Stories & Voices
At 94, Holocaust Survivor Faced Covid-19
October 16th, 2020

In 1941, to escape a massacre in his Jewish community by the Nazis, Isaac* fled with his family from their home in Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine. Historians would later learn over 23,000 Jews were murdered there. This marked the first large-scale killing in Nazi Germany’s plan of genocide known as the Final Solution.

Isaac would go on to serve in the Soviet army, marry, raise a family, and develop a career as a lawyer in the city today called St. Petersburg. Isaac believed in giving back to his community and during the 1990s he helped organize a charity to provide food for people who couldn’t afford groceries. In search of a better life for his own family, Isaac immigrated to New York in 2001.

“I knew how to offer help, but I never thought I would be the one who needed it,” Isaac, now 94, notes. “Especially during a pandemic.”

Although Isaac has grappled with lung cancer and a stroke, he was stunned to add the coronavirus to his health issues. Fortunately, Isaac, who became ill with Covid-19 in April, survived the virus, and his wife, Bella,* 84, was spared any Covid symptoms.

“I still don’t feel well at times,” Isaac admits. “I’m not fully recovered.”

The Covid-19 crisis has also taken a toll on the couple’s ability to buy basic necessities, including food, since they needed to limit their exposure and were unable to shop in grocery stores.

Isaac and Bella had enjoyed attending coffee houses through the Selfhelp Holocaust Survivor Program. So when they needed help during this crisis, they decided to turn to Selfhelp, a UJA partner, for assistance.

A Selfhelp social worker immediately responded by arranging for food to be delivered, providing emergency cash assistance, and making sure their food stamps continued.

“I’m very touched by the help during this difficult time,” Isaac says.

In his lifetime, Isaac has witnessed people at their very worst, and now he has experienced people at their very best, extending care and comfort when formidable challenges arise.


*All names changed to protect privacy.