Christians help Holocaust survivors

Organizations allow visitors to help those in need.

holocaust hand 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
holocaust hand 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Christians from all over the world have been assisting Holocaust survivors in Israel for decades. But with many of the estimated 250,000 survivors now in dire straits, there is a new urgency to do more while there is still time.
Three years ago, the plight of Israel’s Holocaust survivors became something of a national scandal when media reports revealed that nearly one-third were living in poverty, many with tortured memories and severe medical problems. Story after story told of survivors having to leave the heat off in their apartments during the winter so they could afford to buy medicine.
The government has responded with increases in their pension allotments, and local charities are expanding their outreach. Christians are joining the effort as well, wanting to ensure that these survivors of the Shoah can live out their last years with some dignity and peace of mind.
Ner Ya’akov has been active in comforting survivors since 1987. It started when a “few committed German Christians” stood with Inge Buhs to support her vision for helping survivors live out their days in an atmosphere of love and security.
Inge created a welcoming home for survivors, and also provided practical help for others in the Jerusalem area. She accompanied them on visits to hospitals, helped clean their homes, and provided financial assistance.
In recent years, she has arranged for Christians from Germany and America to come and meet survivors, “to hear first-hand what they have gone though,” Inga told The Christian Edition. She says the survivors are quite pleased to know their visitors will go back home and share what they learned.
Ner Ya’akov is now branching out to reach even more survivors, as the home is changing into a center for local survivors and a guest house for Holocaust survivors on holiday.
Meantime, Ray and Sharon Sanders, directors of Christian Friends of Israel, sensed a special burden for Holocaust survivors more than 10 years ago and opened their “Forsake Them Not” department in order to reach out to those living in about 50 cities across Israel. Over the past decade, this CFI department has developed different projects, including field trips through the Land, home visits, and sponsoring community events on major Israeli holidays and Yom HaShoah – the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Sometimes, CFI volunteers are able to help with special needs, such as medicine and food, dental care, eye glasses or hearing aids.
“Our dedicated team reaches out with love and compassion to these dear people who have suffered so much. The language of God’s love speaks louder than our words, and is a healing balm,” said Helene Iedema, head of the Forsake Them Not program.Helene added that there is “a sense of urgency in our ministry. It is getting difficult to organize events, because the health of many survivors is becoming worse. So we are focusing more on home visits. We realize that each visit may be the last time we see that person.”
Recently, the CFI team started to take along forms from Yad Vashem to collect as much data as possible on unknown victims of the Nazi genocide. “We want to make sure that every person will be remembered,” said Helene.
Over at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein has also increased his group’s involvement in assisting the survivors. The Fellowship opened a base for its Israeli operations in Jerusalem in 2000, and has been channeling much of its budget to the elderly population, a large percentage of whom are needy Holocaust survivors.
In February, IFCJ gave over $5 million toward paying the heating bills of 136,000 elderly folks across the country. At the Jewish new year of Rosh Hashana in 2008, the group also contributed almost $9.5 million for small grants of several hundred dollars each to more than 10,000 Holocaust survivors. Most of these gifts came from small donations in the American evangelical community. IFCJ partnered with the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel (COHSI) to identify needy survivors and ensure they received the aid.
Another Holocaust survivor association teaming up with Christian organizations is Amcha. It was founded in 1987 by Holocaust survivors and mental health professionals to “create a framework for mutual aid, memory processing and grief resolution, as well as a place where survivors and their families could feel at home and be understood.”
Amcha is well-known for its psycho-social support centers for physical and emotional health, and for its financial support to needy survivors. Christians from all over the world, especially from Holland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, provide significant support for Amcha, both directly and indirectly. For instance, Christian donations have helped survivors in the embattled Gaza border town of Sderot, which has been struck by several thousand Kassam rockets in the past nine years, forcing many survivors to relive past traumas.
For the past two years, Amcha has helped employ seven full-time socialcase workers who make home visits on a weekly basis to help hundreds ofhome-bound Holocaust survivors, according to Natan Kellerman, projectdevelopment director for Amcha.
Amcha also has a group of young Germans who volunteer their time in Israel to promote reconciliation between the two countries.
So whether by donations, visits, or hands-on volunteer programs,Christians have plenty of opportunities to help Israel’s agingHolocaust survivors as they reach their twilight years.