Cafe Europa Continues Support Amid Covid Pandemic
2020 was a difficult year for everyone. Across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic hit people hard, and gave us new challenges to face.
Here in Jerusalem, one incredible organization brought vital support and a semblance of normality to one special group of people who were in need of help – Holocaust survivors.
The Cafe Europa network provides social and support opportunities for elderly Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem. Each branch serves as a meeting place where survivors enjoy a social and cultural experience, as well as being a resource center where professionals assist survivors in accessing the rights and services to which the city’s elderly are entitled.
The Jerusalem Foundation is proud to have a long association with the Cafe Europa program, as part of our wider support for some of the city’s most vulnerable populations. In the past months, we have found ourselves at the forefront of Jerusalem’s response to the pandemic. Together with the Municipality and other partner organizations, we have supported tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem with over 9 million shekels (2.3 million Euros) of support.
On March 20th, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor in Jerusalem was announced as the country’s first casualty of coronavirus, highlighting the vulnerability of Holocaust survivors and driving home the importance of providing a support network.
Cafe Europa’s six branches across the city cater to hundreds of Holocaust survivors, including Russian and English-speaking immigrants and survivors from the ultra-Orthodox community. With the elderly being the group at highest risk from the coronavirus, combined with the loneliness and isolation of being at home, the branches have adapted in creative ways to reach members at home.
Many activities had to take place via Zoom, or in small groups in outdoor spaces. Transport had to be arranged to get elderly survivors to activities taking place in person, and extra support had to be arranged for those in need – including food packages and tablet computers for ongoing communication.
On any given day, one could find dozens of elderly Holocaust survivors engaged in an exercise class or a lecture about Jewish life – an incredible range of activities that kept people connected with one another during this difficult period. And, over and above the social activities, the network provided a telephone hotline staffed by volunteers which provided assistance and advice to help the survivors deal with logistic and health emergencies.
As two elderly survivors commented: “Not only is your information helpful but you are as well. It is at times like these that the difference between an ordinary social worker and a great one becomes obvious… Thanks to you and Café Europa we are well provided for.”