News from Israel - Yom Hashoah
The Times in Israel – by Marissa Newman
There were barely 10 men to form a traditional quorum at the Tel Aviv funeral last Wednesday of Stefan Weiss, a 90-year-old Transylvanian survivor of Auschwitz, Dachau, and a brutal death march.
“The only people at the funeral, there were two distant relatives of his, very distant cousins who knew him and had some connection,“ said Yehuda Aaronson, the director of overseas development at Reuth, an organization that is behind the heavily subsidized housing complex in Tel Aviv for survivors, where Weiss lived for over 40 years.
“Those of us who work here at Reuth were there, and together with the chevra kadisha [burial service] we made up a minyan [quorum] of men there. ”
As the funeral wound down, out came what Aaronson described as “the kicker.”
“We’re standing there at the funeral, at the burial, and we’re finishing the ‘el male rachamim’ [prayer], and a golf cart pulls up with someone from the chevra kadisha and a body on it,” he said. “It was another Holocaust survivor who had no family and no friends, and we were asked to stay and provide the funeral for this person.”
At the cemetery, the small group stayed put to carry out the rituals for the anonymous Jew, paying their respects to a man who the burial service said was a Holocaust survivor, but about whom nothing else was known.
“We were standing there in shock… They told us, the chevra kadisha, that they bury three or four people a day, every day, who have no one — not all of them are Holocaust survivors, of course,” he said, adding that some definitely are.
Figures on the numbers of Holocaust survivors who die in Israel without living relatives or descendants are hard to come by, and the burial services in several Israeli cities were not available to comment to The Times of Israel by the time of publication.
However, in recent years, at least half a dozen funerals of a childless Holocaust survivor, or one with few relatives, was publicized on social media and Israeli messaging apps, drawing dozens or hundreds of Israelis to come pay their respects to the victims of Nazi persecution and raising some awareness of the phenomenon. In February, some 200 strangers attended the funeral of Hilde Nathan, a childless survivor from the Canary Islands who wished to be buried alongside her mother in Israel.
But for every uplifting media report highlighting Israeli and Jewish solidarity, there is a Stefan Weiss — or a John Doe Holocaust survivor — or, perhaps, dozens like them.
“It’s a tragedy that these people who gave everything…they live alone and die alone,” said Aaronson.