May 5, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
Beginning at sundown on Wednesday, May 4, through Thursday, May 5, Jews around the world observe Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the most terrible chapter in modern Jewish history.
The story is all too familiar: Motivated by an overwhelming and fanatical hatred of Jews, and seeking to remove from German society anyone deemed "undesirable," the Nazi regime that ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945 launched a brutal and methodical campaign to destroy the Jewish people. Six million Jews – about one-third of the world's Jewish population at the time – were murdered as a result.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we of course pause to honor the memory of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust as well as those who, at the risk of their own lives, fought to save them. It is right and fitting that we do so. But, equally important, we must honor those who survived by giving them dignity and material support as they grow older.
Too many Holocaust survivors live today in dire need. Every day tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors here in Israel and even more in the former Soviet Union have to make the draconian decision of how to divide up their meager government pension between food, medicine, heating fuel, and rent. They can’t afford all four. Even the Israeli national government says that their allocation only provides for 40 percent of basic needs. The Fellowship, with the help of our faithful supporters, does what we can to assist them. But it’s simply not enough.
So I am calling this year for a change in the way we observe Holocaust Remembrance Day. We need to use this day as a dramatic call to action to help the Holocaust survivors who are still among us to live with an element of dignity in their final years.
Forty survivors die a day. Ten years from now, there will be very few, if any, Holocaust survivors left. We have a 10-year period when we must face this issue and remove the moral stain and indifference that we are suffering, that we have allowed to happen by not caring for the Holocaust survivors still among us.
By our modern standards, the Holocaust may seem like ancient history. Our memories are short; but we forget that there are those still walking among us for whom memories of the Holocaust are all too vivid. For their sake, let us heed the words of the prophet Isaiah to share our bread with the hungry, to shelter the homeless, and to clothe the naked (Isaiah 58:7). Caring for the living is one way that we honor the memory of those who died, and honor God, Who sustained His people even during their darkest hour.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President