With more than 400,000 Holocaust survivors still alive across the world today, a Christian and Jewish ministry is observing Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday with a call to action to assist these seniors in their final years – many of whom are living in poverty.
More than one out of three Holocaust survivors in the United States and about one-third of the aging group in Israel live below the poverty line, while approximately 200,000 Holocaust survivors currently living in the former Soviet Union (FSU) do not have enough food, medicine or heat every winter.
Actions over thoughts
In order to improve the lives of those who have survived the horrific tragedy that took place in World War II Nazi German concentration camps, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) launched a new global campaign that calls Christians and Jewish people to put their faith into action and help provide this elderly population with basic necessities on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"We must move quickly from memory to action to provide a measure of dignity to these Holocaust victims who are living their last days in crippling poverty," IFCJ Founder and President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein proclaimed in a statement on his website. "We must remember the past, but we also must act now."
His ministry announced that over each of the next five years, it is launching $15-million campaigns targeting the most destitute Holocaust survivors in Israel and the FSU.
Many Holocaust survivors across the globe are already being assisted by IFCJ, but some are still not receiving the resources they direly need.
"We must do whatever we can, while we still can, to bring compassion to those who endured one of the most horrific periods in our history," Eckstein impressed, according to CBN News. "Sadly we are not. Instead of giving tens of millions of dollars for Shoah museums, testimonial libraries and the like, we ought to also focus on helping provide for these desperately poor Jews in the few years they are still alive.”
The effort is being supported by Haim Saban, a philanthropist and business leader who is donating $1 million to make the last years of their lives more bearable.
"It is a privilege for me to help these poor, elderly survivors," Saban expressed, CBN News reports. "I urge others to join us. We must remember, but we must also act now."
Never forget … in mind and deed
In Israel, the government takes a number of steps to make sure that Israelis never forget that tragedy that took place throughout Europe not too many decades ago.
“Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed in Jewish communities around the world, with events in schools, synagogues and Jewish institutions,” Arutz Sheva reported. “In Israel, sirens herald the national day of mourning and bring the country to a standstill for moments of silence in the morning and evening.”
However, for many Holocaust survivors still living across Europe and Asia, the struggle for survival has persisted for decades.
“While Israeli Holocaust survivors receive some government subsidies – as well as reparations grants from Germany and Swiss banks – one-fourth of them still report being unable to afford sufficient medicine, medical care, food or home heating fuel in the winter,” Arutz Sheva’s Hezki Ezra informed. “In the FSU, the situation is much worse with the cost of living rapidly rising in recent years, the economy falling, and no social safety net. Complicating the survivor crisis is that many of the elderly Jews in the FSU directly experienced the Holocaust, having either fought against or evaded the Nazis on the eastern front – but because they were not in German concentration camps or ghettoes [they] are not considered Holocaust survivors in the strictest sense and, as a result, do not receive aid from the Claims Conference or Swiss banks.”
It is stressed that even though IFCJ (The Fellowship) touches the lives of tens of thousands in Europe and Asia, there is a large percentage of Holocaust survivors that remain unreached – a population it would like to touch in the near future, before it is too late.
“The Fellowship – which raises most of its funds from Christians – provides 110,000 survivors and other poor, elderly Jews in the FSU with $15 million annually in food, medical assistance, home care and winter aid, and more than $7.3 million annually to over 18,000 survivors in Israel,” Israel's national news agency noted. “But The Fellowship says that more than 150,000 other Holocaust survivors and refugees in the FSU are not being reached at all, because of a lack of funds from the American-Jewish community.”
The ministry’s leader wants to see more funds going toward action to help survivors – rather than huge amounts of money just going toward thinking about them.
“Of course, it’s profoundly important that we remember and memorialize the past, but we must also fulfill our moral obligation to the dwindling number of survivors who are living in the most unspeakable poverty,” Eckstein expressed, according to the Jewish news agency.