Nonprofit Leases Brooklyn Office To Serve Holocaust Survivors

NEW YORK CITY—Selfhelp Community Services secured a 14,889-square foot lease at 626 Sheepshead Bay Road in Brooklyn. Transwestern’s Stephen Powers, Lindsay Ornstein, Thomas Hines and Jake Cinti provided Occupier Solutions services for Selfhelp. The nonprofit will consolidate two facilities into the new Sheepshead Bay location, which will house two programs that offer services to Holocaust survivors and the elderly.

“By consolidating our Brooklyn Holocaust survivor and home health aide training programs at our new office at 626 Sheepshead Bay Road, we will be able to provide better and more robust access to these critical services,” said Russell Lusak, Chief Operating Officer at Selfhelp in prepared remarks.

Located in Coney Island, 626 Sheepshead Bay Road was built in 2018 and features seven floors of office and retail space. The building, which is home to many nonprofit organizations, is near several public transit options, including the D, F, B and Q trains. Building ownership, Cammeby’s International, was represented by David Ofman of The Lawrence Group.

Powers, who leads Transwestern’s national Nonprofit Advisory Services group noted that the Transwestern team conducted a lengthy site search, including significant location analytics, to help Selfhelp find a location that met its needs.

Kiss frontman Simmons learns about Holocaust survivor mother’s ordeal

German newspaper presents Israel-born rock star with 100 pages of documents about his late mother’s experiences to mark 75th anniversary of her liberation

Gene Simmons of Kiss performs at Staples Center in Los Angeles, March 4, 2020. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA via JTA)

Gene Simmons of Kiss performs at Staples Center in Los Angeles, March 4, 2020. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA via JTA)

JTA — Kiss frontman Gene Simmons said his mother almost never spoke about her Holocaust ordeal, including time in Nazi camps.

A German newspaper has provided him with plenty more information.

Flora Klein, a native of Hungary, was 19 when American troops liberated the Mauthausen camp on May 5, 1945. She died at 93 in the United States.

In her statement to the former Restitution Office in Koblenz, Klein wrote: “In November 1944, I was brought to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. I lived there in block no. 21 and worked in the fields, gathering potatoes outside the camp. I wore old civilian clothes with a white oil (paint) cross painted on the back, in a camp surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by the SS.”

Klein was transferred to the Venusberg subcamp of the Flossenburg concentration camp in January 1945, and arrived at Mauthausen in March that year.

“She was strong,” Simmons told Bild in an interview published Sunday as he read the documents. “She fought all of this on her own.”

He also found his grandmother’s name among the documents. Ester Blau died in the Nazi gas chambers

His mother married a carpenter, Jechiel Weitz, in 1946 and a year later they immigrated to Israel. Simmons was born Chaim Weitz in Haifa in 1949. His parents later divorced and Simmons’ mother brought him to New York in 1958.

Simmons warned that people should not forget the about the Holocaust.

“It can happen again and again. That’s why you have to talk about everything,” he said. “When Jews are advised to no longer wear the kippah on the streets. At least this is being addressed. The same applies to the Muslims. As long as you talk about things, there is a chance. When you see cockroaches in the kitchen, you must point the light at them so you can see them clearly. And you must drive them out of the light.”

Millions going to Holocaust survivors for coronavirus help

The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis says it is making millions of extra dollars available for elderly Holocaust survivors who are particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus

BERLIN — Millions of dollars in additional funds are being made available to agencies around the world that provide aid to Holocaust survivors, whose advanced age and health issues makes them particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus, the organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis announced Monday.

The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany said Monday the $4.3 million in initial funding would be made available to agencies around the world providing care for some 120,000 survivors.

The emergency funding includes 200,000 euros ($215,000) from the Alfred Landecker Foundation, established last year by one of Germany’s richest families, whose assets include Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, as a way to help atone for its use of forced laborers during the Nazi era and support of Adolf Hitler’s regime.

All survivors are elderly, with the end of World War II now 75 years in the past, and many suffered from illness, malnutrition and other deprivations either at the hands of the Nazis or as they hid from them, which continues to affect their health today.

There are no statistics yet as to how many Holocaust survivors have been infected by the new coronavirus, but Israel’s first reported COVID-19 fatality was 88-year-old survivor Aryeh Even, and about a third of the elderly population in Israel are survivors, according to the Claims Conference.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a frightening time for Holocaust survivors as this is a population, like many elderly, that already tends to experience too much social isolation,” said Claims Conference President Julius Berman. “The social isolation caused by this health crisis can take a serious emotional toll which, if unchecked can lead to physical ailments.”

The additional funds will be used to “address critical gaps” in providing survivors help with home care, food, medicine and other assistance as it is needed.

It is in addition to approximately $350 million in direct compensation the Claims Conference is providing to more than 60,000 survivors in 83 countries this year, and some $610 million in grants to more than 300 social service agencies.

The Claims Conference is also providing advances of previously committed funds and taking other steps to help the agencies that support survivors.

“Agencies are going to have a cash flow problem and fundraising is going to be difficult,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference. “We want them to do what they do best and go save lives.”

As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $80 billion in Holocaust reparations.

Holocaust Center to host virtual events for Genocide Awareness Month


JOE NAPSHA|TRIBUNE-REVIEW Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, next to a prisoner’s uniform.

In a time of social distancing, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh is promoting a national series of virtual events for the month of April, Genocide Awareness Month.

April 1 is the start of #TogetherWeRemember, including 30 days of free, all-digital content and workshops from leaders around the country in the fight against genocide and hatred.

Originally, the kickoff of the 2020 #TogetherWeRemember program was to take the form of a daylong summit hosted by the Holocaust Center in Downtown Pittsburgh, followed by a series of vigils in selected cities across the country.

With the coronavirus outbreak causing events around the world to be canceled or postponed, the Holocaust Center reorganized the summit to become an online event.

Each day in April, programs will include teacher trainings, workshops, lectures and a variety of virtual experiences for Yom Hashoah on April 21, an international day of Holocaust Remembrance, coordinated between organizations across the country. (It officially begins on sundown on April 20.)

“Now, instead of one day for organizations across the city to come together, there are 30 days for organizations around the globe to come together,” said Lauren Bairnsfather, Holocaust Center director.

“The level of collaboration we are already seeing in developing the program is exponentially greater than anything we could have imagined, and we look forward to engaging with new audiences throughout April.”

Coronavirus: Jews deliver food to Poles who saved Jews during Holocaust

From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation.

As a teenager in Warsaw during the Holocaust, Krystyna Kowalska helped save a Jewish family of four who hid at her family’s bakery.
She does not remember being afraid, even though if they had been discovered her whole family would have almost certainly been shot dead on the spot along with the Jews they hid.
But now, at the age of 88, Kowalska is fearing for her life because of the coronavirus, the fatality rate of which is especially high in individuals older than 70.
“It’s a scary time for me to be outside as I see the impact of this virus on my age group,” said Kowalska, a widow whose son has died and who lives alone in a third-story apartment without an elevator.
Across the world, people from her generation have minimized their interaction with the outside world to avoid contracting COVID-19.
For rescuers of Jews in Warsaw, that task became considerably easier this week.
The From the Depths commemoration group, which last year began offering free taxi rides to these rescuers, converted its small fleet of four cars into a delivery service that is designed to fulfill the recipients’ basic needs at their homes while taking care to expose them to as little risk as possible.
Since Sunday, the foundation has delivered groceries to about 20 people recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the genocide. The cabs are disinfected after each delivery and the group’s founder, Jonny Daniels, said he delivers the groceries personally to the recipients wearing a mask and gloves.
“After the pandemic broke out, we started seeing more demand, not less, for the taxi,” he said.
The Righteous became more reliant on the taxis to get around because it was less risky than public transportation, Daniels said.
“But they still need to buy food, often at several supermarkets because of hoarding,” which has created shortages in basic products, he added.
So From the Depths made a list of 40 addresses and plans to make home deliveries to all of them by Saturday.
To keep the cabs virus free, From the Depths paid for overpriced disinfectants, which its staffers – the association has several drivers, an administrator and dozens of volunteers — apply between rides.
By Tuesday, Poland had more than 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and five fatalities from it.
“We consulted medical staff and the technique we use is basically the same as what they do in ambulances,” Daniels said.
Daniels said some recipients of his deliveries have become his friends over the years, inviting him in for tea. Some are lonely.
“I politely refuse the invitations,” he said. “These are people I usually hug and kiss on the cheek at events, but these days I just carry the bags into their apartments and I’m out of there.”
Kowalska, who is one of just a few dozen living rescuers in Poland, said she understands the situation.
“It’s a kind service. It means that I don’t have to go outside and risk my health. The fact that I can trust them means the world to me,” she said.
From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation, said Oliver Wangart, the chief driver and head of logistics for a service the association calls Silent Hero.
The delivery and taxi service is only available in Warsaw, which is already straining the From the Depths budget, Daniels said.
“But these are people who stood up for the Jews in our people’s hour of need,” he said. “Well, now this is their hour of need and we need to stand up for them.”

Israel’s first virus fatality named as 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even

Aryeh Even, Israel's first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic (Courtesy)

Aryeh Even, Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic (Courtesy)

Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic was on Saturday named as 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even.

In a statement, Even’s family said they regretted that they were unable to be by his side for his final moments.

Even immigrated to Israel alone from Hungary in 1949. He is survived by four children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center said late Friday that Even had been admitted in very serious condition with multiple preexisting conditions. Despite intensive treatment, including being resuscitated from heart failure, his state deteriorated rapidly and he died, the hospital said.

Medical staff seen after the arrival of a patient to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, over suspicions she may be infected with the Coronavirus on January 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Even was among several residents of the Nofim Tower senior home in Jerusalem who have contracted the virus.

The virus generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.

According to the Health Ministry’s latest figures released Saturday, there have been 883 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel, with 15 people in serious condition.

Holocaust survivor celebrates 97th birthday amid coronavirus pandemic

“We should always live in positive thoughts,” she said.

TEL AVIV – Ester Wienrib rang in her 97th birthday this week with a video call and remote cake-cutting with her great-grandchildren – a cautious celebration as her family tries to avoid exposing her to the coronavirus.

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to the respiratory illness and Israel, which has nearly 300 confirmed cases, has urged its citizens to keep their distance from older relatives.

Fear of contracting the coronavirus has created a new reality for Wienrib, a Holocaust survivor who came to Israel from Poland over 70 years ago.

“I’ve been through difficult times. We will get through this as well,” said Wienrib, a grandmother of five and great-grandmother of 10. She has been mostly confined to her assisted living facility in Tel Aviv since the virus broke out.

Wienrib smiled as her great-grandchildren sang happy birthday to her through a video call from their home in Hulda, a Kibbutz about 35 kilometers (21.75 miles) away in central Israel.

She later cut a birthday cake with a “98” candle on it – showing one extra year for good luck.

“I am healthy and have my wits about me. I play cards. I have friends,” she said. “We should always live in positive thoughts.”

Auschwitz closes to visitors over coronavirus fears

Memorial and camp to remain shut until at least March 25; March of the Living already postponed

The ruins of gas chambers and crematoria at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau, January 28, 2020. (Yaakov Schwartz/ Times of Israel)

The ruins of gas chambers and crematoria at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau, January 28, 2020. (Yaakov Schwartz/ Times of Israel)

The Auschwitz Memorial and the site of the former Nazi camp have been closed to visitors due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The memorial announced on Wednesday that it would shut down until March 25.

Last month, the memorial called on organizers of trips to the site to refrain from bringing visitors from countries that have been affected by the coronavirus. And earlier this week, the March of the Living announced that it had postponed this year’s event.

“After consulting with the relevant health bodies and officials, it is with a heavy heart that we are forced to announce the postponement of this year’s March of the Living in Poland,” March of the Living World Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, said in a statement.

People participating in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, on May 2, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90

“Our primary concern is the health of the many participants and the Holocaust survivors who would be joining them. Given that this is an international event involving 110 delegations from around the world, we have a responsibility to take precautionary measures in accordance with the guidelines given by authorities in various countries,” he added.

A rescheduled date for the annual commemoration, which was originally set for April 21 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, has yet to be announced.

Last month, Israel’s education minister, Rafi Peretz, ordered the cancellation of all high school trips to Holocaust memorial sites in Poland due to the global spread of the coronavirus. Over 3,000 students had been set to travel to Poland in the coming weeks.