The Holocaust Survivor: Their Challenges…Our Mission

According to statistics, there are about 260,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel today. Many of these elderly survivors are homebound, with little or no family, and are in dire need of physical and emotional support. Some, after having repressed their trauma for years, now feel an intense need to share the pain of their Holocaust experiences and their consequences.

In addition to its many, varied social services for the elderly, Ezer Mizion’s Golden Age Division has launched a program to train a select group of volunteers to work with these survivors, one-on-one, in order to help meet the complex needs of this unique population. The program is coordinated by Ayala Feldman, MSW. 

Volunteers are chosen by Ezer Mizion based on their personal qualities and overall experience. The volunteer must be the type of person with whom a wary, often reticent, survivor will feel comfortable.

The volunteer must also display strong commitment as the project obligates participation in an extensive, structured training course and follow-up enrichment programs.

Elderly candidates for the pilot program are identified either through municipal social welfare offices, or through Ezer Mizion’s geriatric program, whose varied social services are already benefiting these homebound survivors. The candidate must harbor a sincere desire to establish a relationship with an outsider and to improve the quality of his life.

Within the framework of the pilot project, 30 volunteers will be assigned to 30 elderly survivors.  An orientation meeting introducing the interested volunteer candidates to the program, its opportunities, challenges and demands, will enable Ezer Mizion staff and potential volunteers themselves to determine suitability for the training course.

The course includes profiles of Holocaust survivors and techniques on how to meet the specific needs of the elderly survivor presented by specialists in the field. Volunteers will be trained in methods of improving the survivor’s mobility through guided physical activity at home, while, at the same time, enhancing their communication skills.

The duration of the pilot phase of this project is through July 2011 at which time it will be reassessed and adjusted by Ezer Mizion staff based on evaluation of initial outcomes.

Project staff and lecturers and supervisors include: Orit Rz, MSW, Benny Kelner, MPE, Ayala Feldman, MSW, Dr. Nathan Dorset, geriatric psychologist, Liat Vachtenberg, MSW, Tal Preeling, geriatric dietician, Yehudit Helfer, MSW, Shirley Beltano, B.Ed, and Ronen Kovalsky.

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