April 27, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
Passover is always a meaningful time, but this year I did something during the week-long holiday that has made it even more special. For the first time in my life I went to the Western Wall in Jerusalem on the third day of Passover to receive the priestly blessing from hundreds of Jews who can trace their lineage all the way back to Aaron, the high priest. It was a moving event that reminded all of us there of our ties with the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. It was an unforgettable experience.
Thanks to the generosity of friends like you, The Fellowship is working to make this Passover meaningful for elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel as well. So many of them are spending their final years in a cruel struggle with poverty, unable to afford food and rent and medicine. When poverty strikes people like this, it makes us ask: Haven’t these survivors suffered enough?
When we realized how many elderly in Israel were struggling through their final years, we launched our With Dignity and Fellowship program, offering Israel’s impoverished elderly food, medicine, and companionship. Many of this program’s participants are Holocaust survivors. When the holidays come around, we ensure that they have all they need to celebrate according to biblical tradition.
One of these recipients is 81-year-old Clara, who lives alone in a dilapidated building in northern Israel. She was only 7 when she and her family fled Moscow on a cargo train to escape the Nazis. Her grandfather, a rabbi in Ukraine, was tortured to death when he refused to burn his synagogue’s Torah scrolls. Though Clara and many of her family members were among those who escaped before they could be deported to concentration camps, they still spent many years struggling to survive. “What I remember about those years is being sick, afraid, infested with lice, and always hungry,” Clara says.
She’s now a widow living alone in Israel, struggling to make ends meet on her meager social security payments. When we learned of Clara’s plight, we began supporting her through our With Dignity and Fellowship program. Clara explains that the generosity she receives makes her think of something that happened when she was a child during World War II. “In 1944, America sent donations of clothing to the former Soviet Union. I received a winter coat and a hat. I can't tell you how good I felt when I wore that warm clothing. When The Fellowship gives me all of these things that I need so much, it reminds me of when I was a child – and I feel as good as I did then.”
When her With Dignity and Fellowship coordinator recently delivered a Passover food box, filled with all the items needed for the seder meal, Clara responded, “It’s so important to me that The Fellowship is taking care of me when I need this help so desperately. I need the food, but food isn't enough to sustain a person. You're showing me the love that I need to keep going. The fact that this is all coming from Christians is even more important. I really don't have the words to express how good I'm feeling about this gift and everything you do for me.”
In this Passover season, when we celebrate God’s miraculous rescue of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, I am so grateful that we can help deliver Clara – and thousands of others like her – from the grip of poverty and despair. And as Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, approaches, I am grateful that The Fellowship is caring for the dwindling population of Holocaust survivors. This is holy work, friends. And I am so grateful to you for making it possible.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President