At sundown today, Jews in Israel and around the world will remember the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust and honor the Jewish resistance during that period. Since the early 1960s the sound of a siren on Yom HaShoah (Hebrew for Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day) has paused traffic and pedestrians in Israel for a moment of silence. This day is observed with two minutes of devotion in which Israelis stop what they are doing—driving, eating, working, cooking—to remember those who died.
As Jews in Israel and around the world remember the Holocaust’s victims and heroes, we at the Farm will also be honoring some of our neighbors. Our San Diego community is home to Holocaust survivors, some of whom struggle to meet their basic needs. Sadly, these men and women are often go overlooked and under resourced. According to aid organization The Blue Card, one-third of Holocaust survivors in the United States continue to live at or below the poverty line. “For those senior citizens that survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, many are struggling to make ends meet in the face of a growing number of medical issues, the rising cost of living and challenges navigating the health system,” said Blue Card Executive Director Masha Pearl.
The number of living Holocaust survivors is diminishing—at least half are expected to pass away within the next ten to twenty years. One-in-four Holocaust survivors are 85 or older, but their age does not tell the complete story of their living conditions. As the number of remaining Holocaust survivors in our region continues to decrease, many of those who remain suffer from limited resources and lack of family support. Their vulnerability often translates to food insecurity, leaving them without the nutritious food necessary to lead healthy, active lifestyles. Fresh food is a luxury many cannot afford, and they are forced to turn to emergency food services just to get by for another few days.
Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS) shares, “A large number of survivors struggle to live with limited finances and no family in the area.” JFS is a local social service organization in San Diego that supports Jewish survivors. We are grateful to partner with JFS to care for local Holocaust survivors through a food delivery program.
Once a week, members of our farm team hand-deliver farm-fresh produce to survivors in our community. Our neighbors who lived through the atrocities of the Nazi rule receive high quality, seasonal, organic produce to supplement their diets and help them eat healthier. This program functions like our paid CSA program in that people receive a box of fresh vegetables along with recipes and storage recommendations—but it’s completely free! In addition, the volunteers and staff who deliver the produce provide ongoing human connection during deliveries, checking in by phone during the week, and helping in other ways. We love hearing about people incorporating these veggies into their daily routines and cooking with farm-fresh produce. And we also love connecting with these neighbors who have lived with such courage and resilience.
Through this produce donation program, Coastal Roots Farm is committed to not only easing the burden for local survivors, but also to making them feel connected to and cherished by the San Diego Jewish community. Survivors often share how meaningful they find this generosity. One woman said, “Our physician recently told us to eat more fresh vegetables. We want to do so but good produce is very expensive. For us, the weekly produce donations are an answer to our prayers.”
As we honor those who died during the Holocaust today, we will also honor the survivors living among us by offering the fresh food they need to live dignified, healthy lives.