The Mobile Shalom House
We are delighted to share the latest report from Helping Hand Coalition's 'Shalom House' project. Recent restrictions around gathering people together due to COVID-19 have caused the HHC team to come up with creative ways to continue to support and encourage the Holocaust Survivors in Israel.
"The Shalom House Project hits the road! After months of cancelled events and a nationwide lockdown, it was a thrill to gather in small groups with survivors of the Holocaust and celebrate life amid this season of Covid-19. With strict restrictions in place to prevent the virus’ spread, the Shalom House team travelled to hostels and a meeting hall to perform, share, gift, commemorate, encourage, and celebrate with the survivors.
On June 4th, the first Mobile Shalom House took place at Nadia’s Elderly Care Home in Hadera! Gathering in excitement to be reunited, it was quite a shock to look around and see everyone wearing a face mask and having to keep a two-meter social distance. Nevertheless, as Alyosha and Jody began singing, the survivors’ eyes lit up at their sweet music. Blessed to be back together, the team showed their love by blowing masked kisses and making heart shapes with their hands; in return, the survivors responded with clapping.
The following week, the team returned to Hadera and visited another care home where a group of Survivors gathered. Accompanied by a couple from Germany, along with their translator, the afternoon was a heartfelt occasion of storytelling, music, and singing. The Survivors clapped and sang along to the tunes. As everyone sat in the homely space, the German couple shared about the heart of God, encouraging the survivors in an impactful way. Though it was challenging to wear the masks throughout the event, the survivors were nonetheless thankful for the team’s presence.
In a bright and spacious room overlooking the Binyamina train station, June 21st’s Mobile Shalom House event took place at Jacob’s Hope Facilities. With a lot of hard work from the team and volunteers, a group of World War II veterans were brought from Akko to enjoy an afternoon of beautiful music.
After the concert, the veterans were each presented with a medal, paying tribute to their memories and victories during World War II. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the War’s end, and emotions swirled through the room as the veterans thought back on their heroic youth.
Delicious sandwiches were served in hermetically sealed bags to keep the elderly safe. With reluctance, they returned to their bus, carrying the warmth of the event fresh on in their hearts.
Another Mobile Shalom House took place on June 24th, once again meeting at Nadia’s care home in Hadera. An afternoon of birthday celebrations, the team wished each survivor health, joy, and happiness, before singing songs and sharing encouraging stories. The survivors were delighted to sing a famous Hebrew song, Hineh Ma Tov, which was inspired by Psalm 133:1, “Behold how good and how pleasing for brothers (people) to sit together in unity.”
Two of the performers, Lydia and Roman, shared about their childhood and Aliyah process (immigration to Israel). Lydia sang from the Psalms and felt honoured to be a part of the event. Roman, who was born in Russia, took the survivors back to their homeland with songs from their youth. It was bittersweet to watch them reminisce about their families and the memories that surround the famous tunes and after singing the last note, one of the survivors stood to thank Roman and the rest of the team for coming to remember their birthdays and create new memories with them.
Before the end of each event, gift bags, provided by one of Helping Hand Coalition’s sponsors, were given to the survivors, producing smiles on all their faces. In spite of the Coronavirus, the Shalom House team felt blessed to be able to meet with the survivors and spread joy to those who mean so much to us! This coming month, the project will continue finding safe ways to gather, and, God willing, more events will ensue.
Bozena Gasiorowski, director of the Shalom House Project, reflected on this month’s events and shared these words, “When the quarantine was lifted, I wasn’t sure if we should start visiting the survivors, taking into consideration the current regulations for people gathering together. I thought it would be too difficult; however, we cannot wait for the perfect circumstances, especially with those who are nearing the end of their lives. So, we travelled to see the survivors and the result was astonishing. Though it was uncomfortable to be with masks and keep at a distance, seeing the survivors lifted spirits and joyful gazes made it all worthwhile.” - Helping Hand Coalition
>> You can support Shalom House gatherings for Holocaust Survivors in Israel HERE