The Haifa Home welcomes new residents

Remembering and honoring the Holocaust Survivors

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Posted on: 
23 Apr 2012
The Haifa Home welcomes new residents

Benjamin Ginsberg was born in 1919 in Vilnius, Lithuania where he grew up with four sisters. During childhood life was quite “sweet” for Benjamin, as his Jewish parents owned a confectionery.He admits to pinching a treat here-and-there and thus was a little heavy as a child, he says with a twinkle.

But then things turned dark for Jews in Lithuania. Benjamin left Vilnius just before the local pogroms started in 1939, then the Soviets invaded in 1940, followed by the German occupation in 1941. Benjamin´s parents and three sisters had stayed behind and as a result perished in the Holocaust. Only Benjamin and one of his sisters survived, having been sent to live with relatives and friends in Switzerland, Italy and finally Holland.

When Benjamin arrived in the Netherlands, he was able to get fake documents to live openly  for five years. This was a miracle which saved his life!

At the end of the war, Benjamin was 26 years old and joined the Youth Aliyah movement heading to Israel.He landed in Haifa in March 1946 aboard the illegal ship “Tel Chai”.He met a young lady on the vessel that would become his wife. They married and settled in Haifa, where he became a book keeper and fought in Israel's War of Independence.His sister also made Aliyah soon after.

Benjamin's wife died 14 years ago and his sister lived to age 95 before passing away as well. Today, he has one son living in Ashkelon, four grand children and four great-grandchildren.They visit him once a month at the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors, where he took up residence two years ago. At 92 years old, Benjamin is one of the oldest residents at the assisted-living home built by the ICEJ.

“I am very lazy now”, he says with a smile. “It is very good to be here. I get everything I need: They bring me tea and meals and I don´t have to do anything by myself. It is like to be in a hotel often times. I don´t have words. The people here are all so nice!”

One of the newest residents of the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors isYosef Friedman, who was born in 1932 in Bucharest, Romania.

When Yossi was eleven years old, he barely escaped being deported in a Nazi round-up of the local Jewish community. His family lived just beside a synagogue, but his father had deserted the family and his mother stopped sending Yossi to events for Jewish youths. So when he saw Nazi soldiers herding all the area Jews together in the synagogue one evening, the soldiers told him to “Go away!” Apparently, they did not know he was Jewish and did not want any “witnesses” to what was happening. The next day a truck came and took the detained Jews to a death camp.

Yossi and his mother had escaped that first deportation but they continued to live in constant fear of discovery. The anxiety of capture stayed with them throughout the war years.

Yossi only made aliyah to Israel in1964. He fought in the 1967 Six-Day War and then kept a promise that if he survived the battle he would come back and marry his sweetheart Diana, who was divorced and had two children already.
Today,thecoupleare still happily married more than 40 years later, with one daughter added to the family. The couple were living in a small house in Neve Shanan when Yossi first heard about the assisted-living home for survivors.

“Singing brought me to the Haifa Home”, Yossi recently recalled. “When I once worked for an electrical company, I met a singer at a work party. I told him that I can sing too and gave him a demonstration. Not long ago I contacted this singer again. He sings every Thursday at the Haifa Home and invited me and my wife to come one day.”

Yossi and Diana were instantly drawn by the “community of kindness” they encountered there, as the residents themselves describe the home.

They now live together in a little apartment in the Haifa Home. “Everything is wonderful, it is a wonderful place”, Yossi said enthusiastically.

Neither receives a pension, so they live off the small amount of money they get from renting out their old house.

“Here we get everything we need – medical treatment, three meals a day. And we have communion with very nice people”, Yossi said cheerfully.


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