The Israel Welfare Ministry and Finance Ministry’s Authority for Holocaust Survivors’ Rights approximates that there are 60,000 Holocaust survivors living today in Israel below the poverty line. This means that they cannot afford nutritious food, proper housing, medical care or winter heating.
“Nutrition for the poor and elderly is our top priority,” explained Rabbi Mendy Blau, director of Colel Chabad in Israel to Breaking Israel News. “Our goal is to ensure that those who need assistance receive it with a full heart, a generous hand and in a dignified fashion.”
Colel Chabad has been helping Israel’s neediest since 1788 by providing food, financial aid and social services to individuals and families regardless of age, gender, marital status, ethnic background, location or degree of observance. “Holocaust survivors are high on our agenda,” continue Rabbi Blau. “They suffered unimaginable atrocities and hunger in their youth. They must not suffer in their final years.”
It is estimated that 40 Holocaust survivors die each day. This statistic blares brightly to Colel Chabad. “The time is now to help this aging population,” said Rabbi Blau. “At best, we might have only a few more years to bring some relief to those who have suffered the most.”
Every day, Colel Chabad helps feed approximately 2,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel along with an additional 2,000 needy Israeli citizens through their wide reaching services.
Their Meals-On-Wheels program provides customized fare which caters to the nutritional needs of homebound senior citizens and the disabled. Through Colel Chabad’s dedicated call center, clients maintain contact with a nutrition expert who assists in designing their menus according to their dietary constraints.
“Recipients of our Meals-On-Wheels program are asked to pay a symbolic amount of approximately 25¢ per meal,” said Rabbi Blau. “This helps preserve their dignity and self-respect as nobody wants to feel that they are receiving charity. We also train those who deliver the meals is that they maintain maximum courtesy and sensitivity to those who are lonely, elderly and perhaps unwell.”
Colel Chabad also maintains 23 kitchens throughout the Holy Land. Many Holocaust survivors as well as impoverished Israelis and new immigrants from Russia and the Ukraine visit these kitchens on a daily basis. These visits not only fill a void in people’s bellies, they also help to keep feelings of loneliness and isolation at bay. “When it’s possible, we do our best to encourage people to come to our kitchens,” continued Rabbi Blau. “Socialization and personal care is so important to people’s welfare.”
Recognizing that more could be done for Holocaust survivors, Colel Chabad also runs clubs where patrons meet other people, eat, play games, study the Bible, take trips, and listen to guest speakers and performers. Nearly 400 survivors participate in these programs.
“We also distribute holiday food packages to those who can still cook for themselves and give prepaid food shopping cards to those who still shop for themselves,” continued Rabbi Blau. “However, as many can no longer cook, continuing our Meals-On-Wheels program and keeping our kitchens opened 365 days a year is crucial to the welfare of thousands of Israelis.”
Many mistakenly believe that between reparations and the Israeli welfare system, Holocaust survivors are well cared for. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth and many live in dire poverty.
The total budget for Colel Chabad soup kitchens and its Meals-On-Wheels program is 10 million NIS (about $2,702,700) a year. “Colel Chabad does all we can to help Holocaust survivors and those in need,” Rabbi Blau told Breaking Israel News. “In Israel, we helped develop the National Project for Food Security with the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. Food insecurity is increasingly recognized as an urgent matter which the government must address. In the meantime, Colel Chabad does all that it can to actively help Israel’s neediest and especially Holocaust survivors every day.”
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