This week as we remember the millions of souls lost during the Holocaust, this piece in The Jerusalem Post reminds us again of the importance of helping those who survived - many of whom are spending their last years in poverty and loneliness:
But while remembering those who were lost is essential, caring for those who survived must not be overlooked.
According to data provided by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors, there are in Israel today about 189,000 Holocaust survivors, of whom about 45,000 are living under the poverty line. One-fifth skip meals because they do not have enough money to buy food.
Four years ago, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee-affiliated Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute published a survey based on interviews with 52,000 Holocaust survivors that found that five percent complained they do not have enough to eat. Others lacked basic drugs or medical treatment. Still others were unable to care for themselves.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, poignantly observed, “Sadly, we have been focusing on memorializing those who perished in the Holocaust, but ignoring the current plight of hundreds of thousands of survivors around the world who are living out their last days in wretched poverty.”
His organization has not forgotten the survivors. The IFCJ provides more than $7.3 million annually in food medicine, winter heating fuel, daycare and other assistance to more than 18,000 survivors in Israel. The organization also aids more than 60,000 survivors and other poor-elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union with an additional $15 million annually in food, medical assistance, home care and winter aid.
The call to aid Holocaust survivors has been heard by the government as well. On Monday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon presented a NIS 500m. plan designed to aid Holocaust survivors and the elderly.