A non-profit holds a Chinese auction. Employees are asked to go above their job description and contact friends and relatives to purchase tickets. And what is their reaction? Eye rolling? Whispered complaints at being put upon? Attempts to get away with a minimum? Or none of the above? The Ezer Mizion staff would be shocked at such suggestions. Each request sent out by employees to friends had a note attached, many entitled ‘Why We Work Here’. Here are some samples:
At Ezer Mizion, somehow, cancer always takes center stage. The bald head, the boy with the bulging eyes, together with the fear that lurks deep in the heart of every one of us. My job is coordinating rides. Not front page material. But for the young mother spending months in the hospital with her preemie, it meant a breather every so often, time to spend with her other kids.
Running such a system of transport, meals— costs money. And this money has to come from people like me and you. From people who can understand why the transport system is a lifesaver, and how, with a hot meal, you can give someone life and hope.Continue reading Why We…
We all have learned the words way back in primary grades. We heard the stories. We know it’s true. We know whatever Hashem does is for our good. But do we really know it? Inside, where it counts? Miriam A’H really did. Miriam fought the battle with cancer for five years. During that time she developed unbearable sores in her mouth. She called them diamonds. “Imagine having diamonds in your mouth. They’re sharp. They hurt. But how precious they are!”
If a miracle is defined as something above nature, Miriam was a walking miracle. Her difficulties began at age 25 after the birth of her third child when she received the news. Her response? “If Hashem wants me to live, I’ll live.” All of life is His will.” The disease spread. The pain was beyond endurance yet Miriam did endure it, strengthened by her deep understanding: “The pain is a gift to cleanse me of my sins.”
Ezer Mizion was privileged to provide assistance to this incredible young woman. Her family vied to stay with her during her hospital stays and it was Ezer Mizion’s Transportation Division that drove family members to and from the hospital. The Food Division provided hot, nutritious meals for those staying with her to enable them to give their all to someone they loved with all their heart. Very gently, oh so respectfully, as befits this angelic human being, its Ambulance Division transported Miriam herself for treatments. Ezer Mizion’s Guest Home for the Family, where fun and smiles abound at every corner, provided Story Hour, crafts, music, even a petting zoo, all run by trained therapists, enabling the family to eliminate travel for treatments and garner much emotional support. Help with the children, help with the housework, trips, retreats and fun days to give strength to a young family whose lives had been turned upside down …all these were part of the package offered to help them win the battle against that monster named Cancer that had entered their home.
But we lost.
Three days before her passing, she was discussing Hashem’s ways with a close friend. Her friend said that here in this world, it often appears to us that something is bad, is painful… like stitches that must be done so that we may heal. Miriam, felt otherwise. “No, it’s not like stitches. It’s like a whipped cream cake. A delicious cake delivered by a loving Father.”
The next night, she read her precious children a story, said Shma (bedtime prayer) with them and tucked them in for the last time. Her condition deteriorated after that and the doctor recommended sedation. “How long will the sedation last,” she asked. “Maybe forever,” she was told. In complete control, she asked forgiveness of her father over the phone since he, a Kohen, was unable to be with her in the hospital. She wrote letters to her children, asking her daughter to always dress in a modest manner, her sons to continue to learn Torah with all their heart and to always know that she loves them and is watching over them all. She wrote a list of items she had borrowed that had to be returned to neighbors and then, like a daughter whose job was done, she said Shma and vidui (confession), asked her husband to be sure she is covered properly after she falls asleep and to sing together with her ‘V’ani b’chasdecha batachti, …’ (a song of belief in Hashem)
It was a day that no Jewish heart can forget. From the time of the Romans to the Ottomans to the British—strictures had been placed on what Jews could and could not do at the Western Wall. Benches and tables were mostly banned; at times it was the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) or the mechitza that divides men and women at prayer services. For two decades, the Western Wall had been in Jordanian hands and completely inaccessible to Jews. And then came the Six Day War and suddenly, the Western Wall was in Jewish hands. Every Jewish soul responded – from the Hasidic Jew to those with no Jewish identity at all . Some understood. Others did not but their souls did. In a scene that was repeated many times over, the inner soul cried out:
“I want to say a prayer. What should I say?”
“Say Shma!” (universal Jewish prayer)
“But I don’t know how!”
“I’ll help you. Shma…”
All eyes were filled with tears. These hardened soldiers were unable to speak. They had one desire only to grab hold of the Wall and hold on tight. And there it was, in all its splendor. They were overcome and bowed their heads. Many of those heads had never been graced with a yarmulka (skullcap) but somehow knew that this…this was real.
The alley in front of the Western Wall was barely 15 feet wide. Even before the war was over, a group began clearing the area in front of it for a plaza. They began immediately after the Sabbath on June 10, and finished bulldozing the Mughrabi Quarter at 3 a.m., thus creating the Kotel plaza as we know it today which accommodates 60,000 people.
Eliyahu, a holocaust survivor, was one of those men. He was young and vibrant, sitting on top of his tractor doing his part as a loyal son. Today, 52 years later, he is no longer young, no longer vibrant. But that glorious day in history is as clear in his mind as the day it happened. And he yearned to visit the kotel once more, to witness the thousands that congregate on the area that he helped clear. His voice was wistful as he expressed his desire to the Ezer Mizion volunteer who had been visiting him regularly. On his own, it was impossible but with the help of the varied Ezer Mizion divisions, it all fell into place. An appropriate companion was found, all logistical hurdles were overcome. And there he is waving to us as his wish is about to come true.
It all began with a video. I don’t believe too many positive stories begin this way, but I’m proud to say this one does. This was an Ezer Mizion video of IDF Major Maor Cohen’s special mission for nine years: to help children with cancer escape into the world of Lego. His message spoke to me immediately. In the video, one mother explains “Cancer broke my family apart and Lego rebuilt it anew.”
My son always made a beeline to the Lego area at Mommy and Me each week. For his second birthday, I decided to buy him a big builders’ box of Lego. He got croup shortly before his birthday so I decided to give him the present a little early. I remember the miraculous sound of clicking and clacking and the total absence of the scary cough he had beforehand. While STEM educational models point to the mathematical and engineering benefits of Lego, I had forgotten the mindfulness aspect of it until seeing this video.
I contacted Ezer Mizion to see how we could be a part of it for Michael’s bar mitzvah project. Hadassah Somosi, an incredibly warm, caring, devoted, and capable director of Resource Development at Ezer Mizion, connected all the dots for me and we had our date set and plans in place of which Lego sets to bring for our Israel trip.
Can there be a more appropriate location for Ezer Mizion’s Oranit cancer patient guest home and center for its cancer support services than Petach Tikvah—defined as “opening of hope?” Built in 1996, with the generous assistance of the Bracha & Motti Zisser Foundation and the Rosinger Family, Oranit is located amidst three major hospitals that treat pediatric cancer and provides them with an oasis while enduring difficult treatments. The Andrew and Margaret Rosinger Residential Wing provides housing for children and families for short-term stays as well as endless options for recreation at the Donald Berman Rehabilitation Center—the Rinat Bakshi Wildlife Pavilion, the cleanest petting zoo around, arts-and-crafts including a full ceramics studio, music therapy including a recording studio, a movie theater, snacks, slushies and meals, indoor and outdoor spotlessly clean Malka Lazarus playgrounds, and, of course, what drew us there: the Lego room. As Hadassah explained on our tour, “We want to make them happy in the hope it will help make them well.
Thanks to import taxes, in Israel Lego can cost triple the price as in the United States, so many children do not have any Lego sets. At Ezer Mizion – Oranit, they have weekly Lego workshops and their projects are stored while under construction and displayed once completed. Families usually do the projects and escape into this alternate world together, letting the cancer suffering vanish for a precious hour or two. Maor writes about his personal connection to family illness: “Ever since I was five, my father, may he live and be well, has been a heart patient. I never had the security of knowing that just because I saw my father at breakfast would he be there at supper … Through the years, Abba got better and then was sick again, and that cycle kept repeating itself. As a family, we learned to live with this reality.”
As my family took it all in, Hadassah had more special plans for us. As some of the children actually walked in to join the Lego workshop, Michael had the rare opportunity to give a set to a few children in person. They exchanged hugs and warm words. The only dry eyes in the house were on the Lego figures.
I can’t daven (pray) now without thinking of these special families and hoping for a refuah sheleimah (complete recovery) for everyone. I hope to continue supporting Ezer Mizion and I encourage our readers to do the same.
Cancer is frightening. It’s a nightmare that even Mommy’s hug can’t make go away. The child, and often his siblings, are often paralyzed with fear. A relaxed, happy frame of mind, so vital to the battle he must wage, seems so far, far away. Even an itty bitty smile becomes a distant stranger to the tiny face that mirrors only terror and pain.
Ezer Mizion cannot cure the cancer but we will move heaven and earth to create a giggle. Professional staff and volunteers spend hours creating programs that bring happiness to the cancer patient and his whole family, to lighten their burden both practically and emotionally. Ideas abound. Birthday parties, trips, story hour, music clubs, lego sessions, even a petting zoo. And recently balloons. Continue reading Cancer Support with a Vro-o-o-m
“His face lit up” – a phrase so often found in stories of someone who received something he never expected. What does it mean? How does a face light up? Surely it is the spirit inside him that is generating the electricity.
If that is the case, then joy would be the prescription to raise the spirits of those demoralized by serious illness. Rx: fun. Happiness and chemo working in tandem. Body and spirit together engaged in the battle for life.
Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division incorporates this truism into its Battle Plan with fun days for mothers, trips for kids, birthday parties, make-a-wish outings and so much more.
Harel was a case-in-point. Close to his father, the two enjoyed doing things together. One of his father’s favorites was running. Feeling the wind, the rush of adrenalin, the flush of reaching the finish line. Pure joy. And sharing it together was the icing on the cake.
The Annual Petach Tikva Run was scheduled. His father was one of the first sign up. But this time, there’d be no young son beside him, sharing the elation. Harel longed to be there. Oh, how he longed to be there. But a monster had taken over his life in the form of an illness, curable only with a bone marrow transplant. The transplant had taken place recently and Harel was beginning to mend. But running? Out of the question!
Out of the question but feelings don’t ask questions. They just feel. And Harel was feeling miserable. An emotion not very conducive to strengthening his body.
Enter Yumi, one of the most beloved members of the Cancer Support team. Yumi never sees ‘no’. He just sees ‘how’. How can it be made possible for Harel to join the race together with his father? Nothing is simple when it comes to a transplant. But Yumi is used to that. He met with Harel’s father. Tossed out possible plans. Brought the plans to a meeting with physicians. Changed, refined, re-did. Met with the race organizers. Back to the physicians. And soon. There it was. A real plan. One that he hoped would work.
The day arrived and there is Yumi. As excited as Harel and his father. Video camera on hand, recording every moment. Cheering, cheering, cheering! The lanes are filled with runners. And there is Harel’s father also running, pushing a wheelchair in front of him. Grinning behind his face mask sits Harel absorbing the excitement in the air. They’re almost there. The finish line is in sight. They stop and Harel exits the wheelchair, stands behind it and begins to push. The wheelchair supports him. His father’s shouts support him. And Yumi’s continued cheering supports him. There he is crossing the finish line with the rest of them. Way to go, Harel!
Keep running, young man. Keep running until you reach the finish line, until you reach perfect health and can do all the things you long to do. We’re all behind you, cheering you on, Harel. Keep running!
It’s hard to smile when you hurt. It’s hard to smile when you’re scared. It’s hard to smile when a monster named Cancer has taken over your life and nothing is the same as it used to be.
My friends are in school, all together, following a normal routine…feeling safe. And me, I’m lying on a hospital bed tense – scared that a lady in a white coat will come in again to do a painful IV and scared, very scared, about something that I cannot even say, can’t even let myself to think about. Continue reading Rx: Fun on Mt. Hermon
No adoring Grandma and Grandpa took a turn to snip off a bit of his sweet, little curls. There was no hair to sweep up from the floor. No peyos (sidelocks) adorned his little face. But there was a yarmulke and tzitzis and there was joy. The family celebrated his upsherin (celebration of first haircut) , his first milestone, with joy, with hope and with prayer that there would be many more milestones to celebrate in the future. Continue reading Rx: Smiles
DIVISION OF CANCER SUPPORT. What does it mean? What does it mean to support a victim of cancer? Some answers are obvious. Helping out with the kids, providing meals, transportation, offering therapy to patient and members of the family that are finding it difficult to cope – all these will certainly be included. And then there’s the not so obvious. Continue reading What Does it Mean?