Nearly 500 people on Thursday attended the funeral of a Holocaust survivor who had no immediate family living in Israel after activists appealed on social media for a quorum when he was laid to rest.
Benjamin Schlesinger’s funeral coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day, and mourners stood silent as the siren commemorating the six million Jewish victims who perished under Nazi rule sounded throughout Israel, Ynet reported.
Schlesinger, 82, lived alone in Ashdod and had no immediate family living in Israel, raising concerns that his funeral would be so poorly attended that not even a minyan, the minimum quorum of 10 men required by Jewish religious law for public prayer, would attend.
Local news sites and social media activists called on residents late Wednesday night to attend Schlesinger’s funeral, and the turnout exceeded expectations.
“This is a call to those residents of Ashdod who can attend the funeral to pay last respects to a man who survived the claws of the Nazis, on this day of all days,” the notice on AshdodOnLine read, said.
Picking up the story, journalist Liza Lalutzashvili of Ashdod wrote on her Facebook page: “It’s a good deed and a privilege to give, particularly to those who managed to survive the atrocities in which six million Jews were taken, especially on this day.”
“It was a moving event,” Lalutzashvili said after the funeral. “I’m still surprised at the number of residents who showed up, who hadn’t even known him.”
“I started spreading the word, and it went on quickly from there. It was very moving, particularly considering that the siren sounded in the middle of the funeral.”
Olga Ohayon, one of Schlesinger’s distant relatives, thanked those who attended the funeral, saying the public’s turnout “proved to us that the people of Israel are responsible for one another, and that we will stand beside one another in time of trouble.”
“We mourn Benjamin’s passing, but it seems that his time had come. There is no more respectful way than this to say goodbye to him,” she said.
Schlesinger’s funeral came a few days after that of 92-year-old Chaya Gertman, whose entire family had perished in the Holocaust and who was left infertile because of the experiments she had been forced to undergo at Auschwitz. When close friends of Gertman feared no one would attend her funeral, they sent out a call over social media, and hundreds of Israelis turned out.