“In another 10 or 15 years, we will no longer have Holocaust survivors in our midst. This is the time we need to care for them.” I was speaking to Erez, a man with a vision and a burden. It is his responsibility to provide affordable housing solutions for Israel’s elderly with extremely limited resources. So far, he has succeeded in offering safe, comfortable housing units to 7,000 elderly Israelis, the majority of them Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet Union. Yet 27,000 more remain on a waiting list, desperate for a limited supply of public housing.
At the end of 2018, there were 221,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel. The number shrinks every month, as the population grows increasingly elderly and frail. The Holocaust ended in 1945. The survivors today were young people at that time. Now, after living through the horrors and heartbreak, they are in the final chapter of their lives.
At Bridges for Peace, it is our honor and privilege to lovingly assist many survivors, bringing them food, brightening their lonely days and being the hands and feet to meet their needs.
Shelly is one of the precious Holocaust survivors we help. She immigrated to Israel with her husband, and the couple relied on each other for love, companionship, strength and comfort. Of course, Bridges for Peace was there to fill empty cupboards and put food on the table, seeking to make the dear couple’s golden years as comfortable as possible.
Shelly’s husband passed away a year ago, leaving her without her source of companionship and comfort. Since the couple was registered for Bridges for Peace’s deliveries under her husband’s name, she was petrified that she would no longer receive the food parcel they depended on to survive and that she would have to face the cold winter months alone, hungry and afraid. What a blessing to reassure Shelly that Bridges for Peace would continue to be there for her and that she could depend on us—as she had done in the past.
Now that Shelly is a widow, she needs more help than before. When our volunteers knock on her door, she is always waiting with a list of favors—things an elderly lady cannot do herself, things her husband used to take care of. It is our privilege to take care of her list for her.
This month our delivery to Shelly contained more than her regular food package. We also brought a birthday basket filled with delicious treats and a beautiful hand-knitted blanket made by a Christian in Australia. Shelly now knows that she will not live out her final years alone. Thanks to Bridges for Peace and Christians from around the world, she will have love, support, sustenance and companionship.
Many Holocaust survivors came to Israel after World War II and have built lives and families here. Many others, however, were trapped in the former Soviet Union when the war ended. When it finally became possible to come to Israel, they began to arrive. This group of immigrant Holocaust survivors—many of them Russian speakers—are in great need of assistance. When they arrived, they were already senior citizens and often had no financial reserves. They forfeited their small (usually US $80 or less per month) pensions from their former countries when they came to Israel. Israel gives them a small pension (welfare payment) of around US $800 per month. The tiny pension is, however, not nearly enough to live on. The rent for even small, poorly equipped apartments in desperate need of repair costs more than US $1,000 per month. In order to make ends meet, five or six of these elderly survivors often live together in a small apartment to afford housing costs.
Israel is trying to resolve this difficult situation by building elder homes all over the country. One-bedroom apartments for an elderly couple or a studio apartment for single survivors will be provided to them at highly subsidized costs. They will pay only US $75 per month plus their utilities. This will allow them to use their limited funds for medical needs and food. We went to visit one such building in Jerusalem. While small, the apartment was well equipped and clean. The residents are provided with dignity and assistance if they should need it.
The Israeli government and the Jewish Agency covered 82% of the costs of these new buildings. A further 18% is needed from donors around the world. Bridges for Peace has been asked to help. Each of the apartments costs US $75,000.
Now is the time to show our love to Holocaust survivors, while they are still with us. Many, like Shelly, are immigrants, all alone and living with the haunting memory of the Holocaust. Any one of those situations would be difficult to overcome. Imagine dealing with such trauma. At Bridges for Peace, we are committed to love them, feed them, fix their apartments, bring presents and visit them. Now we will also help provide them with a home where they can live in dignity and safety.
Your gift to our Holocaust Survivor Fund will show these people that Christians love and care for them. “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matt 25:40).
Blessings from Israel,
Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO
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