Christians and Jews unite to bless, comfort Holocaust survivors
The timing might be coincidental but there are no coincidences.
This week, two complementary organizations – one run by an Orthodox Israeli American Jew and one run by a Chinese American Christian – announced a partnership to bless and comfort Israel’s Holocaust survivors.
Both the need and the opportunity are great, as Holocaust survivors age and find themselves in challenging and stressful situations where fixed incomes do not cover all their increased needs. Furthermore, time is of the essence, as the aging population of survivors dies at an alarming rate.
The partnering organizations are inviting people from around the world to join them.
The Genesis 123 Foundation, a United States-based non-profit, has a mandate to build bridges between Jews and Christians, and between Christians and Israel, in ways that are new, unique and meaningful.
I am the non-profit’s Orthodox Jewish, Israeli American president. Years ago, I connected with Shirley Burdick, a Chinese American Christian who had founded the Israel-based non-profit Ten Gentiles, whose mission is to equip and engage Christians to participate in God’s restoration of Israel alongside the Jewish people.
Burdick and I became friends and have partnered together on various projects, including providing hot, fresh, homemade kosher soup to Israeli soldiers guarding at night, keeping Israelis safe, in the Judean mountains.
My partnership with Burdick began with Ten Gentiles purchasing a large soup pot and the pair preparing and delivering soup one cold winter night. Since then, their efforts have enabled hundreds of servings of soup, and infinite love and appreciation for the soldiers, to be served.
Recently, Burdick and I learned of a need and an opportunity to be a blessing to elderly Holocaust survivors, together, in a way neither could do on their own.
As they age and die by the thousands each year, survivors have growing needs medically and economically, which creates financial stress and triggers PTSD, as they are reminded of the traumas of their childhood: suffering and surviving.
Genesis 123 and Ten Gentiles agreed to a partnership, with Genesis 123 receiving financial donations as a 501(c)(3) non-profit and Ten Gentiles disbursing the funds to benefit Holocaust survivors in need.
Some of the personal or physical needs the survivors presented included treating physical trauma by massage and physical therapy ($500-$700), urgent dental treatment ($826-$2,105), new eyeglasses ($859), hearing aids and eye surgery ($1,071) and laser eye surgery ($820).
Other very tangible needs of survivors included replacing an A.C. unit in the heat of summer ($875-$1,000); replacing a bathtub with an accessible shower ($1,780); purchasing a new convertible couch/bed ($780), a T.V. ($560), a washing machine and freezer ($800 and $600) and a computer ($1,156), and offering a rent-increase subsidy ($1,500).
This week, Ten Gentiles gave survivors gift cards to a major Israeli grocery store chain to be sure that they have basic food supplies going into winter.
These are just some examples of what has been done by mostly Christian donors, so far – and an illustration of what needs are expected to come up.
Most expressed needs fall outside what local government and civil service agencies provide, or involve one-time expenses that are unaffordable for those living on a fixed income. With about 25% of survivors living below the poverty line, any one of these costs can push someone over the edge, the stress compounding the trauma these survivors suffered in Nazi Europe.
All survivors in need are vetted by local social service agencies so that the funds donated will make the biggest impact, reaching those most in need. More money donated means more survivors helped.
Being mindful of the 6 million Jews who were murdered, Genesis 123 and Ten Gentiles established a modest $600,000 goal as stage one, agreeing to steward the funds with no overhead. If just 6,000 people were to donate $100, the fundraising goal could be reached by International Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 27.
Working through churches around the world, Genesis 123 has given survivors handmade holiday cards that allow donors to attach personal blessings and words of encouragement to the survivors.
Our announcing of the partnership could not be more timely, with Nov. 9-10 marking the anniversary of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom that engulfed Germany’s Jews – “the Night of Broken Glass.”
While the horrors of the past cannot be undone, a Jewish-Christian partnership to support the shrinking number of living survivors can be both redemptive and a blessing.
On Kristallnacht, Nazis and others in Germany vandalized and burned Jewish institutions and synagogues, along with countless private Jewish businesses and homes. Jews were arrested, assaulted and murdered across Germany in what is seen as the foundation of the Holocaust’s systematic mass murder of the Jewish people.
Because so much of the persecution of European Jews took place at the hands of Christian Europe, this partnership between Jews and Christians can serve not just to comfort the survivors but to mend the relationship that was overcome by hate.
Anyone who wishes to be a blessing by comforting Holocaust survivors in the twilight of their lives can visit genesis123.co/hug-a-holocaust-survivor.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He is host of the popular Inspiration from Zion podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.