Posts Tagged ‘holocaust’

Holocaust Survivors: What are they doing now?

May 17, 2017

pr golden -f-IMG_4766-maleCompanionship. A vital need at every stage of life. And especially essential for the holocaust survivor. Rivka is a typical survivor.   She was born in 1930, in Lodz and grew up with her parents and three siblings in a warm, supportive family. But the war came crashing down on this idyllic family life and young Rivka was left all alone. Illness took the lives of her parents and her siblings perished in Auschwitz and Treblinka. Life as she had known it was no more and the future looked bleak indeed. But brick by brick, she rebuilt her life, marrying and raising a family. And now at 87 years old, she sits, absorbed in her memories, in need of the companionship of those who understand. Spending her days in a rocking chair by the window would be perfectly acceptable but she doesn’t want that. She wants to laugh. She wants to share. She wants to connect with others. And so Rivka became a member of Ezer Mizion’s ‘British Café Club’ and, for the past four years, has not missed an activity. Whatever the weather – cold, rainy, scorching hot – Rivka is there. Bright and bubbly and ever so grateful to the staff. Recently she fell and fractured her arm. But that didn’t stop her. Her arm ensconced in a cast, she surprised us all at the next event, showering blessings upon each individual staff member. “I’m a holocaust survivor and my blessings have substantial weight in heaven,” she says as she moves on to the next person with her warm words of praise.

The club meets three times a week. One hundred and twenty members partake of a healthy breakfast, exercise and lectures on a variety of subjects including current events, seasonal topics, and health maintenance. Parties and field trips are frequent additions. At the club, Rivka enjoys a warm, supportive, stimulating environment in the company of women who went through similar traumatic experiences. For Rivka, the club is a place where she feels comfortable sharing her thoughts, and at times, her difficulties, alongside stories and jokes that bring a smile to her friends’ faces.

After Rivka broke her arm, Ezer Mizion arranged for home attendants to be sure she received the care she needed. The home attendants were chosen with forethought and were able to provide not only personal care and homemaking but also friendship and a listening ear. Rivka is comfortable speaking to them at length about her difficult past and the shocking ordeals she and her extended family underwent. A very significant relationship was woven between Rivka and her attendants, past and present. Now whenever Rivka arrives at the Club, the staff that handles the attendants also receive her heartfelt words of gratitude and blessings.

Like Rivka, Rochel is the sole survivor of her entire family. In 1946, she arrived in Israel on the “Biria” ship alone and bewildered in a world gone mad. Rochel is 94 and not only is she lucid but she has a sparkling, animated personality and a great sense of humor which is enjoyed by all he fellow club members.

Her experiences lay buried within her and her senior years found her with a burning desire to share them with others. The club members were her first audience. Once the dam broke, her thoughts come pouring out in a torrent and it was never enough. Ezer Mizion arranged for varied frameworks, enabling her tell her story again and again. She also hosted high school students in her home who were mesmerized by her experiences. A powerful speaker, she told her story at community centers and at high schools.

Ezer Mizion’s Eshnav program is a one-on-one program provided in the homes of homebound survivors. In the framework of the program, every Holocaust survivor receives a personal service package tailored to his/her needs. The service package includes: social support, physical exercise, cognitive enrichment, music, social and functional enrichment through game playing, and more.

Through the Eshnav project, Rachel was assigned a social work student, who came every week to her home, as part of her practicum. A marvelous, most significant bond was formed between the two. Even after her training was completed, the student chose to continue her connection with Rachel, serving as a pseudo-granddaughter. Together, they talk about current events, read newspapers, laugh together, and sometimes even bake or prepare special dishes. Rachel attests that her bond with the student literally gives her life.

One of the youngest holocaust survivors, Tzippy, was four years old when she was smuggled out with her mother and three siblings and hidden by Raoul Wallenberg in hide-out apartments. During that time, they suffered severe hunger. The family lost her younger brother to starvation. Chananya, another survivor, was nine when he was deported with his family to Auschwitz. Both were fortunate to have survived the war together with family members. In 1958, they married and began to rebuild. Now in their golden years, they are anxious to give to those that were even less fortunate. Tzippy is a volunteer at the club, preparing breakfast, escorting the more frail members from gym to activity room and delivering interesting talks on a variety of subjects. Giving to those who shared similar experiences fills a deep need within her. Volunteering became more difficult when Chananya fell and fractured his leg. With no elevator, he was now homebound. But that didn’t stop him from creating. An Ezer Mizion staff member visited him and was stunned to find his home filled with breathtaking artistic creations, the fruit of years of labor. The painstakingly prepared creations, using original materials, depicted his life story from holocaust to rebirth. Newly registered in the Eshnav program, Chananya now receives weekly guided physical activity as well as stimulating conversation with a social worker student who has become fascinated by his artwork and the story behind it.

Unfortunately shortly afterwards, Tzippy also fell on her way home from her volunteer work at the club. Ezer Mizion immediately dispatched a caring home attendant to help her out but all of us at Ezer Mizion look forward to the time when she will once again be on the giving end.

These are our heroes, men and women who survived a horrific nightmare and went on to build, to create, to flourish and give to the world. Now it’s our turn to offer support to these courageous champions. May they enjoy their golden season for many years to come.

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I Missed Mine!

July 6, 2016

pr golden holocaust surv bas mitzvah 2016Many Holocaust survivors have built anew and are now successful heads of multi-generational families. But there in the recesses of their being lies the childhood that never was. They don’t speak about it. An adult would feel foolish expressing his regret over never having had the opportunity to play with dolls. But it’s there. Or rather, it is not there. A void that cannot be filled. Among themselves, the sorrow may come up in conversation. And at one other place: an Ezer Mizion Social Club for Holocaust Survivors. It was there that an idea was born.

As these heroes attend their grandchildren’s Bas and Bar Mitzvahs, their hearts are filled with pride. Yet there lurks that germ of regret. “I missed mine.”

Would a formal celebration during the Golden Years serve as closure for the childhood celebrations lost in the wisps of crematoria smoke. Call it a Bas Mitzvah. Call it a closure of sorts. Would it serve to put to rest, once and for all, a few of the demons that still invade in their souls?

The caring professionals at Ezer Mizion thought it may. Were they correct? A survivor spoke at the event, representing all of the attendees. These are her thoughts.

 I was a little girl, just nine years old. Alone, devoid of her past, and apparently, of a future as well.

I never celebrated a Bat Mitzvah, not at age 12, and not after that, either. My childhood was stolen from me. They robbed me of the kiss and embrace of a father and mother, of games and life with my brothers and sisters, of a family’s caring, of a Shabbat and Yom Tov table, of learning at school and frolicking about in my free time. They robbed me of a sheltered life at home, sleeping cozily in my warm bed, of food that you don’t have to worry about every minute, of a normal life, where all the world’s evil remains far outside your walls.

We will never be able to retrieve all that they stole from us. We built beautiful homes. We tried hard so that our children would not feel what we went through. And we did a good job. That’s a fact, and our children are the proof.

And now, you have created this day to celebrate our Bat Mitzvah. How symbolic and how moving it is. We thank you wholeheartedly for this beautiful idea, which fills us with gratitude.

About a hundred Holocaust survivors, ages 75-95, dressed in festive clothing were brought to the Kosel. The event began with a visit to the “Chain of Generations” display and the “Behind Our Wall” in the Kotel Tunnels. An elegant meal was served, enhanced by musicians and by chazzan Dovele Heller, who sang chassidic compositions and nostalgic Yiddish tunes. Rabbi Chananya Chollak spoke, showering the survivors with blessings and each survivor was given a siddur with her name engraved on the cover.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the women were brought back to the Kosel for their first prayer using the new siddur.

The women returned home excited and brimming with the experience. They felt that this was a meaningful landmark occasion for them. It strengthened their feeling that people have not forgotten them, and even in their waning years, took the trouble to arrange this important event.

For further info: www.ezermizion.org    718 853 8400       5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219

He Survived the Holocaust and Now He Wants to Give Back

June 1, 2016

It’s Thursday morning and the door opens. He walks slowly but with purpose. He knows he needed. Eliezer Cohen is eighty- nine years old. He may not be as young and spry as he had been fifty years ago but his fingers are skilled and his expertise is still needed.

 

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Mr. Cohen had spent his working years in metal works, engraving, welding, soldering and the like. As an expert in the field, he taught the skill to many others.   He and his wife survived the holocaust and, even though he is now retired, he understands that each day, each bit of energy is a gift to be used to benefit others.

 

And so each Thursday morning finds him at the Ezer Mizion Medical Equipment Loan Center.

The Center provides varied types of equipment ranging from a simple walker or wheelchair to hi-tech devices. Not as readily available in Eretz Yisroel as in the US, expensive equipment is needed by many. Items are loaned to post-hospital patients, the disabled, the ill and the elderly.

Located throughout Israel, the Loan Centers lend close to 80,000 pieces of specialized equipment every year. Technicians are available with professional advice on choice of item in addition to support during its use.

The following letter is typical of those received at the center:

Nine months ago, we experienced a tragedy. Our beloved toddler, Yair-Yonatan, fell into in the swimming pool. For long months, he was hospitalized at the Schneider hospital. Ezer Mizion volunteers appeared at our side from the first moment, offering good advice, support and a warm embrace.

When it was time

to bring Yair-Yonatan home, Ezer Mizion took care of everything that was needed to care for such a child at home – a special bed, feeding equipment, nebulizer equipment, oxygen tanks, and more. Everything was delivered to our home quickly and thoughtfully. It isn’t easy to take a child who was a normal, healthy little boy, and adapt to the new reality of a child with brain damage. We didn’t have to ask Ezer Mizion for anything. They simply were there for us and helped us.

As each item is returned to the center, it is examined and repaired when necessary. That is where Eliezer Cohen comes in.  Proper and safe repair requires skill and the younger empl

oyees prefer to wait till Thursday when they know the refurbishing will be done well.

Mr. Cohen and his wife have several children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. They stand at the helm of their family, so grateful for what had only been a dream during the early post-holocaust years. Throughout the years, they have tried to instill principles in their progeny. Life is a gift and to be used to produce. We are not here on this world to take but to give to others.  One can only imagine the thoughts of a ten-year-old grandchild as he watches Zeidy make his way out the door each Thursday with his tool set, striding purposefully to help those less fortunate.  A powerful lesson to a child…and to all of us.

The Holocaust Survivor

June 3, 2015

The war is long over. The crematoria have become a place to visit. Horrifying, yes, but safe from the sadism that was mankind. The Germans have even expressed their regrets in contrite tones of remorse. But for the victims… it can never be over. The horrific experiences permeated their very being. In their younger years, they may have managed to function what with job and home responsibilities covering over the nightmare that corroded their soul. But now- 70 years later – old, feeble, many of them alone, without family—they try to function. They try. But even though the body may still be healthy, the spirit has withered. And so they cower in a corner…sometimes figuratively…sometimes literally.
Leah* was one of those people. She lived at home, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired and spending the rest of her time just sitting. Do we dare to even think what memories may have flooded her sorely troubled mind as she sat, day after day, week after week. Alone. Her caregiver urged her to join Ezer Mizion’s Activity Club for Holocaust Survivors. The only response was disinterest and apathy. More urging from the caretaker. And more. And more. Finally, she was told to go and she went. But that was all. She sat in the crowded room… so alone. The group engaged in varied activities including crafts and exercise. They heard stimulating lectures from well-known people like Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Lau, the son of the well know holocaust survivor, Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who inspired them with his warm words. Leah joined in none of these. She was hardly aware of the goings-on and never interacted with the others. Even a slight smile seemed to be a stranger to this face that had seen what no human being should have seen. She sat quietly in her corner, always dressed in the same clothing. It seemed as if the last spark had gone out and only a shell remained.
But Ruth Carmel, Ezer Mizion’s indomitable coordinator, was not about to admit defeat. With the sensitivity that comes from truly caring about each member, she saw beyond the dying ember that sat before her. She inquired, investigated, researched and slowly she began to uncover a productive past. In her younger days, Leah had been a dynamic, highly popular teacher and lecturer. Now Ruth knew which direction to take. Bit by bit, Leah began to tune into Ruth’s suggestions that she speak for the group on the Parshas HaShvuah (Torah portion of the week). A flicker of light would appear in her eyes but it would soon die down. Then one day… it didn’t die down.
The preparation wasn’t easy but it took her out of her self-imposed prison of indifference. Her talent, dormant for so long, came to life and the people enjoyed her speech. They complimented her afterwards and she responded. They asked questions and she answered. The conversation flowed to other topics and she was part of it. Her weekly speeches continued. It didn’t happen overnight but now, three years later, she is an animated, well-liked member of the group, socially involved, attentive to her clothing and grooming…and really happy!
For further info: http://www.ezermizion.org