a mother will be drained, trying to keep up with their needs during the relatively unstructured summer months.

But then there are the others. The parents who truly cannot handle even one hour without the unbearable tension that accompanies life with a special child. As chaotic as a period of unstructured days may be, the parent of an average child cannot imagine marking her calendar with x’s on the days that he will be home.  One father of a special child did just that upon the realization and dread of the block of unstructured days coming up. Unfortunately, he is one of many. Continue reading The “X” Days

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Nightmare: the Common Denominator

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Giving bits and pieces of childhood back to kids that have lost theirs

It’s 1:30 on a long summer Friday afternoon. There are twelve vehicles parked in the parking lot of Park Enav in Modi’in.  The doors open and fifty-eight (!) children burst out of the cars ready for an afternoon of fun. Who are they?

Each one has a different story but the common denominator is that each one is living through a nightmare that no child should ever know. One has lost a parent to cancer, another is battling cancer himself and a third came home one day to find that his mother had gone on a simple shopping trip never to come home again due to a terror attack. Continue reading Nightmare: the Common Denominator

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Caring for the Caretaker

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Lottie Chalom ob’m

Many years ago there had been a place called Lottie’s kitchen. It was a small kitchen in a home teeming with chessed. Lottie, a culinary expert, produced trays and trays of goodies which were largely consumed by her many friends. They would gravitate to this island of warmth and compassion to discuss their personal woes with a woman who seemed to have never-ending patience.

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Volunteering at Lottie’s Kitchen

Lottie and her husband and partner in chessed, Chaim, have since passed on. Their four daughters deemed it appropriate to found Lottie’s Kitchen in Israel under the auspices of Ezer Mizion. It is there that nutritious, attractive meals are produced, packed and delivered to family members sitting at the bedside of a hospitalized loved one. Women of all ages volunteer– from teens to the sprightly 85-year-old golden-ager who makes her way to Lottie’s Kitchen with a walker. She had been a chef in her younger years. Her day at Lottie’s Kitchen enables her to make use of her skills and offer advice to the younger set.  For the elderly, it is a two-way chessed as it enables them to have structure to their day and meet with similarly minded women as they work.

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Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers delivering meals to family members at bedside of hospitalized patient

Israel hospitals do not provide more than basic medical care for its patients.  The nursing staff is unable to take the time for the little extras that can make all the difference to a patient’s spirit. A family member therefore, tries to be there for as much as possible of the 24-hour day. Running from work responsibilities to home responsibilities and then making a mad dash to take over a shift at the hospital does not leave the caretaker much time or emotional space to even think of her own needs. A coke and a bag of chips from the hospital vending machine will often be her only fare for weeks. Distraught, tense, worn out, a mother will sit with her six year old, trying to distract him from the constant question of “Mommy, when will Hashem make the leukemia go away?”

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Caring for the Caretaker

And then, like an angel, there enters a Lottie’s Kitchen volunteer with a steaming hot, delicious meal. She’ll offer her a chance to talk, to share her story, to ask advice. Mommy can’t believe it. Someone is caring for the caretaker!

Orders are filled – some of them very specific. Any meals left over at the end of the day will be given to the dialysis patients who find it so difficult to go back to normal routine just hours after treatment.

Nechama, the head cook, considers herself just a small cog in the wheel of chessed. But those at Lottie’s Kitchen know that it is she that creates the ambience of giving, of loving. More and more.  The Lottie’s Kitchen Family was treated to a trip to pray at the holy places in Israel. Nechama would have loved to join but she realized she would have to cut corners in her cooking. To give ‘her’ people anything less than perfection was unthinkable. So she opted out, citing a quote from the Chofetz Chaim’s book, Ahavas Chessed, that doing chessed is an especially opportune time to pray. ”I won’t lose out at all,” she assured her friends as they boarded the bus.

Lottie’s Kitchen, one of the many divisions of Ezer Mizion, an empire of chessed.

 

 

 

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Vorkanash

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Children’s matching games are fun but genetic matching can save a life!

She played matching games when she was a child. True, she wanted very much to win but losing wasn’t the end of the world. Now she is thirty. And losing this ‘matching game’ would be the end of her world… the end of her life.

She had been experiencing strong back pains for several months. When the pain intensified, she visited her doctor. Tests revealed that she had lymphocytic leukemia. Radiation and chemotherapy were not enough. Due to the aggressive character of the illness, she would have to have a stem cell transplant asap.  Within a few, short weeks! “We are in a race against time,” explained Dr. Itai Levy, head of the Hematology Department in Soroka Hospital.

Her name is Vorkanash. Continue reading Vorkanash

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Yair Wins the Lottery and Saves a Life

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Yair Moznon donating stem cells

Some people buy lottery tickets every week and sit by the phone waiting for Arela to call. I didn’t buy any ticket but I got the call anyway. Or so it seemed. In fact, it was even better. Better than winning the lottery. I got a call saying I was the only one in the world that can save the life of a thirteen-year-old boy with leukemia.  Can you imagine what that felt like? Saving a life. That’s the ultimate in goodness, in honor. And it was awarded to me! Continue reading Yair Wins the Lottery and Saves a Life

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

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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

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

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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.)

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