Approximately 200,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel, one third of whom live in abject poverty. With International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaching this Saturday, January 27 and having in mind that an average of 40 Holocaust survivors die each day, now is the time to ensure that those who suffered so much in their youth are able to at the very least, end their lives with love, care and dignity.
“Though the U.N set aside a specific date on the calendar to memorialize victims of the Holocaust, we have a Godly commandment to honor the elderly every day,” stressed Rabbi Mendy Blau, director of Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running charity organization, to Breaking Israel News.
“How much more do we need to care for Holocaust survivors, who had unimaginable awful experiences in their youth and for the most part, have no family to take care of them?”
Colel Chabad, in conjunction with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) run many charitable programs, which are specifically geared towards helping Holocaust survivors. They include delivering boxes of food and housewares to the homes of survivors who are still able to take care of themselves, bringing Meals-on-Wheels to survivors who are homebound and can no longer cook, and feeding thousands of mobile survivors through their network of 20 soup kitchens located throughout Israel.
“We have a team of loving volunteers who personally visit survivors in their apartments,” continued Rabbi Blau. “Not only do these visits provide much needed socialization, they also give an opportunity for our volunteers to see who needs additional help, such as winter blankets and heating or are in need of dental care, all of which Colel Chabad provides.”
Rabbi Blau noted that the volunteers report back to Colel Chabad the status of Holocaust survivors in order for the organization to effectively provide care for the specific needs of each individual. Services may include cleaning their homes, picking up and/or paying for the survivor’s medicine, joining them on an outing and ensuring that they are safe when traveling.
“Holocaust survivors are now well into their eighties and older,” said Rabbi Blau. “Within the next few years, there will be almost no remaining survivors. How much longer will we be able to give this generation, whose childhood was taken away by the Nazis, respectable days of living?”
It is estimated that about 45,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel suffer from hunger, cold, ill health and loneliness. Routinely, they are forced to choose between paying for heat and food. The situation is even more dire for those who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union as they have lost their pensions. Others receive only meager compensation payments leaving them with an impossible sum of money to live on.
According to the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority, an Israeli government agency funded by Israeli taxpayers, 67,000 survivors in Israel received amonthly payment of just $700 in 2015.
“With so many survivors living their final days in poverty and loneliness, we must do more than just remember those who perished,” said Rabbi Blau. “We must ease their final days and brighten their lives.”
In addition to ensuring that Holocaust survivors receive nutritious meals and spend time with people who deeply care about their welfare, Colel Chabad also runs clubs where patrons socialize, play games, study the Bible, take trips, and listen to guest speakers and performers.
“Everything we do at Colel Chabad is done with a full heart, generous spirit and in a dignified fashion,” Rabbi Blau said, smiling.
Colel Chabad’s soup kitchens and Meals-On-Wheels program costs about 10 million NIS (about $2,702,700) annually. A portion of the expenses is subsidized through the Holocaust Claims Conference, and the rest comes from donors who recognize the life-saving and important work of Colel Chabad.
To donate to Colel Chabad, please click here.