She led a full life. Her days were filled with giving to others. Her children, neighbors, friends. Satisfying days. Neither did she neglect herself. Every so often she would recharge with a trip to the spa. A manicure. A facial. A great way to provide energy for herself as a giver. So relaxing. And it felt so good to be looking her best.
It’s all over now. No more giving. No more nurturing. And no more pampering beauty treatments. No more anything. Just tasteless days at the nursing home. One day following the next. Each exactly the same. Continue reading A Little Sliver of Gold
Leah lived in a senior citizens’ home. Morning, noon and night. She knew there was a world ‘out there’ but it had been so long. So long since she had gone anywhere but from her room to the dining room and back again. Her husband lay peacefully in his final resting place and she remained alive, just barely so, disconnected from the one with whom she had shared her whole life and disconnected from the world they had traveled together. How she longed to sense his presence once again. Perhaps with their two children. A ‘family trip’ like the many they shared so long ago. But a trip to the cemetery was as likely as a trip to the moon. Leah resigned herself to living out her remaining years in room #306, the ‘cage’ that was her home now. Continue reading The Magic of Fulfilling a Dream
As people age they face loss. Loss of their independence, of their faculties, of their standing in the community. The holocaust survivor is particularly fragile due to his nightmarish youth which often resurfaces in old age when mundane life no longer makes its demands on him. No longer a decision maker, he feels unnoticed, worthless and lacks any purpose in life. The simplest choices such as what to have for breakfast are no longer his to make. If he expresses an opinion, there is no one to listen. Slowly the aged nursing home resident shrivels, even losing his sense of self.
Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program has undertaken to fulfill the personal request of 570 holocaust survivors living in residences throughout the country.
S is a case in point. She resides in a nursing home with residents of mixed backgrounds. She herself is Moroccan as are some others but the home caters to the more prevalent Ashkenazi groups. She understands but still longs for an occasional taste of ‘home’. It was not until she met up with the Ezer Mizion staff did she feel that her needs, her opinions would have any value. Her thoughts about an occasional connection to the childhood memories of the minority groups and introducing the others to how specific ethnic groups live. Certainly a valid proposal for the nursing home staff but, just as certainly, not one that S. would ever make on her own. Her self-respect, her dignity soared on night of Welcome to Morocco, featuring a professional vibrant, ethnic band playing Moroccan music followed by delicious Moroccan cuisine. She basked in delight as announcements were made to her fellow residents that it was she who had suggested the evening’s entertainment.
R was a Russian living in a nursing home with a significant Russian population. Significant but not enough for the staff to take notice. All entertainment was in Hebrew. R. understood Hebrew well but it was not her prime language. As the Ezer Mizion One Wish staff developed a relationship with her, encouraging her to express her opinions, she shyly made mention of her personal feelings. Like a fragile newly-hatched baby bird, her thoughts on Russian entertainment hesitantly emerged. It was in her honor that the nursing home presented its first Russian show – a spectacular performance – which all the Russian speaking residents of her facility enjoyed together with her, enhancing her happiness and sense of purpose.
In the first few months of the program’s existence, One Wish has proven itself to have more than met the goals of the initiative. The seniors feel noticed. Their opinions matter. Their existence is validated. They continue to discuss their Special Day long after it occurred and this day becomes the catalyst to a new awakening of that sense of self.
Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.
Today’s Holocaust survivors suffered indescribable trauma in their early childhood and youth. With this knowledge, we aim to sweeten their golden years and enable these lonely, isolated heroes to fulfill a wish. Each is an individual. Each led a life based on his individual likes and dislikes. But now they find themselves lumped together in the same facility with no choice as to room décor, type of food, or activities. With no opportunity to express personal desires, bit by bit, he becomes less of a person. It is for this reason that Ezer Mizion’s Project1 Wish was born. Continue reading Once Again I’m Me
Did you ever feel useless? Like nobody needs you around? We all have such feelings from time to time but they don’t last too long. They dissipate as the first child screams out, “Where are my shoes?” Or when a neighbor knocks on your door in desperate need of your cheesecake recipe. Or when your elderly father calls to say his bulb burned out and he needs you to come over to change it. We feel valued when we offer an opinion and people listen, when we handle a hour-long tantrum and husband whispers, “I left a chocolate bar on the night table. Go relax with a book for awhile. I’ll take over bedtime.”
We’re needed. We’re valued. The signs are everywhere. But what if there is no husband or neighbor or child? What if she is alone in a nursing home, a lonely holocaust survivor? The caretaker is not interested in her opinions, her thoughts, her dreams. Day follows day with breakfast, lunch and supper delivered to her. She no longer lives independently. No longer make decisions. She begins to wonder if she, a real person, is really there. Bit by bit, deterioration sets in. Cognitive function, the ability to relate to others, even the ability to have an opinion – they all decline.
As one who went through the nightmare, Tziporah Abramowitz (77) is more capable than anyone else to connect to the depths of the souls of the holocaust survivors in order to help them with the emotional challenge of coping daily with the horrible memories, which do not leave them alone for a moment. She has become a beloved volunteer at Ezer Mizion’s social club for holocaust survivors. Her encouragement, her compliments, her ability to engage the members and her weekly presentation on the Parsha (Torah portion of the week) all serve to bring that elusive smile to the faces of these elderly victims of a horror that defies description.
Tziporah was one of those saved by Raoel Wallenburg. She was hidden, together with hundreds of children, in the cellar of one of the many buildings rented by Mr. Wallenburg. In the 17th century there had been a terrible fire in London that killed many. When the “Pest’ section of Budapest was built, it was required that from every building, there would be a way to escape to another building. Continue reading A Holocaust Survivor Reaches Out to Others
A man grows older. Sometimes parts of his body do not work as well as when he was young. Does that mean his inner feelings lessen? His wishes? His longings?
Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Gibraltar, a native of Kovno was just 12 years old when World War II broke out. He endured all the horrors of the Holocaust, suffering illness and hunger and doing forced labor under severe conditions. Together with his brother, he carried their father until the end of the horrible marches. After the war, he moved to Israel where he established his home and raised his children. Here in Israel, he wrote and published three books about the Jews of Kovno, from its golden era until its destruction in the Holocaust.
In his weekly meetings with an Ezer Mizion volunteer, Rabbi Gibraltar mentioned that in his childhood, he had been an expert swimmer. After the war’s end, too, he did a lot of swimming, in preparation for his planned Aliyah, since he had heard that the British do not allow the immigrants’ ships lay anchor close to shore. Those days, with his swimming skills, he saved many people from drowning.
Today, due to a substantial decline in his physical functioning, he is at home most hours of the day. When he was young, he hopped in and out of a car many times a day. Now his body fails him and getting into a car is as difficult as flying to the moon. When he was young, he had spent his vacations at scenic places, taking in the glorious beauty of Hashem’s world. He traveled where he wished. There was nothing holding him back. Now traveling from one room to another is a battle. In his mind’s eye, he can see the awesome beauty of the ocean. He yearns to be there once more…to make the brocha Oseh Maaseh Breishis (blessing) as his whole being becomes one with the roar of the waves.
He is a 90 year old Talmid Chochom (man learned in the Torah), a holocaust survivor. He is so grateful for the life he was given. He has no complaints. But oh, to see the ocean once more… to feel the power of the waves as they come crashing down… to gaze at the horizon as sea meets sky far, far into the distance. And then to make the brocha (blessing) in full awe and what HaKodosh Boruch Hu (G-d) had wrought.
He yearned but he understood that it cannot be. Until the Ezer Mizion volunteer heard his whispered dreams. Then things began moving fast. Contacts were made. Logistical hurdles were surmounted. More problems. These also were vanquished. Then a date was set. A slot was cleared with an Ezer Mizion ambulance for his trip. An experienced, Ezer Mizion trained volunteer was thrilled to facilitate the outing. And a dream became reality.
Another holocaust survivor. Another dream. This one is 99 years old. His neshoma aches to, once again, experience a davening at Meron. Impossible, say the naysayers. Lets try, says Ezer Mizion. It’s not easy. For each impediment conquered, two more crop up. It would be easy to simply say, it’s too hard. But Ezer Mizion is not about to take the easy way out when there exists even a remote possibility of bringing such spiritual joy to this centenarian. Phones buzzed and emails flew across cyberspace. It was not long before this dream, too, became reality.
Ezer Mizion’s Ambulance Division with its fleet of vehicles outfitted to handle the mobility impaired, the respiratory patient and so many more challenges, handles hundreds of calls for patients to be transported to and from clinics for chemo, dialysis and other treatments and emergency calls. A small number of slots are reserved for its “Fulfilling A Dream” program which has brought happiness to so many homebound. It enables elderly people to choose an event they wish to experience, something they can look forward to. Ezer Mizion receives requests from social workers or family members of lonely, disabled, elderly people throughout Israel. After reviewing the requests, Ezer Mizion coordinates the logistics of making these dreams come true.
Typical requests include trips to the Kotel and other special places, visits to relatives and friends and participation in family celebrations. Ezer Mizion’s Ambulance and Transport Department plays an integral role in fulfilling dreams, providing the necessary vehicles and personnel