Rabbi Danielle Eskow has organized a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Holocaust survivors in Brookline in a concerted effort to help a vulnerable population that might otherwise struggle to book an appointment.
Eskow, who was vaccinated in the first phase of the state’s rollout plan, said she hopes the clinic will come as a relief to survivors, many of whom live alone or are not technologically savvy, she said.
“A lot of us are able to sign in online and do it ourselves or we have a family member, if you’re a little bit older, who could do it for you,” she said. “But a lot of the survivors are living alone and a lot of them are not technologically savvy. Some people [are] homebound and so it’s very difficult for them to access the information.”
The clinic, which will be held Feb. 25 at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline, will be run by Eskow’s sister, Dr. Marisa Tieger, a physician at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and Dr. Justin Holtzman, who has been running his own clinic at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Holtzman will be providing the vaccines for Eskow’s clinic. Eskow said she also plans to enlist another doctor.
Holtzman said he immediately jumped at the idea to help with the clinic.
“My first reaction was, ‘What a great way to get the vaccine to people who need it, but are likely unable to be able to utilize the technology platforms to schedule the appointments,’ ” he said. “To be able to play a role in helping to eradicate [the pandemic], or at least helping to bring it under control, is nothing short of an honor.”
Helping Holocaust survivors is deeply personal for Eskow, whose husband is the grandchild of survivors.
“They came over after the war, they had been through horrible things beyond anyone’s imagination and they started a life from scratch,” she said. Eskow and her husband named their children after his grandparents.
Survivors have booked 14 appointments in the two days they have been available, Eskow said.
Eskow enlisted the help of Janet Stein Calm, president of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants of Greater Boston, to reach out to Holocaust survivors about the clinic. Stein Calm said the group uses a range of strategies to contact survivors, including sending out mailings.
It is particularly important to vaccinate survivors because of the years of their lives lost due to the war, Stein Calm said.
“They’ve already been robbed out of years of their lives, they were robbed out of their childhoods, they were robbed out of their communities and the schools they went to and what should have been their lives,” she said. “They were fortunate enough, miraculously enough, to survive the Holocaust but it doesn’t mean that it’s gone from their memories. The least thing we can do at this point is to do anything we can to help them return to what should be a normal life.”
Eskow said she feels a duty to help survivors continue to share their stories.
“Stories are the only accounts we have left of this horrible tragedy that happened, and if we can protect them and preserve them, we can continue to allow them to share their stories for years to come,” she said. “And that’s preserving history as best we can.”
Survivors who want to make appointments can call 857-245-6763.