As Israel goes under lockdown to try to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the Coronavirus, I am scared for Israel’s most precious and vulnerable citizens – Holocaust survivors.
My life partner is a child survivor of Theresienstadt. He already survived years in a concentration camp and all the many years and trials of life afterward – I do not want this virus to be the death of him! But it could be. I get it, time passes, we age, we all have to face that we will die. It’s just that there are already so few Holocaust survivors left in this world. Numbers are hard to estimate, but before this virus struck, there were an estimated 150,000 Holocaust survivors left in Israel. That number might be a bit higher, but soon, it will be lower. Much lower.
Most of us are concerned about our own jobs, children, and health during this stressful time, and that makes sense. We have to practice social distancing and do our best as a country to keep a lid on this virus. But we must also remember that many Holocaust survivors already live in isolated and lonely conditions. How can we help both protect and guard them and their legacies but also not allow them to be frightened and alone during this time? We have a special responsibility to protect Holocaust survivors and their stories carefully. We are the generation entrusted with this responsibility.
Many elders live alone and may be very frightened right now. Upcoming gatherings and events have been canceled. Elders may not have the tech-savvy to order groceries or stay in touch with Facetime or Skype. This is such an innovative country; there has to be a way we can help!
Jay Schultz, the founder of Adopt-a-Safta, says that while Purim and Pesach gatherings have been canceled, a very sad thing for the program and its participants, the one-on-one volunteering Adopt-a-Safta provides is designed to handle the challenges of this contagious outbreak very well. If you can be of help, get in touch with Adopt-a-Safta.
Please remember that even if you feel healthy, you might, in fact, be able to pass this virus to a vulnerable elder, so be extra, extra cautious if you are a caretaker, friend, or relative of an at-risk person.
Quarantine Aid Israel is a Facebook group that you can join if you can safely help those in quarantine.
The bottom line is that this year, on Yom HaShoah, there will be fewer survivors than ever before. Let’s do our best through awareness, hand-washing, social distancing, and reaching out with the help of the phone or the internet to minimize the toll on the community of Holocaust survivors, elders in general, and all of those in high-risk groups.