(Read Part I: On Connection here.)
Part II: On Action
For example, in New York City, hundreds of volunteers team up with the iVolunteer organization to visit often-lonely Holocaust survivors and become like family.
According to the 2009 Claims Conference, survivors are “more likely than other elderly to be socially isolated, and as a result, are more likely to live in poverty and be in poorer health.”
While health and financial needs plague today’s survivor population, the worst poverty is loneliness. These feelings are greatly alleviated through volunteer visits. But honestly, I feel like the volunteers get more out of these visits than they could ever give.
However, while Jews across the world remember the Shoah this week, there is a large number of people who are unaware of the critical need for basic safety net services for many of the frail and aging Holocaust survivors who live right here in our own community.
According to the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA), DC’s community safety net organization, there are hundreds of survivors in the DC-area in need of critical homecare and medical support services. In fact, JSSA is reporting a dramatic increase this year in the number of survivors requesting care. As a result, JSSA is now facing critical shortfalls as the need is outpacing available funding. (Learn more about the issue here.)
In light of all these issues, EntryPointDC partnered with JSSA to create an Inter-generational Passover Program with Silver Spring-area Holocaust survivors on Good Deeds Day. This was a memorable event not only for the Holocaust survivors, who were elated to have the opportunity to tell their personal stories and socialize with each other, but also for the young professionals who got to connect with them.
For one participant, it was his first time meeting a survivor, never having had the opportunity first hand. For a young woman, who is an Iraqi Jew , it was important to her to come because her own family had been persecuted in Iraq. Another came to connect with his Jewish heritage for the first time since the passing of his father.
Others came as proud representatives of their own survivor grandparents. After the event, one shared, “I just wanted to thank you for organizing this event; it really was so special.”
These connections are so important to our community. This June, we’re trying to make more of these inter-generational exchanges happen.
We want to connect survivors and young professionals with our Service For Survivors Trip – a Service Learning Trip to Miami Beach, Florida. Participants from EntryPointDC, GLOE, Community Services, and other partners will be joining us. Truly, we welcome anyone in their 20s & 30s to join us in this mitzvah.
One of my favorite things about this project is the chance I’ll get to interact and connect with individual survivors, knowing that this is a population deeply in need, AND that there is something we can do about it. (The fact we’ll all be hanging out in Miami Beach doesn’t hurt either.)
As the last generational link, we are almost out of time to hear their stories.
And then, when the time comes, we’ll pass those stories on.