All parents dream of the day they will accompany their child to the chuppah (bridal canopy) and see him found a family of his own. But for many parents, bringing that dream to fruition can be a nightmare! When the young man or woman has a medical condition that casts a shadow on his or her matrimonial future, the path to the chuppah may be strewn, not with rose petals and confetti, but with tears and frustration.
A few years ago Ezer Mizion decided to take up the challenge of advancing matches with medical issues. Mrs. Leah Reisner, the dedicated matchmaker, has been a major force in bringing about the more than 60 (!) matches that were made during that time. In her humble manner, however, she gives the bulk of the credit to Rabbi Chollak and his medical team.
Confidentiality is of prime importance. Mrs. Reisner tells of the many times that a family member or friend happily informs her that so and so is engaged. She’ll pretend surprise, never revealing that she was the one who had made the match and was involved every tiny step of the way.
“Parents who have accepted their own child’s medical problem are often ignorant about and frightened by the other party’s condition. Some time ago, a boy with epilepsy was introduced to a girl with an external medical problem. The match was proceeding well, until some “kind soul” misinformed the girl’s mother that “epilepsy is a sign of mental illness.” It took a great deal of persuasion until the hysterical mother was willing to meet with a top neurologist at an appointment arranged by Rabbi Chollak, in order to hear a clear, professional explanation of the illness. The couple has since married and is ‘living happily ever after.’
The very first match that came about through Ezer Mizion involved a girl who was born without one hand, but was fitted with a prosthesis and functioned perfectly normally, and a boy who had juvenile diabetes that was under control. The girl’s family was convinced that “juvenile diabetes” was a life threatening condition. Rabbi Chollak brought them to a top professor and was available to them throughout the courtship to reassure them. When the match was almost closed, the boy was late to a date because he wasn’t feeling well, and the girl’s side almost dropped the entire thing. It took a few weeks and much intervention until the match was back on track. Today, the two are truly happy together and have a healthy child.
The matches cross continents and cultures. For example, there was one young man in Israel with apnea (breathing arrest). When he was an infant, Rabbi Shach promised the father that he would walk him to the chuppah, but the father thought he was exaggerating; it did not seem like the child would live to his third birthday! Today, the young man hooks up to a respirator every night, but leads a normal life. A girl from Europe with a genetic problem that could be isolated to ensure normal births seemed to be a good prospect. She flew in to Israel with her father for four days. During that time, the two met several times, while the phone lines between Europe and Israel buzzed non-stop — consultations with parents, with Rabbi Chollak, and with doctors. Before they were back on the plane, there was a Mazel Tov!
The external conditions are the easiest to deal with. When a girl who is missing a few fingers marries a boy with a limp, everyone understands. The situation gets much stickier when the problem on one side is internal and kept a “deep, dark secret,” as in the case of juvenile diabetes, certain hearing disabilities, and a number of genetic conditions. This is where the Ezer Mizion’s trustworthy confidentiality and excellent counseling resources come to play. Often, even people who have been suggested matches by other matchmakers will approach Ezer Mizion for assistance in verifying the true medical facts and to obtain emotional counseling.
Every match, even under normal conditions, is a joyous occasion. But these matches are unique. Without the intense involvement of the Ezer Mizion staff, most of these matches would never have gotten to first base. The families see Mrs. Reisner and the other Ezer Mizion staff members as caring family members. “Often,” says Mrs. Reisner, “I am the first one they inform after the couple calls to say they are engaged. The families expect to see me at the engagement party and again at the wedding, from start to finish. I don’t always make it, but I remain connected to the families long after the couple is married and settled!”
In just a few short years, 70 couples have created new homes. In 2013 alone, 500 people joined the roster of potential matches, 180 couples met and 20 couples tied the knot.