When she moved to Israel from Switzerland some 25 years ago, Aviva Silverman,
who was studying law at Bar- Ilan University, thought she could use her mother
tongue, German, to volunteer with Holocaust survivors in a Petah Tikva nursing
home close to where she lived.
As she offered her services, the nursing
home staff handed her a pile of official documents, all written in
The papers were in fact forms that Holocaust survivors could fill
out to receive financial benefits from Germany.
“I went there once a week
and helped them fill out the forms,” she recalled.
“Back then, the
benefits were worth something like 270 euros ($350) a month.”
became familiar with the issue, Silverman realized the survivors she helped were
not aware of their rights and of the benefits they were entitled to from Israel
“It is a complicated issue, and only some lawyers would
assist them with it, and for significant amounts of money,” she told The
Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“So I decided to do something.”
background in law, Silverman founded the NGO AVIV for Holocaust survivors in the
summer of 2007 with the goal of “ensuring that Shoah victims in Israel live in
the dignity and comfort they deserve.”
“I have to say that at least 50
percent of the people who come to us are not fully taking advantage of their
rights,” she explained. “They think they are getting the maximum amount of
benefits they can get and then when we ask them questions, we quickly find out
that they are not getting everything they could be getting.”
and her trained volunteers present the survivors with all the relevant
information regarding the benefits they are entitled to receive from various
bodies in Israel or Germany. The NGO also helps them fill out the necessary
documents and apply for various grants.
“It’s very important to give them
personalized guidance,” Silverman stated.
“It’s a lot of bureaucracy to
deal with and it’s important that they don’t get frustrated along the way and
To fulfill its goal, the organization has made available a
website providing detailed explanations about survivors’ rights; these include
video tutorials and documents translated from German to Hebrew. They have also
trained some 8,000 professionals and volunteers who usually work with survivors
on how to help them maximize their rights and held “Rights Realization” Days.
They opened several information desks in different cities across the country to
give direct assistance to Holocaust survivors.
The NGO is expected to
open its latest information station in Ramat Hasharon next week.
are a lot of NGOs who help survivors with food packages and combating
loneliness, and I have a lot of respect for people who do that,” Silverman said.
“But we are unique in a sense because we help them get the maximum they can get
for the long term, there is something very secure about that.
“I think it
gives them a lot of dignity and a very different feeling.”
In five years
of activity, AVIV has helped some 65,000 Holocaust survivors residing in Israel
to receive allowances and benefits amounting to some NIS 130
Addressing the multiple budget cuts over the past year,
Silverman stressed the importance of not lowering survivors’ benefits: “In
Israel in 2013, there needs to be a status quo stating that we do not touch the
benefits they are used to receiving, whatever is already existing and operating
today can’t be taken away from them,” she said.
“When they go to the
Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel and then halfway
through, the money runs out and they are told they can’t get financial aid
anymore, that’s a problem, because they are used to [the funding],” she
Silverman, who is a mother of six, said she feels it is her
mission to help some of the 192,000 survivors in Israel.