Ahead of Jan. 27 and International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Chabad youth movement in Israel has expanded its “Get Chesed” program, designed to bring teens across the country together with members of the survivor community.

As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, many have been forced to live out their lives in poverty, often alone.

The program encourages teen and university students to volunteer for weekly visits with thousands of survivors and other elderly Israelis, helping to distribute food packages and run errands, as well as spend time to help ease their loneliness.

Eliyah Shaked Goldner, a university student volunteer from Ness Ziona, describes a recent visit with a survivor, Aliza, as an experience she will never forget.

“She was so excited that I was coming to visit that she prepared popcorn for us. We sat at the table and started talking; she told me about her life and experiences, and what she went through. I shared about my life. I asked her if she wanted to dance, and when she agreed and really got into it, she said it’s been ages since she has danced like that and how wonderful it was,” said Goldner.

“I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day, from something seemingly so small and simple,” she added. “We keep in touch and meet regularly, and I’m so thankful to have met her.”

Individual community representatives manage the volunteer efforts in their locations to ensure that the local senior community is being visited; assisted regularly; and provided with warm meals, especially for Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

“The visits of these young men and women become so meaningful and fulfilling when we see the gratitude and relief on the faces of our treasured seniors,” said Rabbi Shalom Duchman, director of Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest-running social-services organization since 1788. “The reality is that while this is an experience for young people to help serve their community, they also have so much to learn from the elderly, who welcome the company as a break from loneliness during these challenging times.”


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