Holocaust Survivors Living in Poverty – by David Langerman

David Langerman
Kiryat Motzkin
April 26, 2014

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day is two days away. It is shocking to face the fact that 70 years after the Shoah, Holocaust survivors in Israel live in poverty according to a report published two days ago.

I would like to mention a few of the findings of the report published by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel on April 24, 2014:

There are currently about 190,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel. 50,000 of them live below the poverty line and 40,000 have an income of NIS 3,000 a month. According to the Foundation’s report 40,000 survivors responded that they often had to forgo food and 35,000 said that they had to skip medications. More than 50% of the survivors said that were unsatisfied with the government’s treatment of them. And every month 1000 survivors die.

Two days after the heartbreaking report, the Minister of Education announced his new plan on the Holocaust. For a moment I thought that the minister too was shocked by the report and that he would quickly assemble all the other ministers and they would immediately rectify the government’s 67 years of negligence of Holocaust survivors. I thought that the media would cry out in rage and that the Jewish people in Israel and around the world would immediately donate money and hasten to bring an end to this national disgrace.

I was wrong. The Minister of Education offered a new program to teach the Holocaust from age 5 (kindergarten) to 18-year-old students. The best educators, psychologists, councilors and experts on the Holocaust worked hard to produce the new and very expensive teaching program.

On Monday April 28 there will be many memorial services and official ceremonies around the country that will attest that we will not forget the Holocaust. We will not forget what the Nazis have done; the media will contribute and feature stories of the disaster and of the heroism of the Shoah.

Yet those who actually had to go through the horrific suffering, and who live among us today, are forgotten. We ignore them; we turn our backs on them, as though they don’t belong, are not part of it. Our message to them is: While we focus on the unbearable stories of your suffering, we want you to be silent, to be careful not to draw attention to your current distress and poverty. What we say to them is that we are not here to reduce their pain that we are not about loving the people, not willing to assist those in need (have you not heard of capitalism? Yes, this is us). Please forget about solidarity and empathy. To stretch a helping hand is not how we think of it. We are willing to express it symbolically.

We will continue to invest millions in memorializing the Shoah, and in education about the Holocaust: we will send our children on trips to concentration camps in Europe, and will fly our Air Force proudly over the camps.

I am not proposing to diminish remembering or abandoning memorializing the Holocaust. Let’s just not use memorializing instead of paying attention to the living survivors; let’s be clear about what we need to do for those who survived. Let’s not confuse programs of remembering with the crying for help of the survivors who live among us whose suffering we refuse to forget.

Translated from the Hebrew by Ayala Emmett