A 92-year-old Holocaust survivor from Los Angeles has made a NIS 1.3 million online donation, the largest of its kind for Israel, earmarking it for the Baruch Padeh Medical Center–Poriya Hospital, southwest of Tiberias.
Esther Sky made the donation ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was announced on Sunday, doing so through IsraelGives, the main online vehicle for charitable giving to Israel. It will go toward the expansion of a $7m. ambulatory care wing equipped with surgical suites, recovery units and offices, aimed at expanding the scope and number of surgical procedures performed at the hospital.
“[I made the donation] in order to save lives, like my life was saved in a hospital after the war,” she said.
She added that she chose Poriya following a meeting years ago with one of the hospital’s doctors, who left a lasting impression on her and her late husband, Benny.
Yonatan Ben Dror, CEO of IsraelGives, praised Sky for her contribution and said the organization had been “blown away” by her philanthropy.
“We created IsraelGives to allow supporters of Israel from around the world to learn about and support our nonprofit causes, Ben-Dror told The Jerusalem Post Monday. “Online giving in Israel has been doubling in size every year, and we are amazed to see that a 92-yearold Holocaust survivor is able to connect to Israeli causes from the other side of the world.”
Sky grew up in the small Polish village of Stopnica with her parents, seven siblings and grandparents. Members of her extended family, including three of her uncles, relocated to North America prior to the Nazi invasion; her grandfather, a tailor by profession, did not want to relocate the immediate family because he said the work in the US “wasn’t kosher.”
When the Nazis came to their village in 1942 they marched her family into the market square and shot them. One of her brothers managed to escape into the woods to fight with the Resistance, and later moved to the US.
Sky herself was spared the fate of the rest, probably because she was fit for labor, and was sent to Bergen-Belsen.
Upon her arrival, the Nazis made an example of her, forcing her to stand naked in the cold until icicles formed in her hair. They were showing what would happen to those who disobeyed orders.
She was forced to work in an ammunition factory along with other girls her age, and was exposed to toxic fumes on a daily basis. As a result, she became deathly ill and was able to survive thanks only to fellow inmates who helped hide her illness from the camp commanders.
On the brink of death when Bergen-Belsen was liberated in 1945, she was transferred by the Red Cross to a Swedish hospital, where she underwent four operations over the course of the four and a half years she was a patient.
When she recuperated, Sky began working at the hospital as a secretary and through mutual friends met Benny, who would become her husband of over six decades. After several years in Sweden they moved to Toronto, where Sky’s uncle had relocated, and from there to California.
She and her husband decided they would donate a large part of their estate to charity upon their deaths. With the recent passing of Benny, Sky decided not to wait.
“We are proud to have been able to facilitate these donations and to help an ailing Holocaust survivor to fulfill her final dream to donate to help save the lives of others in Israel,” Ben-Dror told the Post.