“Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me!” (Psalm 71:19)
Livia Shacter is a 101-year-old Holocaust survivor who goes to exercise, paint and eat meals with friends nearly every day.
Her activities take place at Melabev, a senior care facility in Beit Shemesh, Israel. And according to her daughter, Lieba Brown, Melabev is what gets Shacter out of her bed in the morning.
“It gives her a reason to get up,” Brown told Breaking Israel News. “In some way, Melabev saves her life. Otherwise, she would just sleep.”
In Israel, thousands of Holocaust survivors are like Shacter – alone and in need of an outlet, someone or something to “put a smile on her face,” ‘as Brown explained.
Shacter was born on April 2, 1917 in Tacovo, Czechoslovakia. When she was 22, Hungarian soldiers marched into and occupied Czechoslovakia. Then, five years later, the Germans invaded. Within weeks, they began deporting Jews to death camps and salve labor.
She and her family were first rounded up and thrown into a ghetto. Then, when she 27, she was shipped off in a cattle car to Auschwitz. Her parents and one brother were killed instantly.
After four months of working in Auschwitz, Shacter was deported and forced into slave labor at Fallersleben. In April of 1945, she was liberated.
Brown said that her mother first went to a displaced persons camp, where she met her father and had her first child. In 1947, she moved to Los Angeles, where she lived most of her life.
Finally, at the age of 93, Shacter decided to make aliyah and live in Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.
Life is not easy for Shacter even in the promised land. She has Alzheimer’s and has lost her ability to read or do the handywork she used to enjoy. She lives on a fixed income and has the potential for becoming isolated. Brown said she is often depressed.
Yet, on Sunday through Thursday, said Brown, her mother has a smile.
“The people that work at Melabev are warm and loving,” said Brown, noting that her mom takes an exercise class, has learned to paint and enjoys two groups meals a day. Some days, youth from the community visit Melabev and volunteer, spreading song and further joy.
After all her sacrifices, said Brown, “my mother gets such a good feeling seeing all the Jewish children happy and thriving in Israel.”
Israel365 has taken on the Jewish mitzvah of comforting the elderly in their old age. Each month, Rabbi Tuly Weisz and other volunteers from Israel365 will visit Melabev and bring blankets and holiday gifts.
Further, Israel365 is partnering with a local food pantry to help feed Israel’s most vulnerable Holocaust survivors. It costs about $50 a month – matched by the government – to feed a hungry survivor.
You can make a gift here.
“We are called by the Torah to never forget what our enemies did to us,” said Weisz. “Now, at 101, Livia is forgetting. So, we have to remember.”