When Englewood resident Debra Corman learned about the plight of Holocaust survivors in Israel, she knew she had to do something.
"Right before Pesach, I read a piece in the Jerusalem Post entitled ‘For Shame.’ It said that thousands of survivors people who helped to build the state are now living below the poverty level, and alone. It really got to me," she said.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin told those who attended the Englewood/Tenafly Yom HaShoah commemoration in Englewood on April 15 that Holocaust survivors in Israel need their help.
Corman called Englewood Rabbis Zev Reichman of East Hill Synaoguge and Shmuel Goldin of Cong. Ahavath Torah to make them aware of what she learned and seek their support in doing something about it. She also called Howard Charish, executive vice president of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.
"They all said ‘yes’ immediately," she said. "Nobody hesitated."
Her next call was to Natan Kellermann of Amcha, the National Israeli Center for Psychosocial Support of Survivors of the Holocaust and the Second Generation, which has established mental health clinics, social support networks, and home care services for survivor communities around the Jewish state.
"I asked him what they needed and he suggested ways we could help. In particular, he said they needed help in Nahariya." Coincidentally, she noted, that city is this community’s partner though UJA-NNJ’s Partnership ‘000 initiative.
Deciding that the Englewood/Tenafly Yom HaShoah commemoration, held in his synagogue, would be an appropriate place to make an appeal on behalf of survivors, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin offered to add a segment to the event.
"Since my congregation hosts the commemoration, I’m generally called upon to make the closing remarks," he said, noting that not only did he speak about the issue but that articles about Amcha and envelopes for donations to the group were printed by UJA-NNJ and placed on each seat.
"We get a large crowd on that occasion, so I felt we would have a ‘captive audience,’ said Goldin, pointing out that UJA-NNJ’s Charish is a member of the synagogue.
Charish said his group is collecting the checks, payable to UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey-Amcha, and will, in turn, forward a check for the total amount to the Israeli support group. "There’s no cut-off date for receiving the donations," he said, pointing out that Ofer Lichtig, UJA-NNJ’s representative in Israel, will follow up on implementation of the project.
"We need to make sure that the survivors spend their last years in dignity," he said. "We’re gratified to be able to participate in this project."
"It was especially important to do [the appeal] on Yom HaShoah," said Corman. "After everything the survivors experienced, we have to remember them." She said she was pleased that "we came together as a community" to help the survivors, many of whom "suffer from loneliness."
Goldin said his remarks focused on an elderly widow in his community who used to be a regular guest at his Passover seder. "She rarely spoke," he said. Then one year she "opened up and spoke at the table for an hour about Auschwitz" and her experiences during the war.
"She said, ‘Two nights don’t go by without nightmares.’ It was then I realized that the Shoah never ended for survivors. It’s so important to remember this and turn to those people and tell them they’re not alone."
According to information provided by Amcha, about ‘50,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel today, many of whom were children during the war. Not all of them have been able to build a normal life and, for many, "the emotional scars of the survivors are highly visible." The group notes that about 50,000 elderly Holocaust survivors still suffer from the late effects of trauma exposure early in life. "Many studies have indicated that because of survivors’ inherent vulnerability, latent anxieties surface when they are exposed to stress. Israeli welfare and health services have insufficient professional experience in how to assist survivors and their families." In addition, "financial hardship has become very common among the elderly survivors who live only on small pensions."
Corman said she was sure that when people became aware of the survivors’ plight, they would want to help. "You have to stop and try to feel what someone else is experiencing," she said. "This will lead you to take action."
For more information about the appeal for Holocaust survivors in Israel, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Information about Amcha can be found on its Website, www.amcha.org