Thousands of Holocaust survivors observed Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day at ceremonies held Thursday in the 57 residential facilities operated by The Jewish Agency for Israel's sheltered housing subsidiary, Amigour.
The ceremonies, which were organized by the staffs of each facility, included candle lightings, group singing, and personal stories from the survivors in attendance.
More than 6,000 Holocaust survivors live in Amigour's sheltered housing facilities, making up more than 80% of the heavily subsidized facilities' 7,500 elderly residents. Each facility has a professional staff team dedicated to addressing the residents' physical and psychological needs and ensuring that they are able to live their lives in safety and dignity.
To counter the critical shortage of nursing facilities in Israel, Amigour recently built four new nursing homes in Kiryat Yam, providing 24-hour care and intensive treatment programs. Amigour also serves Holocaust survivors in less tangible but equally important ways, providing a wide variety of social and cultural services that combat the loneliness and enhance the quality of life of its residents. For example, Holocaust survivors who were unable to celebrate becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvahs when they were children, have done so while residing in Amigour facilities, spending a year studying Jewish texts and holding an emotional ceremony at Jerusalem's Western Wall.
In addition to addressing their most basic needs, Amigour staff helps ensure that the survivors' stories live on. In recent years, Amigour staff members have collected more than 1,000 personal stories from survivors - including former ghetto residents, camp inmates, and partisan fighters - and World War II veterans residing in the facilities and has presented them to Yad Vashem for posterity.
In addition, more than 3,000 survivors living in Amigour facilities have submitted Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony documenting the stories of loved ones killed during the Holocaust. In recent years, Amigour has partnered with Yad Vashem to collect Holocaust-era photographs, diaries, Torah scrolls, and other artifacts for safekeeping and presentation to the public as part of its Gathering the Fragments program.
Amigour's work is made possible by contributions from The Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod-UIA, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and individual Jewish Federations, foundations, organizations, and donors around the world.