MIAMI, April 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is occurring in 2020 during the very uncertain and dangerous coronavirus pandemic, with its terrible toll in human lives and suffering. Our hearts go out to all who have lost their lives and loved ones, which includes many of our dear brothers and sisters who survived the ultimate hell but who, due to their age and living conditions today, were vulnerable to this terrible virus.
We are dwindling in numbers, but for the remnants of the surviving generation, and our families, there are issues of justice and dignity that remain unresolved. At the same time, we reflect on our survival and the survival of the Jewish people, and share a common message of hope and belief that the only way forward is to help each other, to rely on ourselves.
Hope for the Future – We Have to Help Each Other
The devastating losses we experienced are with us every day of our lives. We have devoted thousands of hours of our personal time to educating adults and students of all ages and all walks of life, throughout the U.S. and Europe, about our experiences as Holocaust survivors. And we are determined to continue as long as we have the capacity to do so. Our common theme is that we must help each other. Everyone who survived did so through luck and with the help of many souls, whose generosity we can never repay except by setting an example and telling our stories.
Esther Widman, Brooklyn: "We survivors have been through very hard times in our own lives, and thank God most of us are not hungry, have food, and no one is trying to kill us.
I am an optimist. I truly believe everyone is trying to help and wants to do good. Even so, our responsibility is to go on living and hope for the best. Whatever anybody can do for the Holocaust survivors is very welcome, but we cannot rely on others, we have to rely on ourselves, that is, the Jewish people, to rely on one another. We are still around, and we will continue to stay around for as long as we can."
Israel Arbeiter, Boston: "In the ghettos and camps, we were subjected to such inhumanity as one cannot imagine unless you experienced it. Yet there were so many of our family members and fellow Jews who helped one another when they could, and even an occasional German who understood the torture and inhumanity were too much. The people who helped each other in the camps can never be forgotten."
Renee Firestone, Los Angeles: "We all need to cooperate in this world. We need to take care of each other. We cannot be selfish. People say this is a terrible time. But terrible was the Holocaust. What we are living through today is a gross inconvenience, and our hearts go out to the victims who died and who are sick, and their families. But we are the Jewish people, we've managed to survive everything for millennia. We know how to survive and to rebound. The Jewish people need to convey to everyone to have hope, because we've survived and overcome such adversity. The reason is that we supported each other, and that is how we survived and came out stronger. And so will everyone else."
David Schaecter, Miami: "Nothing like the Holocaust has ever happened in the history of the world, so it is impossible for me to talk about it in a short time. When anyone asks me to discuss my life and the Holocaust, I ask only three things: First, hear me speak. Second, understand and remember what I tell them. Third, most importantly, I want you to become my mouthpiece when I am no longer able to speak for myself.
We have a program in Miami called the Young Lion Program, teaming a Holocaust survivor with young people who are becoming bar and bat mitzvahs. We meet and talk for hours. I tell them that I want them to know who they are, to know what they are, and to know what they have to be. They want to know me, to touch me, to hug me, and to talk to me. The most fabulous word in our tradition is 'Dayenu.' My experiences with these young people is my Dayenu."
Louise Lawrence-Israels, Washington, D.C.: "We have to take care of each other. We cannot afford to be selfish. That is the only way we'll have a chance. We would not have survived if my parents had not done everything possible to take care of us. So, we have to do what we can to take care of each other. We need to wait until the scientists say it is safe."
David Mermelstein, Miami: "Yom Hashoah is important to make sure the world does not forget what happened. We survivors don't need to be reminded because we lived through it and are reminded every minute of the day. A few years ago I added some lines to the El Malei Rachamin Prayer to include the six million and the million and one half children, which is now used in most synagogues in Miami.
Leo Rechter, New York City: "The injustices committed against the survivors continue, and we are doing our best to reclaim our rights, and to secure justice for all survivors."
Half of all survivors in the world today, including in the U.S., live below or near the official U.S. poverty level, and cannot afford food, medicine, rent, utilities, dental care, in-home care, and other vital services. The system of annual negotiations between the Claims Conference and Germany yields modest increases every year but has never produced sufficient funds to provide for anywhere close to all survivors' needs. Much suffering could be alleviated if Germany stepped up and paid for 100% of survivors' needs.
Another outrage today is that the courts have held that because we are Holocaust survivors, we do not have the same rights as every other U.S. citizen to go to an American court to enforce the insurance policies sold to our parents and grandparents by insurers such as Allianz, Generali, and AXA, policies these global giants shamefully dishonored after the Holocaust. The insurers are holding more than $25 million in Holocaust profits, as shown in a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. There is bi-partisan legislation in both houses of Congress to restore our rights, and we pray that Congress will act this year before more of us are gone. https://vimeo.com/361935232
The Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA Executive Committee:
Israel Arbeiter, Boston MA
Dena Axelrod, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Renee Firestone, Los Angeles, CA
Ella Frumkin, Los Angeles, CA
Jay Ipson, Richmond, VA
Louise Lawrence-Israels, Washington D.C.
Herbert Karliner, Miami Beach, FL
Annette Lantos, Washington, D.C.
David Mermelstein, Miami FL
Leo Rechter, Queens, NY
Shirley Rubin, Boynton Beach, FL
David Schaecter, Miami, FL
Anita Schuster, Las Vegas NV
Charles Srebnick, NY
Agnes Vertes, Weston, CT
Esther Widman, Brooklyn NY
SOURCE Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA