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.)



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


A Bone Marrow Transplant: the Donating Process

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Cheek Swab Testing

Joining a Bone Marrow Registry

A potential donor’s initial contact with Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry begins with a cheek swab sample. This will enable the registry to make a preliminary determination regarding the compatibility between the donor and a patient in need of a bone marrow transplant. His genetic information will remain on the database for decades, available for any patient whose DNA matches his. Some potential donors are contacted for further testing within a year of registration, others not for 10-20 years or not at all.

Once it had been determined that a donor is a possible genetic match, things move quickly. When a patient is in need of a bone marrow transplant, time is of essence. Further testing must be done and it cannot wait. Should the patient’s condition deteriorate, the transplant, his last chance to survive, may no longer be medically feasible.

Often, if a great deal of time has elapsed since registration, the contact info is no longer valid. The internet is then surfed until the donor is located. No effort is too much when a human life is involved.

The donor is then asked if he would like to donate. The procedure is entirely voluntary and the donor has the right to refuse at the outset or at any time. No persuasion is used leaving the decision completely up to the potential donor.

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Stem Cells

In most cases, it is a stem cell transplant rather than a bone marrow transplant that takes place. This is a much simpler procedure which results in a higher percentage of potential donors agreeing to go ahead.

What do we mean by genetic match?

Human leukocyte antigens (HLA) are proteins that are present in most body cells. These antigens help identify tissue types. The immune system utilizes HLA antigens in order to identify the cells that belong in your body and the cells that do not belong in your body. If the immune system detects cells that do not belong on your body, it will reject them, thus resulting in a failed transplant.

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Blood Samples Being Tested

HLA proteins are important in determining the compatibility of donors and patients for a stem cell transplant. In order to match tissue types for a transplant, the compatibility of ten of the donor and patient antigens are checked (generally, A, DR, C, B, and DQ).

Usually, a compatibility of at least 8 out of 10 antigens is necessary in order to approve a donor for a transplant.

In addition to the basic testing, Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry is committed to supporting research to enhance results of transplants and the donor may be asked to participate in this research as part of the donation process. The decision whether to participate in the research is up to the donor.


Three weeks to several months may elapse until the patient’s attending doctor will come to a decision. The Registry staff will call the donor to inform him of the results of the compatibility confirmatory testing.

The donor may be asked to donate immediately or to wait until the patient is ready. Each case is different; the timing of the donation will be based upon what is best for the donor and for the patient. After a date has been set, the preparatory stage will continue.

At the preparatory stage before the donation, the donor will speak with the Registry staff in order to learn about the process and the risks and side effects involved in giving a donation. If he chooses to donate, he will undergo blood tests and a physical examination by a physician. A detailed questionnaire is also required in addition to a signed consent form.


Increasing Stem Cells in the Donor

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Donating Stem Cells

On the day of the transplant, blood is taken from the donor, much the same as if he were donating blood. The stem cells are harvested from the whole blood and the remainder returned to the donor through the second arm. The process is repeated for several hours until the required amount of stem cells (depending on the size of the patient) is obtained.  So that a large amount of stem cells be available, the donor receives neupogen injections several days before the transplant to stimulate the release of stem cells from the bone marrow into the blood stream.


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Life-saving bag of stem cells

The Transplant

When the required amount has been accumulated, the stem cells are then infused into the body of the patient through a central line, a painless procedure. Within 2 days to several weeks, the new cells will begin to produce red cells, white cells and platelets in place of the defective ones, thus producing a cure for many life-threatening diseases.

Bone Marrow Registry Anonymity

By international law, a registry must maintain confidentiality and strict non-disclosure of donor and patient information. This policy is for the protection of both the donor and the patient.

In order to maintain confidentiality of information, donors and patients receive an identification number. These ID numbers enable doctors to share important medical information without using names or addresses. This high level of privacy is maintained throughout the stages of the process.

Patients are informed only of the age and gender of their donor. Donors are told only of the age, gender, and disease of the recipient patient.

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You saved my life!
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You saved my life!

The patient’s identity may be revealed only after at least a year has elapsed from the date of donation and the patient has expressed his agreement to disclosure and a meeting. This meeting understandably will be highly emotional with the patient and his family trying to express the unexpressable: You saved my life!





Why Is this Tournament Different from All Other Tournaments?

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May you be a winner in the battle against cancer – the greatest tournament of all!

They won!

Each year, like many organizations, Ezer Mizion holds a golf tournament with proceeds to benefit its major programs. Ezer Mizion’s Eighth Annual Hole In One Tournament took place on November 20 at the Caesaria Golf Course in Israel to benefit its International Bone Marrow Registry which has, thus far, saved the lives of over 2500 patients around the world.

But this year was different! Continue reading Why Is this Tournament Different from All Other Tournaments?


A Journey We Didn’t Plan Part 3 of a 4-part Series taken from the diary of Nechama Spielman

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Diary of the wife of a cancer patient as she journeys through the nightmare that has overtaken her life

Recap: Nechama has been dealing with her husband’s cancer

Hodu La’Shem (thank G-d). The radiation treatments have helped a lot. The tumor has shrunk which qualifies us for surgery. The remarkable precision of the timing gives us a special feeling. We are slated to go in for surgery right after Rosh Hashanah and to come home for Sukkot. Continue reading A Journey We Didn’t Plan Part 3 of a 4-part Series taken from the diary of Nechama Spielman


Because of You!

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September 2017 –  ACTIVITY SUMMARY
37 lifesaving transplants – our record for one month!
22 from personalized donor pools
2,606 total transplants
872,375 members in registry

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


Linked to Life: One Week

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Giving away adds, not subtracts

It’s interesting. When I was in second grade, my math teacher told me that if we take away, the total amount is less. When I grew up, I found it wasn’t true. If giving my time, my energy, my expertise made me have less in the end, then why would I and 9,000 of my fellow Linked to Life members race to click on any request that comes in and do our best to respond whenever possible? Second grade math teachers notwithstanding, giving away plusses so much more to our lives. Continue reading Linked to Life: One Week


A Plea from a Staff Member

Dear very wonderful people,

My everyday reality takes me through Ezer Mizion’s various departments and branches. There, I encounter a large number of sick people ­– people with physical maladies, mental illness, mobility impairments, and mental disabilities. Many days, I come home and cry over everything I’ve seen over the course of the day – the unending struggle that these patients and their family face! Their fear and anxiety over the future! The pressure of having to function in the midst of this volcanic eruption…

For many of them, illness knocks at the door as a totally unexpected surprise, interrupting rosy dreams and a marvelous life routine. For others, illness is a long, drawn-out agony, what people call “an unending chain of troubles.” For all of them, it hurts, causes an upheaval, and is very, very difficult! Yet, in the midst of all this suffering, there are wonderful individuals among us, who have joined as one, warm, embracing family (Ezer Mizion) to envelop these people with love, functional assistance, and physical and emotional support, a family that thinks, all the time, how to make it easier for people to better deal with their health challenges.

Our greatest joy as a family is to see those people who emerge from the circle of pain and come join us as partners on the giving end. Thank G-d, there are many of them!

Our greatest difficulty is to say a final “good-bye!!” Unfortunately, several times each month, we must part with dear people, whom we loved very much.

I cry a lot especially when I meet sick mothers, perhaps because my mother got sick and left me when I was just 12 years old, and I deeply miss her.

And perhaps because I myself am a mother to wonderful children, and every pain that veers from the standard really stresses me out…

I have taken upon myself to help recruit the funding for 100 bone marrow samples, on behalf of those mothers for whom life has become a “stop watch,” ticking away ominously, mothers who are fiercely battling to remain alive…

I’m sure that you’ll help me and donate at least NIS 180 through my page!

Together, we’ll bring in a lot more!!

You can push REPLY to respond, and Ezer Mizion will get back to you to arrange the donation.

With appreciation in advance for your coming forward to help,

Rochie  Meth – Schechter


Because of You My Children Have an Abba (Father)

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Success of a bone marrow transplant hinges on genetic matching

Isn’t every child supposed to have both an Abba and an Ima (father and mother)? Two year old Naomi and her baby brother almost didn’t. Now their mother stood there in tears of joy when she met Aryeh. “Because of you, my children have an Abba,” she cried over and over again.

Who is Aryeh? We’ll let Abba tell that story. Continue reading Because of You My Children Have an Abba (Father)


She Opened Up My Heart

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A Special Marriage

The gentle, loving glance of a freshly-minted chasan (groom) to his kallah (bride) as they sit on their new couch together, sharing their innermost thoughts. A special moment made even more special by the newlyweds themselves – two young people born with Downs Syndrome.

Marriage? Impossible, the naysayers had said. How will she…? How can he…?

But with the right kind of assistance, it became possible and many have found the ultimate in fulfillment with several organizations in Israel holding their hand. Continue reading She Opened Up My Heart