Lonely No More

Holocaust survivor siblings meet after almost 2 years

Aharon Shmueli, a holocaust survivor, is part of a large family but he was lonely.  Confined to his wheelchair and further restricted by covid isolation, he and his eight siblings had not seen each other for two years. When asked by Ezer Mizion to choose a ‘wish’, it took only seconds for his decision: a family get-together. Would Ezer Mizion be able to make it happen? To bring nine elderly siblings, many with mobility problems, together? Aharon’s excitement could not be contained. “Any update?” he would ask whenever he saw the Ezer Mizion staff member. His every daydream was what he wanted to tell them, the eight people in the world with whom he shared a special relationship. As children, they lived through the horrific experience of their escape from Tolousse, France, the terror of hiding out in a farm managed by their father, scared that any moment may be their last. Together they shared the rebuilding of their lives. Marriage. Children. And now old age.  As Sara, one of the sisters, put it, “When we get together, we become children again…connected…strengthened…whole.

The senior citizen residence that was Aharon’s home became the venue and four fully-equipped Ezer Mizion ambulances were set aside to provide transportation for the Shmueli family members who were not able to travel alone. And suddenly there they were. With hugs and kisses. With shouts of joy. Once again sitting around a table together. Laughter and tears. Two years of experiences to share as only brothers and sisters can.

Azaryah Shmueli commented that “for almost two years, we didn’t get together, all of the siblings. In the past, we used to meet at least three times a year. It was really difficult to organize the meeting. Some of the siblings are disabled, some live out of town.”

At the end of their dream-like day, Aharon expressed his feelings with deep emotion.   “Thank you for making my wish a reality.”

Wheelchair-bound, mobility challenged … but together at last

Naomi Mizrachi, director of Ezer Mizion’s “Fulfill a Wish”: “It is a great merit for us to make dreams come true for elderly holocaust survivors. Even when the wish is challenging, we do everything in our power to carry it all out in the best possible way. So far, over a year and a half we’ve been privileged to make about 780 wishes come true. The wishes were as varied as the people making them for one it was a trip to the ocean, for another, it was a shopping trip at the mall. And a third wanted to get together with an old friend whose address she didn’t know. Many wished to visit the kosel(Western Wall). Or daven (pray) once again in the shul (synagogue) of their youth. Tremendous efforts are involved in working out the logistics in a manner that is safe for these precious survivors. (Yes, we found the address of the friend.) But the happiness on the faces of these holocaust heroes is well worth it. ”

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Our Holocaust Heroes

kosel
90 Holocaust Heroes come ‘home’.

In a powerful Ezer Mizion event, in collaboration with the Kotel Heritage Foundation, ninety elderly holocaust survivors, together with their families, were brought to the kosel, some for the very first time.   They were welcomed by the ceremonial salute by a platoon of soldiers followed by an inspiring musical performance. The event included a visit to the “Chain of Generations” display after which each survivor approached the wall in heartfelt gratitude and prayer. Each participant deeply felt his connection as part of the ‘chain of generations’ so grateful to have been given the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

holocaust - yellow star
A void never filled in the soul of a holocaust survivor

The group then parted with the kosel and made its way to Aish Hatorah Yeshiva where a festive celebration for the ‘Bas Mitzvah girls’ took place. One may rightly question the existence of a group of Bas Mitzvah girls within an assemblage of .  The answer is both sad yet uplifting. You see, for so many of these survivors, there had been no childhood. They missed out on all the milestones that our generation takes for granted. Many holocaust survivors have built anew and are now successful heads of multi-generational families. But there in the recesses of their being lies the childhood that never was. They don’t speak about it. An adult would feel foolish expressing her regret over never having had the opportunity to play with dolls. But it’s there. Or rather, it is not there. A void that cannot be filled. Among themselves, the sorrow may come up in conversation. And at one other place: an Ezer Mizion Social Club for Holocaust Survivors. It was there that an idea was born.

As these heroes attend their grandchildren’s Bas and Bar Mitzvahs, their hearts are filled with pride. Yet there lurks that germ of regret. “I missed mine.”

A formal celebration during the Senior Golden Years has been found to serve as closure for the childhood celebrations lost in the wisps of crematoria smoke. Call it a Bas Mitzvah. Call it a closure of sorts. It helps to put to rest, once and for all, a few of the demons that still invade in their souls.

And so the long awaited day came to an end.  It was a stirring and powerful event for the hundreds gathered there, an event greatly enhanced by the moving words of Ezer Mizion’s Founder and International Chairman, Rav Chananya Chollak. It was a day made possible by the cooperation of so many Ezer Mizion Transportation Division and Geriatric Division staff members whose dedication ensured that every detail be perfect. It was a day in which we, the younger generation, were given the opportunity to show honor and respect to our holocaust heroes.

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