In “Special Initiative,” German Painter Renovates Apartments of Israeli Holocaust Survivors

A German professional house painter travels to Israel once or twice a year, where together with other professional German craftsmen, he renovates for free the apartments of Holocaust survivors.

The heart-warming story was shared by Rabbi Zalmen Wishedsk on social media on Monday in a post that has since gone viral. The painter, introduced as 54-year-old Roland from the south of Germany, is seen smiling in the window seat on a flight from Switzerland to Israel in a photo shared by Rabbi Wishedsk.

Roland described his work in Israel as extremely rewarding and redeeming because it brings joy to those who survived the worst atrocity in the history of the Jewish people. For him, it’s important to show that Germany is not the same country it was 70 years ago and to foster a dialogue between the Israeli and German peoples.

According to Roland, some of the Holocaust survivors even speak to him in German, a language many of them had refused to speak for many decades.

Rabbi Wishedsk, in an interview with Tablet Magazine, said his meeting with Roland happened on Monday on a 6:15 flight from Basel to Tel Aviv. The painter, he explained, volunteers with a non-for-profit organization called “Zum Leben,” which seeks to strengthen bilateral ties between Germany and Israel through social and cultural initiatives. On their website, the group says, “The Saxon Friends of Israel help Jews personally, Jewish organizations and Christian partners in Israel.”

The rabbi, who was born in Israel but now works with Chabad in Basel, Switzerland, told the magazine that, “I think it’s a very special initiative.” He said that Roland would be spending four weeks in Israel and had been volunteering in the country for the past five years.

Before traveling to Israel earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked in a video message that, “Germany and Israel are connected with a unique relationship.”

“Out of the heritage of our history, out of the break of civilization that was the Holocaust, we Germans have a special responsibility for the relationship with Israel,” the German leader added.

[Photo: Rabbi Zalmen Wishedsk / Facebook ]