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Hosts for the Ezer Mizion gala: Orly & Solly Dreman

With so many worthwhile causes all competing for donations from among Winnipeg Jews, it’s not easy to decide which particular causes deserve priority.




Thus, when former Winnipegger Solly Dreman, Professor Emeritus at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, decided last year that he was going to personally champion an organization known as Ezer Mizion – and target Winnipeg Jews in so doing, he was setting for himself a rather ambitious goal.
And, when Solly chose May 29 as the date when he wanted to hold a gala event at the Fort Garry Hotel, so soon after many individuals had just attended the Negev Gala two days prior, he was told that he was going to be sorely disappointed at the result.
As it turns out, however, from a modest ambition to invite only 80 individuals to attend his event, Dreman was pleasantly surprised to learn that, by the time the event began, 162 individuals were in attendance.

Naturally, coming on the heels of what is traditionally the largest annual gala fundraiser in Winnipeg’s Jewish community, Dreman took great pains to make sure that no one who was going to be attending his gala would be asked to make a donation to Ezer Mizion in advance of what was to take place May 29.
Instead, those in attendance were treated to a well-run event replete with delicious food provided by Alla Golinkin and Dov Korkh, both of whom work for the Jewish Learning Centre. During the course of the evening (up until a break for dinner) audience members heard very moving remarks from certain individuals, including Ofra Konikoff, the Chief Bone Marrow Coordinator for Ezer Mizion; Dr. Brent Schacter of Cancercare Manitoba; Libby Goszer, a former Winnipegger whose life was saved as the result of a bone marrow donation made by an Israeli soldier whose name was on Ezer Mizion’s bone marrow registry; and Solly and Orly Dreman, who were the hosts for the evening.

MC for the evening was Rabbi Matthew Leibl, who always manages to find the right touch between solemnity and lightheartedness, and who was able to inject his own personal observations on what was being said – and how important it is for “Jews to help other Jews”, as he put it.
Finally, after dinner had been served, special guest speaker Shabtai Shavit, a former head of Israel’s Mossad, took to the podium, and delivered a fairly rambling speech which was somewhat difficult to understand. I realized early on in Shavit’s speech, however, that it was going to be almost impossible to decipher much of what he was saying, so I turned on the voice recorder on my iPhone and simply recorded his remarks. (Read the story on page 17 to learn more about what Shavit had to say. I must say though, that had certain right wing members of our Jewish community been in attendance, they would no doubt have disapproved of Shavit’s remarks. Referring to Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank – how dare he? Surely had event organizers known that Shavit was going to be so critical of Israeli government policy, those right wing individuals would have demanded that he be “disinvited”, n’est ce pas?)

We have had several articles in the past few months describing what it is that Ezer Mizion does. Simply put, it is an enormous Jewish bone marrow registry, with almost one million names in the Ezer Mizion database.
Ofra Konikoff explained the origin of Ezer Mizion. With the advent of donating stem cells in the late 1960s as a new and invaluable technique in fighting certain forms of cancer, particularly leukemia, the best source of stem cells is within someone’s bone marrow.
The largest database of potential stem cell donors exists in the Netherlands, Konikoff noted, with over 33 million names in that database.
However, as a result of centuries of Jews marrying within a relatively small gene pool, the genetic characteristics of most Jews more closely resemble other Jews’ than non-Jews. Thus, when a Jewish patient requires a stem cell transplant, while the first target sources would be close relatives, if a match can’t be found from relatives, it has been found that there is a much higher probability of finding a successful match from another Jew – and that could be a Jew anywhere in the world.
Until 1998, Konikoff explained, “Jews died for lack of a match.” Then, in that year, the parents of an Israeli child who was dying from leukemia, put out the word that they were looking for a match for their child. Within a short time, 5,000 samples were taken from willing donors. Unfortunately, none were compatible and the child died, but the effort to develop a registry of potential donors took hold and regular donor drives began to be held, not only in Israel, but in other Jewish communities as well.
The key turning point though, came about in 2005, when the Israel Defence Forces agreed to provide DNA samples from among new recruits. As a result, approximately 60,000 names are added to the bone marrow registry maintained by Ezer Mizion each year.
As Konikoff described it, “we get DNA from all sorts of different groups. When Russian Jews started to arrive in large numbers to Israel, we were able to add a lot more to the genetic pool.”
Now, with almost one million names in its registry, Ezer Mizion has been able to bring together over 3,200 donors with patients desperate for stem cell transplants, including 55 Canadians.

Dr. Brent Schacter described his own personal involvement with Ezer Mizion, noting that one of his own patients received a stem cell transplant from an Israeli donor.
Schacter explained though that “young, healthy donors” are needed for stem cell transplants, since the stem cells from anyone over 45 are “somewhat decrepit”.
“Anyone under the age of 45 should be calling the Canadian Blood Service to be on the (Canadian) bone marrow registry,” Schacter added.
“It’s an easy swab” (taken from inside one’s cheek) and, if you should be called upon to donate stem cells, “you spend a day in a chair donating”.


Libby Goszer: stem cell injections from a donor who was on the Ezer Mizion registry saved her life.

Libby Goszer told her own heart-rending story of how close she came to dying when she herself developed acute leukemia in 2006.
“One moment I was a confident professional, wife and mother; the next moment I was in an isolation room…After treatment, I was given a 60 percent chance my leukemia would return – and it did. I needed a perfect stem cell donor match.”
In November 2008, fortunately, that perfect match was found in Ezer Mizion’s registry. Transplant recipients aren’t able to find out the names of their donors until a year after having received their transplant but, waiting on the surgical bed that day in November, Goszer said she was overjoyed when she “saw a woman come in carrying a bag of stem cells. It never occurred to me though that bag had been transferred all the way from Israel.”
In 2012 Libby “learned about the donor’s identity” and in 2013 she and her family flew to Israel to meet her donor, whose name was Moshe, along with his immediate family.
“They (Moshe and his family) were as excited to meet me as I was to meet him,’ Goszer said. “From the darkness of a life-threatening illness has emerged a set of relationships between Moshe, his family, and my family.”
In closing, Goszer urged members of the audience to think of this “night as a night of solidarity where we as Jews will be reminded that we will do what we can to take care of one another.”

Finally, Solly Dreman took to the podium to explain his own personal involvement with Ezer Mizion. He says that it began by chance on a golf course in Israel, when he happened to hear about all the good work Ezer Mizion does. Dreman decided to take up the cause of boosting the organization – and he put his money where his mouth is by personally donating $180,000.
But Dreman’s connection to Winnipeg has remained strong even though he has been living in Israel since 1964. He noted that “in the Six-Day War Winnipeggers donated more per capita than any other city in North America.”
“We decided this is a cause that can’t be postponed,” Dreman continued. “We were told that no one was going to come, no one was going to support us – that we were the new kid on the block… We expected a crowd of 80; 162 are here.”
Orly Dreman followed her husband, noting that, as a result of the donation to Ezer Mizion made by Solly and her, “we were delighted to hear the news that in April a transplant was performed from someone who was part of the pool we helped start.”
To find out more about Ezer Mizion, visit or call Dan Rand at 647-799-1475.

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