As one who went through the nightmare, Tziporah Abramowitz (77) is more capable than anyone else to connect to the depths of the souls of the holocaust survivors in order to help them with the emotional challenge of coping daily with the horrible memories, which do not leave them alone for a moment. She has become a beloved volunteer at Ezer Mizion’s social club for holocaust survivors. Her encouragement, her compliments, her ability to engage the members and her weekly presentation on the Parsha (Torah portion of the week) all serve to bring that elusive smile to the faces of these elderly victims of a horror that defies description.
Tziporah was one of those saved by Raoel Wallenburg. She was hidden, together with hundreds of children, in the cellar of one of the many buildings rented by Mr. Wallenburg. In the 17th century there had been a terrible fire in London that killed many. When the “Pest’ section of Budapest was built, it was required that from every building, there would be a way to escape to another building. Continue reading A Holocaust Survivor Reaches Out to Others
A man grows older. Sometimes parts of his body do not work as well as when he was young. Does that mean his inner feelings lessen? His wishes? His longings?
Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Gibraltar, a native of Kovno was just 12 years old when World War II broke out. He endured all the horrors of the Holocaust, suffering illness and hunger and doing forced labor under severe conditions. Together with his brother, he carried their father until the end of the horrible marches. After the war, he moved to Israel where he established his home and raised his children. Here in Israel, he wrote and published three books about the Jews of Kovno, from its golden era until its destruction in the Holocaust.
In his weekly meetings with an Ezer Mizion volunteer, Rabbi Gibraltar mentioned that in his childhood, he had been an expert swimmer. After the war’s end, too, he did a lot of swimming, in preparation for his planned Aliyah, since he had heard that the British do not allow the immigrants’ ships lay anchor close to shore. Those days, with his swimming skills, he saved many people from drowning.
Today, due to a substantial decline in his physical functioning, he is at home most hours of the day. When he was young, he hopped in and out of a car many times a day. Now his body fails him and getting into a car is as difficult as flying to the moon. When he was young, he had spent his vacations at scenic places, taking in the glorious beauty of Hashem’s world. He traveled where he wished. There was nothing holding him back. Now traveling from one room to another is a battle. In his mind’s eye, he can see the awesome beauty of the ocean. He yearns to be there once more…to make the brocha Oseh Maaseh Breishis (blessing) as his whole being becomes one with the roar of the waves.
He is a 90 year old Talmid Chochom (man learned in the Torah), a holocaust survivor. He is so grateful for the life he was given. He has no complaints. But oh, to see the ocean once more… to feel the power of the waves as they come crashing down… to gaze at the horizon as sea meets sky far, far into the distance. And then to make the brocha (blessing) in full awe and what HaKodosh Boruch Hu (G-d) had wrought.
He yearned but he understood that it cannot be. Until the Ezer Mizion volunteer heard his whispered dreams. Then things began moving fast. Contacts were made. Logistical hurdles were surmounted. More problems. These also were vanquished. Then a date was set. A slot was cleared with an Ezer Mizion ambulance for his trip. An experienced, Ezer Mizion trained volunteer was thrilled to facilitate the outing. And a dream became reality.
Another holocaust survivor. Another dream. This one is 99 years old. His neshoma aches to, once again, experience a davening at Meron. Impossible, say the naysayers. Lets try, says Ezer Mizion. It’s not easy. For each impediment conquered, two more crop up. It would be easy to simply say, it’s too hard. But Ezer Mizion is not about to take the easy way out when there exists even a remote possibility of bringing such spiritual joy to this centenarian. Phones buzzed and emails flew across cyberspace. It was not long before this dream, too, became reality.
Ezer Mizion’s Ambulance Division with its fleet of vehicles outfitted to handle the mobility impaired, the respiratory patient and so many more challenges, handles hundreds of calls for patients to be transported to and from clinics for chemo, dialysis and other treatments and emergency calls. A small number of slots are reserved for its “Fulfilling A Dream” program which has brought happiness to so many homebound. It enables elderly people to choose an event they wish to experience, something they can look forward to. Ezer Mizion receives requests from social workers or family members of lonely, disabled, elderly people throughout Israel. After reviewing the requests, Ezer Mizion coordinates the logistics of making these dreams come true.
Typical requests include trips to the Kotel and other special places, visits to relatives and friends and participation in family celebrations. Ezer Mizion’s Ambulance and Transport Department plays an integral role in fulfilling dreams, providing the necessary vehicles and personnel
Companionship. 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 everyone 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. Continue reading Holocaust Survivors in their Golden Years
Five Bat Yam retirees awarded the “Golden Volunteer” medallion for 2016 for their volunteer work in the community. Another 16 were honored for their volunteering
For the sixth year running, the “Golden Volunteer” ceremony was held in Bat Yam, as part of the schedule of events for “Retirees’ Month,” which salutes the senior population.
The highlight of the event was a film describing the retirees’ volunteer activities, including interviews with the people who nominated the awardees for the honor. Five seniors were awarded the “Golden Volunteer” medallion and another sixteen received certificates of honor.
The five recipients of the “Golden Volunteer” medallion were: Rabbi Yaakov Rozha, neighborhood rabbi, Reservist Lieutenant Colonel serving in the Military Chief Rabbinate, and a volunteer for Zaka (identification of terrorist victims); Chava Stern, community volunteer for decades in the Cancer Association, Akim, Ilan, and the Soldiers’ Benefit Association; Ruth ben Simchon, volunteer at the seniors’ day center; Mirit Dayan, volunteer at Wolfson Medical Center’s oncology ward; and Binyamin Abramov, volunteer at the Bat Yam branch of Ezer Mizion.
It’s called the Golden Age. From the vantage point of a younger person, it truly seems golden. No difficulties with toddlers or raising a difficult teen. No problematic boss to please. No mortgage payments to meet. The senior can just sit back and enjoy her accomplishments. But is it really so? Now let’s change hats and sit on the senior’s rocking chair. No children who need her to kiss the boo-boo away. No shared smile of satisfaction with a daughter when the perfect Yom Tov outfit s finally found. No challenges. No satisfaction in meeting those challenges. The former frantically-busy-mother wonders just what she is doing in the world. Gradually, lacking the stimulus of natural challenge, she forgets how to think, how to problem solve, how to plan. Lacking goals, she is miserable, depressed with no idea how to extricate herself from the dilemma. Continue reading The Golden Age?
The following were just some of the letters received after the recent Bat Mitzvah for Holocaust Survivors. The event obviously filled a need deeply felt by those that had their childhood stolen by Hitler.
Esty had absorbed the message that pervades every nook and cranny at Ezer Mizion: “What else can we do to help those in need?” Esty was hired as a Developmental Aide who met with special needs children several times a week, working to attain the goals set by the therapists. Being well trained in the field and blessed with a lot of initiative and great ideas, she developed a program using games to help meet those goals. A classic Candyland game could work wonders if utilized in the right way, she discovered. It was not long before she was heading Ezer Mizion’s newly founded Game Lending Library. Therapists would use the games to supplement their own supplies and families with special children would meet with her and borrow games based on her recommendation.
A busy mother, at her wits end, is told that her child will grow so much more if Mommy does ‘homework’ with him each day. It’s not that she doesn’t want to obey the therapists’ instructions. It’s not that she doesn’t care about her child reaching his potential. Continue reading It’s Only a Game…or Is it?
Many 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? Continue reading I Missed Mine!
A Bas Mitzvah celebration is being planned at the Kosel for 100 holocaust survivors whose 12th birthday passed during the nightmare of terror with certainly no thought of a celebration. For many women, the missing noting of this important milestone remained like a hole in their lives and they are extremely grateful for the closure offered at the upcoming celebration. the following is a letter written by one holocaust survivor who is so thankful that she wrote a letter to Ezer Mizion even before the event happened. Continue reading A Letter that Belongs to You, Our Dear Friends and Supporters