Survivor Sandor Adler enjoys the adult coloring book that came in his gift bag.
Survivor Sandor Adler enjoys the adult coloring book that came in his gift bag. (Photo courtesy of Charles Silow)

For many survivors of the Holocaust, the difficulties of social isolation can be emotional triggers.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe initiative was designed to help save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for many, being physically isolated from others has created emotional hardships as they are separated from their families and loved ones.

For many survivors of the Holocaust, the difficulties of social isolation can also be emotional triggers that link the present situation to memories of being separated from and losing loved ones during the Holocaust.

The gift bags were provided by Leo Eisenberg and his family
Courtesy of Charles Silow

It has meant a great deal to survivors to receive phone calls letting them know they are not alone, that they are cared for. Being in touch with survivors has been an important supportive project of the Program for Holocaust Survivors and Families (PHSF), a service of Jewish Senior Life.

Through collaboration with Jewish Family Service and a special COVID-19 grant from the Claims Conference, survivors have been in contact with one another in virtual groups and through individual phone calls. This communication helps survivors know and feel that they are not alone. Psychosocial supports for Holocaust survivors have been significant during this difficult time.

Relatedly, another socialization project was recently initiated, the provision of gift bags to survivors. These gift bags, provided by Leo Eisenberg and his family, let survivors know that they are cared about during these challenging times. The gift bags held various items to help brighten their days and put a smile on their faces and included facemasks donated by Shari Ferber Kaufman and her family.

Holocaust gift bags
Courtesy of Charles Silow

The survivors were thankful to receive the gift bags. One survivor wrote, “I greatly appreciate the gift and the thought that came with it. During this time, when loneliness is a great part of our lives, it feels good that someone out there thinks of our well-being.”

Another wrote, “Thank you for the lovely gift. This is a challenging time for all of us. We shall overcome this, too.”

Another happy survivor wrote, “Thank you for the big surprise! I don’t know what I did to deserve this. It’s so nice what you’ve done for the Holocaust survivors. It’s good to know that we are not forgotten. Believe it or not, I never had a stuffed animal before! Better late than never!”

Second Generation volunteers delivered the gift bags from CHAIM-Children of Holocaust-Survivors Association in Michigan. “Doing this made me feel good,” said one of the volunteers. “The real beneficiaries were us.”

Dr. Charles Silow is director of the Program for Holocaust Survivors and Families.

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