There are 200,000 Holocaust survivors living today in Israel. But more than half are not getting the support to which they are entitled, largely because they don’t know how to access it. There is, however, somewhere they can turn to for help: Aviv for Holocaust Survivors.
As a law student, Swiss-born Aviva Silberman volunteered at a seniors’ residence in Petach Tikva, where she put her fluent German to good use in helping Holocaust survivors to access compensation, stipends and benefits.
In 2007, she set up a non-profit organisation – Aviv for Holocaust Survivors – to do the same, still at no charge, but on a larger scale.
Nearly a quarter of the elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel live under the poverty line – some can’t even afford to buy food or medication. In the past 10 years, Aviv has helped more than 60,000 people to receive more than 350 million NIS (£70 million). “Our vision is to make sure all Holocaust survivors have the means to live with dignity and welfare,” says Aviva. “It’s not that the help isn’t there, but for one reason or another, around 60 percent of these people aren’t getting the rights and benefits that can help them be more comfortable in their later years.”
There are many reasons why this is so: the bureaucracy, lawyers’ fees, keeping up to date with legislation, the mistaken fear that a new claim will compromise existing benefits, and even ideological reasons. But with the help of Aviva and her team, all these issues can be overcome.
“Our sole goal is to help Holocaust survivors to access what is rightfully theirs,” says Aviva. “A hundred percent of the money we secure goes straight to the survivor. We work with individuals at our centres around Israel, and if they can’t come to us, we go to them. We’re now truly in a race against time: most Holocaust survivors today are in their 80s – they don’t have many years left. But we will do all we can to make sure the time they do have is not plagued by financial worries.”
To find out more about Aviv for Holocaust Survivors, or make a donation to help continue its vital work, visit www.avivshoa.co.il
Aviv in numbers:
- 11,000 aid requests answered each year
- 8,000 trained volunteers and professionals
- 10,000 Holocaust survivors attending lectures about rights and benefits
- 60,000 Holocaust survivors helped to recover money owed to them
- £70 million in compensation, stipends and benefits