A volunteer program that pairs young professionals in Tel Aviv with lonely Holocaust survivors will expand to Jerusalem next month after attracting attention from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Over 80 people have volunteered for the "Adopt-A-Safta" program, in which immigrants and native Israelis call and visit survivors once a week in their homes.
"It's a very small contribution in some ways but it has a huge impact," said Jay Shultz, the New York transplant who started the project in September after reading that a quarter of the 200,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel are alone and often poor.
The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims provided Shultz with names of survivors and training materials.
Kara Genderson, a geriatric social worker originally from Washington, D.C., and the project's co-chair, said volunteers are matched with survivors by language and that there is a need for more Russian-speakers.
The next phase of the project involves setting up a system for volunteers to report on their adopted survivors' needs, such as a lack of food, broken appliances or problems with a caregiver, Shultz said.
Josh Hantman, who immigrated to Israel from London three and a half years ago, said that the time he and his "Adopt-A-Safta" partner spend with a Polish octogenarian named Naftali is the highlight of his week.
"We talk about politics and help him learn English so he can speak to his grandchildren in America," he said. "I think we probably get more out of it than he does."