Holiday Season Begins with Giving to Holocaust Survivors

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Your words can mean so much
“When was the last time you did something for someone else”

The Jewish Holiday season begins.

After lunch at work, I saw that HR put out a table with supplies to make New Year greeting cards. They explained it is to join a larger organization, to send greeting cards to Holocaust survivors. I love this idea. Well, I actually hate greeting cards. Ever since third-grade Valentine’s Day, when we didn’t have to give a card to everyone in the class, and it became a popularity contest (one I didn’t win, if that wasn’t clear). My mother’s address book was a family relic – look, but don’t touch – that was taken out during holidays. It was never noted on or checked off. It was the database for the greeting card operation.

But what if you miss someone? What if you send a card one year, and forget that person the next year? What if you are on vacation and don’t send any? Will all your dear ones be offended? So I never got into the spirit of greeting cards.

But this endeavor – doing something for Holocaust Survivors – this I’m totally into.

Families and Holidays

Setting days off in the year to remember or celebrate something is the easiest way for us to remember those who are less fortunate. Holidays are family events, and that in itself opens a can of worms. No family in the world believes it lives up to the ideal. How can a family be perfect when all are made of imperfect humans? As parents, we prepare with cooking and gifts and decorating and parties and … no wonder every big event turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth.

We lose our children’s attention just when they expect most to be included. And if we do make a great effort and include them, letting them cut and paste and dribble sugar and cleaning up after they are in bed, we’re even more tired afterward. I’m not saying all holidays are tiresome. I’m saying that if we don’t take into account the work that goes into making a traditional holiday, we cannot prepare ourselves properly, to enable ourselves to actually enjoy the holiday and the dear ones we are sharing it with. And even then, we’ll never have the picture-perfect holiday and family gathering that we dream of.

Holidays Sans Family

With all that said, there is the worse thing – knowing that other people are celebrating with families and having none of your own. Being on the outside, like a Jewish kid in the American Midwest during Christmas. “This isn’t for you.” Like a Jewish kid in Jerusalem from a poor family who cannot afford honey during New Year. Like a person of any faith, in any country, where people all around are celebrating with their families, and they have none. Take the case of the poor, single, driven young man or woman who chooses to ignore the holidays, because they have no family to celebrate with.

Now multiply all those feelings of isolation and ostracism by a thousand: when you are alone not by choice but due to mass murder. The special day brings up memories of happy times forever lost in enveloping fear and disgust and memories of starvation and total deprivation. AND on top of all of that, let’s just add present-day poverty.

What a downer for a holiday. Yeah. But I don’t see a point to the High Holy Days unless it is a reminder to think of the Holocaust survivors and of everyone less fortunate.

Tens of thousands of Israeli Holocaust survivors are living in abject poverty

Holocaust survivors are being left to die in poverty

A large percentage of survivors (about 40%) often feel very lonely 

There are some 200,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel [in 2015], and a full one-quarter of them live below the poverty line.

Tikun Olam

So – what to do? Thinking does about as much good as praying when it comes to putting bread and hummus on the table. OK, OK, I won’t go into the power(lessness) of prayer. I’ll focus on action. So one day I was going over my family records (a little hobby) and the net connected me to info like the links above. Survivors living in poverty, without dignity. This is shameful! I must do something. I found an organization that I thought was donating actual money to Survivors. Nope. It was a lawyer’s office, who was still trying to get German compensation in courts. As far as I can tell, that money never goes to the Survivors.

The one place in the world that should be, by all definitions and logical reasoning, upholding the Survivors and drowning them in love, gratitude, gifts, and luxury — is letting them drown alone in pain and despair.

If you know of an organization that helps Holocaust Survivors, directly, with necessities (not Cafe Europa, please) of food, medical care, and finance, please put a link in the comments!

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