Posted by Ellen Krechmer
Every year, the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles as survivors succumb to illness and old age. Since 2004, a devoted group of Legacies volunteers has reached out to these men and women throughout Greater Boston to honor and support them.
Legacies, a component of JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services, addresses the needs of survivors through a holiday visitation program with volunteers like Larry and Nicole Kramer. The Kramers visit a couple residing south of Boston, who are among 3,400 Holocaust survivors in eastern Massachusetts.
Larry, a middle school world geography teacher, said, "The Holocaust has had an impact on all of us. This is an important and fulfilling experience for us and it's been a really wonderful relationship that will continue forever with this particular family."
In partnership with Generations After, Legacies provides holiday visits and baskets of food and gifts to survivors. Volunteers visit during holiday times—the high holidays, Chanukkah, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot—as well as at other times during the year, and are available on a moment's notice to help in other ways. Currently, Legacies has 36 client-volunteer matches active in the program.
Volunteers are such incredible people. I've been fortunate to meet them and witness how much impact they have on the lives of survivors.
While some volunteers join Legacies because of a desire to give back, Cheryl Lefman, a long-time volunteer, was compelled by her family's experience. She said, "As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, it is imperative for me to acknowledge the lives of those that perished, and those that survived. Volunteering for Legacies allows me to pay homage to the survivors who are still here. It is my responsibility to care about the survivors and their legacy."
The volunteers, many of whom have been visiting the same individuals for more than five years, develop very close relationships with survivors who, in many cases, don't have extended family.
For many years, Cheryl has visited a "wonderful" survivor who is now 90 years old. She said, "I have become quite close to her and her daughter and consider them to be part of my extended family. They are exceptional people and I enjoy spending time with them."
A common theme among these volunteers is how rewarding they find the experience and how much they have enjoyed having a positive impact on these individuals' lives. Larry said, "We get as much from them as we give to them. It's totally reciprocal."
Many survivors suffer from the same challenges faced by other seniors – intensified by years of physical deprivation and trauma. Legacies volunteers bring companionship and caring to these men and women, which provides much comfort and happiness in their final years.
Ellen Krechmer has been the coordinator of Legacies, a component of Schechter Holocaust Services, since 2004. She is devoted to providing services to Holocaust survivors that meet their specific needs. She coordinates the holiday visitation program, as well as Café Hakalah, a monthly social gathering for Holocaust survivors.