Judith doesn’t need to read books or watch movies to know what hell is like. She’s lived it.
In Germany, Judith was stripped of her humanity. Torn from her loved ones and herded into a cattle car, her identity was reduced to a stark tattoo on her arm and her future became uncertain. She was subjected to “medical experiments,” which were essentially baseless torture.
And yet, women like Judith would do everything they could to let their humanity shine in such an inhuman place. They’d share recipes together – dishes they yearned to make if they were to survive. The women would pray together, put on plays, and even had an underground newspaper.
At Ravensbrück, a women’s only concentration camp, companionship was everything. As an account in Yad Vashem’s archives noted, “Having a sister, a cousin, or a friend in the camp with you was sometimes the only thing that gave you the courage to go on; each lived solely for the other.”
But ultimately, Judith’s time at Ravensbrück bore witness to the depravity of mankind. Of the 132,000 female prisoners who were held captive there, 92,000 perished. Of starvation. Of hard labor. Of disease. And, perhaps the most tragic cause of death: a lack of hope.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s most respected Holocaust museum, explains that those living in Ravensbrück told stories of lack of food, “fear of rape and sexual abuse, hygiene issues, punishment, work, and resistance.”
Only a small number of these women survived. Judith was one of the lucky few.
However, some of the very ills that befell Judith in that camp are still prevalent in her life today.
In Israel, where around 200,000 Holocaust Survivors are living out their remaining days, many are without food, without companionship, and without hope.
Today, despite intervention from well-intentioned NGOs, Holocaust Survivors only receive some NIS 4,000 near $1,150, in government stipends each month – hardly enough to live off of. Many of them are psychologically unable to work after the trauma they sustained, and for them, that paltry stipend is all they can depend on month after month. In Israel, an astonishing 50,000 Holocaust Survivors live below the poverty line.
As a result, many have turned to Meir Panim. The organization aims to restore hope to the hopeless.
With its Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens and Meals-on-Wheels, the organization provides lifesaving nourishment to Survivors who would otherwise go to sleep with empty stomachs.
Meir Panim also runs a Holocaust Survivor Day Center in the southern Israel city of Dimona, which provides crucial aid and companionship to Survivors living in one of the most impoverished cities in Israel.
But as the High Holiday season approaches, and Jews around the world prepare to gather in front of a bountiful table of food with their loved ones, many of these Survivors are alone and hungry.
To battle this heartbreaking reality, Meir Panim is going into overdrive to ensure that these people who have lived through the Holocaust don’t have to suffer again during the holiest time of the Jewish year. As a result, Meir Panim has launched a matching gift campaign: thanks to generous donors, every dollar donated to the organization now through October will be matched.
A dollar may not seem like much, but once doubled, it can amount to the world for Holocaust Survivors – who were deprived of everything in life and now struggle to survive.
Donations for the 2019 High Holiday campaign aims to raise $250,000 to provide Survivors not only with warm meals, but also stocked pantries, therapeutic companionship, socialization, and enriching programs. Above all, something that has no monetary value: Hope.
Meir Panim works year-round to alleviate the poverty crisis in Israel through a network of Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens, Meals-on-Wheels, holiday food packages, food shopping cards, and After-School Youth Centers.
Written in cooperation with Meir Panim.