Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cry, And You Cry Alone

"After the Holocaust our mission became to help survivors of the Shoah in the United States and from all European countries. We are the only national organization whose sole mission is to provide financial assistance to Holocaust survivors in need [in the U.S.]."
"We learned that their greatest need for assistance was for home care in order to remain safely in their homes, instead of living in institutions which often re-triggers trauma."
"Another issue facing survivors is housing and utilities, we see often that many [survivors] did not have children or could not have children or their children live far away, and with the passing of a spouse there is suddenly only one income, and so we begin to see eviction notices or utility notices." 
"The time to act is now, as the number of survivors is decreasing rapidly and the needs of those remaining are very high. We ask that the general public gets involved, is able to contribute, volunteer with survivors, and identify survivors in need and ensure that their final years are lived with dignity, comfort and respect."
Masha Pearl, executive director, The Blue Card NGO

"It's not pleasant to be alone. It gives a good feeling [when people visit]."
"On the one hand, it feels good to have all these people [recognize his existence]. On the other hand it reminds you of such tough times."
"Happy it can't be, because it was not happy times [during the years of the Holocaust], but it is nice to have someone listen."
Ernest Weiner, 92, widowed, childless, Holocaust survivor, Ramat Hasharon, Israel 

"Morally, not just as Jews but as people of the world, we must help them [Holocaust survivors]  finish their life in dignity without them having to beg for warm food."
"These are people whose lives were robbed from them because of the world's silence, and we all have an obligation to give them something back in the little time they have left."
Tamara More, The Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors, Israel
In this Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2017 photo, Israeli Holocaust survivor, Ernest Weiner, wearing crown, sits during his birthday in a restaurant in the central Israeli city of Ramat Hasharon. More than 100 fellow Holocaust survivors and advocates on their behalf gathered for the 92nd birthday party of Weiner -- a blind and widowed survivor who uses a wheelchair to get around and still lives on his own.  (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israel, understandably home to the world's largest Holocaust-survival community of 160,000 elderly people, struggles to fill the needs of thousands living alone, with various government institutions as well as private organizations seeking to fill the gap of their needs in offering material, psychological and medical support. Their experiences during the extermination horrors of 70 years earlier scarred them for life. Half are given government stipends but even so a third live under the poverty line.

The Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors exists on voluntary donations to serve those in need, with the aid of 8,000 volunteers around Israel. The survivors are given help with legal assistance, with paying bills, buying groceries; they are driven to medical appointments and several times yearly parties are put on representing a social highlight on the calendars of Holocaust survivors.

When these elderly survivors die, leaving behind not family members but treasured companion dogs and cats, the charity houses those orphaned animals. Funding can seem scarce at times, to answer to all the needs to make life more tolerable for the survivors, but the more ephemeral but equally if not more vital element of companionship is required to bring the elderly survivors away from the solitude and misery of their memories.

They require more than a monthly stipend and state-provided health care, free medication and discounts on living expenses; their emotional needs are critical and must be met in the true spirit of giving aid. In their final years, the survivors often go full circle from refusing to discuss their Holocaust experiences, to expressing a compelling need to do so. "There is always more you can give them, but what they really want most is someone to just be with them", explained Naama Schultz, senior Israeli political adviser.

In the United States, an estimated 100,000 Holocaust survivors got on with their lives; now a third live at or below the poverty line. Some live on less than $23,000 annually, making basic necessities, adequate medical care, food and mental health seem unaffordable at times. A nonprofit which provides ongoing financial help to Holocaust survivors in the U.S. has witnessed a 20% increase in survivors needing help.

According to the Blue Card, "We see that more survivors are coming forward and their needs are growing exponentially as maintaining independent living becomes more difficult", explained Masha Pearl.

In 1934, the Jewish community in Germany established the Blue Card, whose purpose was to help Jews who were unemployed resulting from Nazi restrictions against Jews. Blue paper cards were issued to Jewish donors who helped raise funds for Jews in need, and this is where the organization's name stemmed from. By 1939, a reorganized Blue Card appeared in the United States to give aid to refugees of Nazi persecution who managed to resettle in America.

Needless to say, it is Jewish organizations which engage themselves in support of Holocaust survivors that represent the mainstay of aid to those in need. The world failed to respond to the anguished appeals for aid during the years of Nazi destruction of European Jewry. A brief period of shocked response to the revelations of the full magnitude of the extermination of European Jews cast a pall over the globe representing a kind of communal shame.

But the world has grown weary of commiserating and feeling any lasting degree of empathy with Jews determined never to forget, to insist on bringing the world's attention at regular intervals to the fact that fully one-third of Jews were destroyed in a terrible effort at genocide that succeeded to a gratifying degree for Jew-haters. Jews persevere and non-Jews yawn with boredom, submitting to a yearly soul-searching, swiftly dissipated.

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