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Survivo​rs to Celebrate at Café Europa

April 16, 2009 By:
Amy Purdy, JF Feature

"We all share a common past, and a common hope for the future," declares Itka Zygmantowicz, a Northeast Philadelphia Holocaust survivor, who will join more than 300 local survivors in celebration of life at Café Europa, on Wednesday, May 6.

This fourth annual event is free and open to all Holocaust survivors in the Greater Philadelphia area. The program, which includes a catered luncheon, and Yiddish and klezmer tunes performed by Bobby Block and his orchestra, will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Buck Hotel in Feasterville. It will be hosted by the Philadelphia Holocaust Survivor Community Supportive Services Program of Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia.

Café Europa is funded by JFCS in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. This year, Federation has increased its support of the café and all other JFCS Holocaust-survivor services in response to changes in the way that these services are funded by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference). The Claims Conference, which allocates funds to institutions that provide services to Holocaust survivors, announced in January that it would support these vital programs through matching grants, rather than direct ones.

Federation is partnering with JFCS to raise $175,000 to fully fund the JFCS Survivor Services Program for 2009.

To date, $85,000 has been raised for the matching grant. According to the terms of the grant, the remaining $90,000 must be garnered by Dec. 31.

Because monetary sources developed by the Claims Conference over the past 50 years are dwindling, "more responsibility for support has shifted to the local community," explains Howard Sitron, JFCS executive vice president and chief operating officer.

He adds that "we are extremely grateful for Federation's full support of JFCS Holocaust-survivor programs and their collaboration in raising private donations for the matching grant."

JFCS survivor services include direct supportive services, care management, counseling and socialization programs. Direct services include home care, chore service, emergency assistance, health-insurance premium payment, dental and hearing-aid services, pre-paid grocery cards, prescription and hospital insurance assistance, transportation, home assessment and modification.

"Federation has stepped up its support of Café Europa, and all of the critical programs and services that JFCS provides to Holocaust survivors because they are so deeply deserving of our care, compassion and respect," explains Federation President Leonard Barrack. "Our Jewish tradition admonishes us to honor, respect and provide for our elders. We must ensure that aging survivors receive the services they need at a time when traditional funding sources have decreased."

This year, JFCS will continue to increase outreach efforts to area Holocaust survivors.

"Currently, 350 survivors are engaged with JFCS," notes Sitron. "We know there are more survivors in the community. As they age, we want to let them know about services and support that are available to them."

Sitron views Café Europa as an important outreach vehicle for communicating with Holocaust survivors.

"Café Europa helps us keep in touch with other survivors," attests Joseph Kohn, himself a survivor, as well as a long-time participant in JFCS programs.

Says Kohn: "It's a way for us to warm up together in the cold world." u

Reservations for Café Europa and free bus transportation should be made as soon as possible.

To register or to receive more information about JFCS survivor services, call 267-256-2043.

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