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An elderly Holocaust survivor receives help at the start of Hanukkah

Holocaust survivor Magda Rosenberg receives Hanukkah care package

Holocaust survivor Magda Rosenberg receives Hanukkah care package from nonprofit The Blue Card volunteers Larissa Finik and Izabella Safiyeva on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, in Long Beach. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Magda Rosenberg was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust. Now volunteers are making sure she’s not forgotten.

At 88, she’s lived in Long Beach for 60 years. She lost an arm during her imprisonment at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. She has not let her history define her but admits she needs help.

“You have to learn to cope. My greatest accomplishment is to learn to forgive my enemies and learn to cope,” Rosenberg said. “All my life, I am 39 going on 90, and I needed help.”

Like so much of Long Beach, her home was damaged by superstorm Sandy, which left a leaky roof and a destroyed garage. 

Rosenberg was visited this week by the Manhattan-based Blue Card Fund, a charity that offers assistance to the rapidly vanishing population of Holocaust survivors nationwide.

Volunteers brought Rosenberg a Hanukkah care package, provided dental care and started her on a food stipend because she is unable to cook. She has been receiving assistance for about six months and also will receive a birthday check and care packages throughout the year. Hanukkah begins at sunset Saturday.

The Blue Card program helps Holocaust survivors at or below the poverty line and aims to keep survivors living in their own homes. It’s a nonprofit organization that is sustained through donations.

“Holocaust survivors are a group of people dying every year. As they are passing away and aging, their needs are growing exponentially,” senior program director Izabella Safiyeva said. “We want to recognize their spirit. They went through so much early on in their lives. Most of them emigrated from scratch and built a life for themselves. It’s a spirit of who they are.”

Rosenberg was born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in a small Russian farming village with about 100 Jewish families. The families were sent to a ghetto in 1943, and her family of eight was eventually sent to Auschwitz. She and her two sisters were sent to work at a Krupp munitions factory, where she lost her left arm in an explosion.

She came to America in 1951 with a fifth-grade education and later earned her master’s degree in exercise and physiology. She published an exercise book for the elderly and toured the country speaking about her fitness methods. She teaches yoga every Friday morning at the Long Beach Public Library.

“I would give my life for this country. I feel the Holocaust survivors should know this organization is out there to help survivors,” Rosenberg said. “The main thing is they make you feel like you have a friend if you need anything at all. We’re dying out. Those that are still alive should know about the Blue Card and that they have a friend there.”

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