“Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, I have no way to describe the loneliness I’ve been feeling. For so long, it’s been just me and my four walls,” shares Sarah, 84, a Holocaust survivor in Jerusalem. “And it’s not just that I have nobody to talk to. When something breaks in my house, I’m completely helpless – I have no one to turn to for help,” she adds.
Recently, Sarah’s shower doors collapsed on her, while she was showering. She found herself unhurt but without a working shower. “It was a miracle that the doors fell on my shoulder and not my head,” she says. “But once it broke, I had no way of washing myself. I used a washcloth to keep clean for several weeks. When I came across Tenufa Bakehila’s emergency hotline, I immediately phoned for help.”
Thinking “Out of the Box” to Reach Families in Distress
In the current situation – with the ever-present fear of catching the Coronavirus (particularly for those who are high risk), and with various community-based care programs for the elderly shut down – Tenufa’s team needed to think creatively to come up with a means of reaching every Holocaust survivor and elderly individual who is in distress.
Their solution: an Emergency Repair-Mobile providing urgent, essential homes repairs. The Emergency Repair-Mobile is a well-stocked vehicle equipped with the tools and supplies to handle crucial repair work – and by using it, the team has been able to respond to calls for help in a matter of hours.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis alone, Tenufa’s Emergency Repair-Mobile has assisted over 350 families. It is an inherent aspect of the organization’s operations and, at present, it is being used to serve dozens of families in Israel every week.
As soon as Tenufa received the emotional call from Sarah, they dispatched their new Emergency Repair-Mobile to assist her. Chaim, one of the team’s dedicated repairmen, drove straight to Sarah’s house – where he was shocked to discover not just the broken shower, but also an empty fridge and general state of disrepair. By the time he’d left Sarah’s home, Chaim had repaired the shower as well as a dangerous socket, a broken door handle, and a leaky toilet. “Chaim saw my terrible distress. He showed me so much care, so much warmth,” said Sarah, with tears in her eyes.
“He fixed everything for free,” she added gratefully, explaining, “You know, I barely have money for food – let alone repairs. People like Chaim give me a reason to wake up in the morning.”
In addition to doing essential repair work in Sarah’s home, Tenufa’s office notified the local social services about Sarah’s situation and arranged for weekly food packages to be delivered to her.
Restoring the Dignity of Holocaust Survivors
In times of crisis, the weakest segments of society suffer the most. “As a society, it is our obligation to look after Holocaust survivors and other elderly individuals who are living in dangerous and unsanitary conditions,” says Gabi Nachmani, Founder and Director of Tenufa. “We cannot allow these situations to continue. We must respond!”
Sarah is one of thousands of Holocaust survivors and other elderly individuals who are struggling more than ever during this time. The strain of social distancing – of not being able to go out, and not being visited by family and friends – creates unbearable loneliness, but also leads to practical difficulties and, sometimes, a deep sense of helplessness. What do individuals do when something essential breaks if they can’t pay a repairman? Frequently, they just live with it – and each story is more gut wrenching than the last.
But of all the calls that came through this last week, the call from Chana was possibly the worst. A 92-year-old Holocaust survivor, Chana had a faulty electrical system in her bathroom and – because she had no light or heat in the bathroom at night – she had been sleeping in diapers.
In 27 years, Tenufa’s caring and sensitive staff has provided assistance to over 5,500 families in Israel. To date, its repair teams are working in 16 cities across the country.
Tenufa is the only large-scale nonprofit organization in Israel that handles emergency repairs. But it’s not “just” about home repair. While Tenufa’s team does repair work, their specially trained social workers reach out to offer guidance to each member of a family in the areas of health, employment, education, and welfare.
With winter setting in, the number of cries for help is rapidly increasing – with calls coming in directly from homebound, elderly individuals all over the country. To keep up with the growing need, Tenufa has determined that a single Emergency Repair-Mobile is not enough.
Tenufa currently is raising 200,000 NIS for operating an additional Emergency Repair-Mobile so that the team can continue to provide immediate assistance for the most extreme cases in the coming months. “This winter, we must make sure that every Holocaust survivor and elderly individual can live safely – with dignity,” Gabi says.
President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin's Endorsing of Tenufa in 2020
"I was absolutely delighted to hear about the essential and praiseworthy work that you're doing across the country, with great humility, a positive spirit and endless willingness to help those in need … I wish you continued success on your most worthy path. Your efforts give the rest of us great pride, a shining role-model of mutual responsibility during these trying times when it is so sorely needed".
Be part of this incredible project! Contribute towards Tenufa’s second Emergency Repair-Mobile at this link or phone 02-679-3491 in Israel for more information.
For further info:Phone int'l: +972-2-679-3491Email: [email protected] Website: www.tenufa.org