by: Jonathan Feldstein
The timing may be coincidental but there are no coincidences. This week, two parallel, 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 Holocaust survivors in Israel. The need and opportunity are great, and time is of the essence the aging population of Holocaust survivors are dying at an alarming rate. As they age, they also find themselves in challenging and stressful situations where fixed incomes do not cover all their increased needs. They are literally inviting people from around the world to join them.
The Genesis 123 Foundation is a US based 501(C)3 non-profit whose mandate is to build bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel in ways that are new, unique and meaningful. Jonathan Feldstein is its Orthodox Jewish, Israeli American president. Years ago, Feldstein connected with Shirley Burdick, a Chinese American Christian, and founder of the Israeli 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.
Feldstein and Burdick became friends and have partnered together on various projects including providing fresh, homemade, hot kosher soup to bless Israeli soldiers guarding at night, keeping Israelis safe, in the Judean mountains. This partnership started with Ten Gentiles purchasing a large soup pot and Feldstein and Burdick preparing and delivering soup one cold winter night. Since then, hundreds of servings of soup, and infinite love and appreciation for the soldiers, have been served.
Recently, Feldstein and Burdick learned of a need and opportunity to be a blessing to elderly Holocaust survivors, and to partner together in a way neither could do on their own. As they age, and die by the thousands each year, survivors have increased needs medically and economically that create financial stress and trigger PTSD, reminding them of the trauma of suffering and survival that they endured as young people.
Genesis 123 and Ten Gentiles agreed to partner, with Genesis 123 receiving financial offerings from donations as a US non-profit, and facilitating Ten Gentiles to disburse the funds to benefit Holocaust survivors in need. Some of the very tangible needs presented include massage and physical therapy to help with healing after a physical trauma (ranging from $500-$700), replacing an AC unit for survivors in the heat of summer ($875-$1,000), home renovation to replace a bathtub with an accessible shower ($1,780), urgent dental treatment (from $826- $2,105), new eye glasses ($859), hearing aids and eye surgery ($1,071), purchasing a new convertible couch/bed ($780), purchasing a new TV ($560), and a new washing machine and freezer ($800 + $600), laser eye surgery ($820), providing a new computer ($1,156), and offering a rent increase subsidy ($1,500). This week, Ten Gentiles gave out gift cards to a major Israeli grocery store chain to survivors to be sure that they have basic food supplies going into winter.
These needs are just some of the specific examples of things that have been done by mostly Christian donors so far, and an illustration of what kinds of needs are expected coming up. Most needs fall outside the kinds of things that local government and civil service agencies can do, and 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 can push someone over, the stress of which would be compounded by the trauma the survivors suffered in Nazi Europe.
All the survivors for whom needs are being provided are vetted by local social service agencies so that the funds donated will make the biggest impact to those most in need. The more money that is donated, the more survivors that can be helped.
Mindful of the six million Jews who were murdered, Genesis 123 and Ten Gentiles have established a modest goal of $600,000 as stage one, and agreed to steward the funds with no overhead. If just 6000 people were to donate $100, the goal could be reached by January’s observance of International Holocaust Memorial Day.
Working through churches around the world, Genesis 123 has also provided handmade holiday cards along with the ability for donors to send their personal blessings and words of encouragement to the survivors directly.
In announcing their partnership, Feldstein and Burdick realized that it could not be more timely. As November 9 is the anniversary of the 1938 nationwide pogrom that engulfed Germany’s Jews known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, while the horrors of the past cannot be undone, a redeeming partnership between Jews and Christians to support the shrinking number of remaining survivors can be a blessing and is redemptive.
On Kristallnacht, Jewish institutions and synagogues were vandalized and burned, along with countless private Jewish businesses and homes. Jews were arrested, assaulted, and murdered across Germany in what became the foundation of the systematic mass murder of the Holocaust.
Because so much of the persecution of the Jews in Europe took place by Christian Europe, this partnership between Jews and Christians is not just a comfort to the survivors but healing in the sense that it mends the relationship that was overcome by hate. Anyone who wishes to be a blessing and participate in comforting the survivors in the twilight of their lives can visit: genesis123.co/hug-a-holocaust-survivor.