Let them eat cake! That was our mission when Eleanor Chiger and I decided to spend a few hours at Ezer Mizion’s Jerusalem offices a few weeks back.
Joining the volunteers preparing meals at Ezer Mizion’s base in Jerusalem seemed like a sweet way to do some chesed while vacationing and visiting family in Israel. More importantly, it would provide us with an opportunity to get a taste of Ezer Mizion’s activities a few days after the annual benefit golf tournament organized by Simmie Chiger, Eleanor’s son, and by Herman Weiss, his close friend.
Seeing is believing.
We knew about the bone marrow registry and the Ezer Mizion ambulance fleet. We knew that Ezer Mizion is the largest health support organization in Israel.
But we were blown away by the scope of the food operation that takes place in Ezer Mizion’s Lottie’s Kitchen a nondescript building almost hidden away on Beit HaDfus in the Givat Shaul industrial area.
We were part of a packing crew that provides hundreds of meals daily to hospital patient companions. That’s right. Food for family members who have no time or emotional stamina to take care of their personal needs but who need to be working at ‘optimum speed’ to juggle the trauma of a serious illness with other responsibilities.
The hospitals feed the patients and Ezer Mizion helps with the family members who are there on missions of personal bikur cholim. Food is also distributed to disabled, homebound Israelis and families facing serious illness.
I spent many a day in American hospitals when Judy Kaplowitz a”h, my late first wife, was sick. Eleanor did the same thing when Rabbi Jacob Chiger z”l, her late first husband, was undergoing treatment. There were emergency room runs late at night, long chemotherapy sessions and frequent hospitalizations. You could always find a cup of tea and some cake, maybe a bagel or sandwich. But a delicious, attractively prepared hot meal brought to you by a volunteer? Most unlikely.
But in Israel, it’s an everyday occurrence at hospitals due to the efforts of Ezer Mizion and we felt privileged to help make it happen.
Yes, we got a celebrity type welcome. There were signs welcoming Jay Kaplowitz and Eleanor Chiger, and even more important, someone to open the parking garage for us. There was a tour of the facility, a chance to see how ambulances get dispatched to transport patients from one facility to another or from their homes to treatment centers, a chance to chat for a few minutes with the Ezer Mizion leadership team.
But the real celebrities are the people who work for this remarkable institution and the people who volunteer to pack and deliver food six days a week and do countless other things. They come from around the block and from as far away as Beit Shemesh. They dished out the entrees and the side dishes and, for several hours, we provided the proverbial icing on the cake.
Ezer Mizion’s mission is enhancing life. Our mission, if only for an hour or two, was cutting cake. It was a simple way to enhance our lives. It was a chance to spend a few minutes with Sharon Liebman, a volunteer who made Aliyah from West Hempstead, our home town. It was an opportunity to help people we would never meet. And yes, it was oh, so sweet.