Each one was unique yet each one was the same. Each reflected an individualized situation much exacerbated by the Covid-19 situation. Yet each one was a desperate plea, “Please help me!’ sent to the address they have come to rely upon. Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life is a whatsapp network spanning Israel and around the globe which receives requests that are as varied as those that send them. It may be a need for transport for an oncology patient, delivery of vital meds, putting together a Bar Mitzvah for a boy whose father is in serious condition, picking up medical equipment for a patient who cannot be released from the hospital without it. The list goes on and on.
During the pandemic, the Linked to Life networks were on fire. Requests didn’t stop. Linked to Life coordinated with other divisions of Ezer Mizion and was there for everyone in their time of need. Was it ten requests, a hundred, two hundred? and make no mistake. Each request did not have a one-step resolution. ‘I would check the network and come back half a day later and see 600 more.’ said a staff member who had access to the network. See chart above for the amazing numbers, all performed by our dedicated Ezer Mizion volunteers.
At the same time, all the other Ezer Mizion divisions – Bone Marrow Registry, Golden Age, Special Needs, Mental Health, Cancer Support, Transportation, Food Disbursement – were working at full speed. If we were to add those numbers, the totals would be mind boggling! How does this happen? Because of you, our invaluable friends and supporters!
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…
When we take pictures, we direct the camera outward, to the world around us. We see a path, a flower, a beach, a child. We aim the camera and press the button, capturing the moment in a photo. The photographer compels the viewer to adopt his perspective, the unique manner in which he views the world. The viewer thereby is able to visualize the inner world of the photographer. And the photographer is able to see more clearly the depth of his own mindset in the view he has captured. Continue reading The Camera Captures
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.
“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!
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?
We speak of it as being a ‘battle with cancer’. Like all battles, it requires an army, each division with its special task, each soldier with a mission to which he devotes his heart and soul. Each ‘soldier’s very being becomes linked to those he helps. Help comes in many different forms. Therapy, living quarters near the clinic, meals, rides. The list goes on and on. This is no 9-5 job where work-related info disappears from the employee or volunteer’s radar as he exits the office.
Shopping for his family at the supermarket, Avi, an Ezer Mizion Linked to Life volunteer, spots a candy bar that little Yossi likes and, with an unmanly sob, he adds it to his cart. (Yossi’s Mommy used to buy him that candy every Sabbath but now Yossi’s Mommy is …) His phone rings and the shopping cart gets shoved into a corner. The store manager will understand. It’s happened before. His wife will surely understand. She had been tearfully praying when he left the house. It’s Moshe. He needs a ride to the hospital. Now. They just called. His wife has only hours to live. He knew it was coming but when it does…oh, it’s so hard. He will be needed for much more than the ride. He and his fellow Linked 2 Life members had supported the family in so many ways for months. “Hashem, give him strength,” he fervently prays as he rushes to his car.
Many weeks are filled with joy like when a child wins his battle with leukemia and L2L members drive the family and accumulated paraphernalia home from the hospital. Soon the child will join his friends in their games, a boy like any other boy. A celebratory parade as they enter the home, each one carrying packages, almost dancing up the stairs. Or when we’re invited to a bris by a young father who had been afraid his baby would be named after him. He’s cured now. The nightmare is over.
Other weeks are not so. Like this past one. Ora died this week. She had been part of the lives of so many Linked to Life volunteers in Rechasim and Haifa. Her conversation was never about her pain, her anguish. It was only about how grateful she was to each person for everything done for her family.
“Mere words cannot express my thanks to you for all your help and support. Hashem, in His great compassion and immeasurable love sent me such special agents as yourselves. I bless you all from the bottom of my heart that Hashem should repay you in kind, grant you health, happiness, and success in all your endeavors and nachat from the children. May good and kindness pursue you your entire lives.”
These words were written to Ezer Mizion just a few months ago by Ora a”h.
We rallied. We tried to smooth the way for them, do the little extras to bring some sunshine into their numbered days together. The medical staff fought hard. We fought hard to keep up their spirits. And we lost. Ora is gone. Ezer Mizion will be there for the family, with the practical, with the emotional as long as we’re needed. We’ll be their cushion, their pillar.
It was a hard week. There was a family at Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp whose mother spent the time in bed on pain killers, under the supervision of medical staff, coming out for meals and some low-key activities. How gratifying to have been the catalyst for fortifying the family as they shared an enjoyable time together… their last. A day before camp ended, the mother was hospitalized. The children stayed on to finish camp. Ezer Mizion was with the children when they were told the bitter news of their mother’s demise. The younger ones hugged each other in a bundle of grief and said: “Ezer Mizion will help Abba and us. They never leave us to be alone!”
It was a hard week. A single mother of young children. Another young mother. And a sixteen year old boy with a brain tumor. Four young mothers and one young boy in one week.
Hashem, please give all of us at Ezer Mizion strength to be their strength. And Hashem, please hold them tight in Your embrace. Hug them. Comfort them. And wipe away all their tears.
Baldheaded children, solemn doctors, the smell of sadness and suffering suffusing every corner…
Everyone here is busy battling for life, sometimes against all odds.
Who has time to think about the approaching Yom Tov? The thoughts wander from upsetting test results to grueling treatments and no further.
Shavuot? A far-off dream of some previous life…blintzes frying, tiny tots singing Little Torah, an atmosphere of joy and excitement.
This year? The ambience of a holiday would do wonders for their wounded souls but no one has the emotional energy to even smile. Will Shavuot 2018 just pass over, hardly noticed ?
Unbeknown to these suffering Jews, there was a small group who understood. They understood that these families were incapable of creating their own Yom Tov but how desperately they needed the feeling of holiness, the feeling of being part of the Jewish nation.
And so there, with the very air at Schneider’s laden with despair, they took time off from their own preparations and broke through the hopelessness, bringing light and happiness to these suffering Jews.
In the midst of this sea of sorrow and unimaginable pain, Ezer Mizion Petach Tikvah Linked to Life volunteers set up an island of holiday joy and tranquility.
Dozens of cancer support volunteers did everything to give seriously ill patients and their families a hiatus of calm and compassion. Holiday delicacies were prepared and attractively served and individual needs were met so that each family felt, “Yes, it’s Yom Tov today.”
As one volunteer described it (translated):
I link up to you, we all link together
And in just a matter of minutes
One cake is added to another
One dessert joins the next
Kugel after kugel is baked
And families of seriously ill patients will be able to enjoy delicacies this Shavuot too!
Allow us to dedicate the following to you, our precious volunteers:
“Rav Zeira (an ancient sage)said: This megillah (Ruth) – why was it written? To teach you the great reward of those who do chessed, loving kindness”
So it goes, until April. The last treatment for the cancer providentially comes out exactly on Yigal’s birthday, the second of Nissan (April). One more little note from Hashem (G-d) showing us that He is holding our hands. Simply and unceremoniously, the old birthday links up with the new birthday, as we plead to live and rejuvenate and truly grow…