Vital meals help Holocaust survivors amid coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK — Brooklyn caterer Israel Frischman is continuing to prepare dozens of meals for elderly Holocaust survivors even though the Jewish community center that provides them owes him money.

The Nachas Health and Family Network in Brooklyn has been forced to suspend its counseling services, exercise classes and Torah lessons due to the coronavirus outbreak. But it’s relying on the kindness of Frischman and volunteers to continue delivering vital kosher meals to survivors, many of whom live in poverty, and are in their 80s and 90s and at a high-risk of the contagion.

Frischman and volunteer Freida Rothman are united by their roots and their cause. Their grandparents survived the Holocaust, and they say it’s their duty to help others who suffered unspeakable horrors in concentration camps and who are now isolated at home, fearing the impact of the fast-spreading virus.

“People have to do what they have to do. They have to be kind,” Frischman said via videoconferencing. “Sometimes it doesn’t suit our pockets the right way, but it’s not about what goes into our pocket. … We have to make sure that people have what they need to continue to survive.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 350,000 people worldwide and killed more than 15,000. The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but severe illness is more likely in the elderly and people with existing health problems. More than 100,000 people have recovered from the illness.

“This is going to go down in history, and you’re going to think back: ‘What did I do to make a difference? How did I make other peoples’ lives easier and better?’” Rothman said, before she delivered meals in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood.

“My grandmothers are the most empowered women I know — both survivors of Auschwitz. So, for me, my first reaction was: ‘What are we doing for the elderly? What are we doing for the survivors, who are not only important to me, but to the whole community, and really, to the whole world,’” Rothman said.

Before the virus outbreak, about 40 survivors would come daily to Nachas (Yiddish for “joy”) to receive legal assistance, study Torah, exercise, get counseling — and to eat. All activities were suspended as New York state asked residents to stay at home unless they have vital reasons to go out.

“We’ve all heard the news and we know what’s going on, and that the elderly should not be out on the streets and running around,” Frischman said. “But we make sure that these people get their food, regardless.”

Many Holocaust survivors in the U.S. live in poverty and rely on donations because they struggle to pay their rent and even buy food.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *