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Poverty is not a must for Holocaust survivors

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Of the 200,000 elderly Holocaust survivors living in Israel today, approximately one quarter live in poverty..

Of the 200,000 elderly Holocaust survivors living in Israel today, approximately one quarter live in poverty. Many of those who suffered through some of history’s most heinous times, and managed to make it through alive, are now enduring a different kind of struggle. A small charity makes a different for thousands of those each year, by making sure the survivors take advantage of all their financial rights. Meet just a few of the survivors whose lives have been changed by “Aviv for Holocaust Survivors” NPO.

He never thought he was entitled to rights of a Holocaust survivor….

Avraham, a 78-year-old Holocaust survivor from Kiryat Yam, spent the first years of his childhood in the Jado Concentration Camp in Libya. Remarkably, through the suffering, hunger, disease, and constant threat of death, Avraham survived, but throughout his life he suffered from health problems caused by those years.

Due to lack of information and proper guidance, Avraham did not ask the state to recognize him as a Holocaust survivor. Only when Avraham approached one of the Entitlement Centres run by “Aviv for Holocaust Survivors”, he learned that he meets all the criteria for receiving a monthly pension from the government. Within weeks he started receiving a monthly stipend of 6,000 NIS, and the light has finally returned to Avraham’s life. "It's like a dream come true, I will no longer have to live in existential anxiety, and today I'm not dependent on anyone!" Avraham says of his new life as a Holocaust survivor no longer living in poverty.

Fleeing the only country they ever called home...

Michael and Sarah, 94-year-old Holocaust survivors from Ramat Gan, were born and raised in Germany. As the Nazis rose to power throughout the 1930’s, they suffered and struggled to live in the only country they ever called home. After many hardships, they managed to flee to England before the outbreak of World War II. Once in England, Michael enlisted in the British army and fought the Nazis who had ruthlessly destroyed their homes and families.

At the end of the war, Michael and Sarah immigrated to Israel, but to their dismay they were not recognized as Holocaust survivors. The couple sought assistance at the Aviv Association’s Ramat Gan Entitlement Centre, where one of the charity’s lawyers assisted them in filling out the forms and the requests at no cost.

As of today, Michael and Sarah each receive a monthly stipend of 3,000 NIS. "We did not believe that at the age of 94 we would be recognized as Holocaust survivors. This pension will give us peace of mind until the end of our days!” says Sarah. For the first time, she feels financially secure.

Life did not lend a hand to any of the Holocaust survivors

The story of Rosa, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor, is particularly heart-breaking. When the Nazis invaded her homeland Romania she was shipped with her family to various concentration and labour camps around Europe. Through her courage strength and determination, Rosa survived the abuse and inhumane conditions of the camp until the camp was liberated.

When the war ended, Rosa asked to immigrate to Israel, but was refused. Only in 1961 did she succeed fulfilling that dream. Rosa had managed to find work, but for many years, Rosa was denied a monthly stipend only because she immigrated to Israel after 1953. Upon hearing of a change in the law regarding forced labour during WWII, Rosa approached the Aviv Charity Entitlement Centre in Bat Yam, where one of the organization's lawyers helped her submit the proper paperwork at no cost. Shortly after, the Israeli Ministry of Finance approved the request and set a monthly stipend of 5,600 NIS. When Rosa heard the news she cried with happiness and thanked told the lawyer: "I never thought that at my old age I would receive such an income. I always think a few times before I spend anything, now I can live comfortably."

Every story is a life changed

Avraham, Michael, Sarah, and Rosa are just four of the 75,000 Holocaust survivors that “Aviv for Holocaust Survivors” has helped to receive benefits and grants that total over 500 million NIS. “Aviv for Holocaust Survivors” was established exactly for this purpose: to make the Holocaust survivors rights accessible to the general public and to personally assist Holocaust survivors in receiving the rights they deserve – all this with no charge.

"Most of the Holocaust survivors are not aware of the rights and benefits that are due to them by law, and their implementation can change their lives. We have the opportunity to help them realize their legal rights and to see every day the change that it brings to their lives. The mission of our organization is to help Holocaust survivors live their later years with dignity and welfare, and now is the time to do it" says Adv. Aviva Silberman, the founder of “Aviv for Holocaust Survivors”.

The full version was originally published on The Jerusalem Post.

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