Shoah survivors celebrate Succot in bomb-shelter community center

‘We’re the last generation, and this lets us be together to sing songs, listen to our music and speak to each other in Yiddish. This makes us happy.’

HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS living in Jerusalem gather 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS living in Jerusalem gather 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Dozens of Holocaust survivors living in Jerusalem gathered Monday in a small park in the capital’s upscale Rehavia neighborhood to celebrate Succot, in a succa next to a refurbished bomb shelter that also serves as their community center.
The shelter was renovated about two years ago with over $400,000 in funding from The Jerusalem Prayer Team, a Christian Evangelical organization based in Texas and led by international best-selling author, journalist and humanitarian Dr. Mike Evans.
Evans’s organization acquired the once-abandoned and dilapidated shelter, built in the 1950s, through the Jerusalem Municipality with the goal of providing shelter and companionship for the city’s dwindling community of Holocaust survivors.
“We decided to turn it into a community center as well as a bomb shelter,” said Evans, as he stood by a succa adjacent to the bunker’s entrance.
“The fact that it’s a bomb shelter is comforting for them because they’ve been traumatized and it’s a place they can feel safe and be together,” he said.
“If war ever comes, they’ll have the best shelter in Israel,” he added with a smile.
Indeed, decked out with flatscreen TVs, an electric chair lift, fully stocked kitchen, air conditioning, art, bathrooms, couches and chairs, the space is the Ritz-Carlton of bomb shelters compared to its countless austere, no-frills counterparts throughout the country.
It is also now inhabited during the High Holy Days, as well as for weekly gatherings, by The Group of Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem, created six years ago by child survivor Dr. Lilian Glazer.
Glazer, who immigrated from the Ukraine during the Yom Kippur War with her husband and two children, spearheaded the group six years ago to aid the roughly 110 Holocaust survivors living in the capital – many of whom are in need of meals, medical attention and companionship.
The project is entirely funded by The Jerusalem Prayer Team, she said.
“Every few months, Michael comes to visit us,” said Glazer, a practicing gynecologist. “He is part of our family, and we feel so proud of this connection because we are the last generation [of survivors] and he helps us be together and feel safe.”
Evans said his organization never hesitates to write a check for a member in need.
“I ask Lillian what she needs, and we do it,” said Evans. “For us, it’s a blessing. These are very beautiful people. How can you not be happy seeing Holocaust survivors so joyful – at a bomb shelter, no less?” Glazer said the majority of the survivors in her organization are from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, living alone in meager surroundings.
“They celebrate all the holidays here, and it gives them a sense of purpose,” she said.
“That’s a gift for all of us.”
Alexander Vishnevetsky, a survivor from the Ukraine who also works as a journalist, said he attended all the events at the facility and was comforted by the group’s shared history.
“We’re the last generation [of survivors], and I’m happy I can meet my friends who are in the same situation,” said Vishnevetsky.
“We can sing songs, listen to our music and speak to each other in Yiddish,” he said.
“This makes us happy.”
Evans said The Jerusalem Prayer Team had also renovated a bomb shelter in Haifa for survivors living in the North.
“My prayer is that this will be an inspiration for others to do the same throughout the country,” he said.