An Embrace Between Apologetic Christians and Israeli Holocaust Survivors

“Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me!” -Psalm 71:9

The past month has been filled with milestones for Israel: the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, the 51st anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and the historic move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, among others.

Another symbolic milestone for Israel and for Jews around the world was American politician Michele Bachmann’s public apology for the mistreatment of Jewish people throughout history. But a lesser known apology was also shared last month by a German native and her church in an effort to make amends for the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Ines Rogg, a German native, and her church group recently made a generous donation in the name of their Pastor Gerd Rodenwald to the Israel365 Charity Fund for support of Holocaust survivors.

“We belong to a church who believes only in one God, which bring us close to the Jewish faith. We have a very close relationship with the Nation of Israel,” said Rogg about the gift.

Donna Jollay, director of Christian relations for Israel365 said, “The Church had a 2,000-year history of direct involvement in brutally persecuting the Jewish People as in the crusades, pogroms, mass expulsions, and forced conversions,” she said. As such, the Israel365 Charity Fund has been collecting and distributing funds raised from Christians for Israeli Holocaust survivors.

Last month, the Israel365 Fund, in cooperation with an Israeli organization called Adopt-A-Safta, organized a lunch event for a group of Israeli Holocaust survivors. This event was made possible by Rogg’s donation.

Adopt-A-Safta reports that 40 percent of Holocaust survivors in Israel feel lonely, and that thousands of elderly survivors lack financial stability. At the lunch event, the group of Holocaust survivors were treated to a warm meal and were each given a cash gift to ease some of their financial burden.

“This was beyond meaningful to me as a Christian to be able to reach out and honor and bless the survivors,” said Jollay. “Because of the sad reality that both Germany and Poland were recognized as very Christian nations, it is inescapable for those who survived this most horrific of times, to not associate what was done with the Church.”

Also participating in the event were Christians touring on Israel365’s “Beauty from Ashes” tour. This tour began in Poland and finished 10 days later in Israel. The tour highlighted the juxtaposition between the Jewish experience during the Holocaust and the miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel some three years after WWII.

“Having recently been in Poland, the tour participants were all the more so moved by meeting and speaking directly to the Holocaust survivors at the event,” said Ayal Kellman, a staff member of Israel365 who helped organize the event.

“One of the greatest things that I have learnt is that God is brining the Jews and the Gentile Christians together for such a time as this,” said tour participant Danny Ortiz.

As Israel’s Holocaust survivors continue to age, Adopt-A-Safta emphasizes that we must continue to act responsibly “while we still are blessed with the presence of this holy generation.”

“As survivors are now in their 80s and 90s, it is critically important to get to meet them and hear their stories while we still have them with us, and to let them know that we care and that they are seen,” said Jollay.

The event was impactful for all in attendance.  

“One of the most poignant moments was when one of the survivors shares that this was a first,” said Jollay. “She had never had a Christian express any interest in her. And she was so blessed that we did.”

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