Opinion | A Call to Action in Aiding Aging Holocaust Survivors

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A person holds an elderly person's hands
One-third of Holocaust survivors in the United States live in poverty. (ipopba / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

By Naomi Adler

I am so proud to have just shared the news of what we hope to be an additional impactful initiative and partnership to provide a new lifeline for our local Holocaust survivors (“New Resources Available for Area Holocaust Survivors,” Jewish Exponent, June 13). Since the conclusion of World War II, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has been honored to partner with many organizations to ensure the security and well-being of survivors of the Shoah living in our region. This new collaboration with Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia, Kavod and Seed the Dream will be a vital mechanism to help local survivors cope with emergencies associated with life’s most important necessities: medical bills, rent, food and home repairs. I am humbled by the incredible generosity of our Jewish community and these partners, without whom this program would not have been possible. However, the support to birth this program is not enough.

Today I am imploring you to read the information below and to take action. The time to help this precious population is running out, and each one of us has the ability right now to make a difference in the lives of these communities’ most courageous members.

The services provided through the Kavod SHEF program couldn’t be more needed, as the day-to-day realities of Holocaust survivors living in the United States are very disconcerting. One-third of our country’s 10,000 survivors live in poverty, and many of the more than 500 survivors living in the Greater Philadelphia region are struggling to make their basic ends meet. Much like our other senior community members, the majority of our local survivors wish to remain in their homes, near the places and people that are familiar to them. It’s a wish that must be granted, in order to prevent additional retraumatization or PTSD that can come from a housing change. Kavod SHEF will be a vital mechanism to expand this work we do every day to ensure the well-being of our local Holocaust survivors.

It may be surprising to you that there is still such a great need for this assistance. However, your Jewish Federation is still responding to urgent calls to provide funds to over 60 organizations who currently assist nearly 4,000 Holocaust survivors both in the U.S. and in Israel. In addition to a strong partnership with JFCS, we have also prioritized additional support to local agencies who provide service to survivors. The Jewish Relief Agency connects volunteers to service opportunities, such as preparing and delivering nourishing meals, taking survivors to their medical appointments and connecting them with their community. We also support the work of the KleinLife community center, which provides essential social, educational and cultural programs, as well as vital health, wellness and social services. Our Jewish Federation Real Estate affinity group recently joined the cause, funding an energy cost savings program that will allow for additional funds to be directed to KleinLife’s health and wellness program for survivors from the former Soviet Union. And in Israel, the work of programs such as Latet and Project Leket are ensuring that the needs of survivors living in our beloved Jewish homeland are always met.

In addition to our work to aid living survivors, we are committed to honoring the memory and the legacy of the millions of Jews who perished. There are still too many people in the world who are unfamiliar with the horrors of the Holocaust and the dangers of anti-Semitism and bigotry. We work to educate our neighbors every day, and I am grateful to the hundreds of survivors who have joined our efforts to inform the public and spread the message of tolerance and inclusion.

Every year, we connect dozens of local survivors directly with mostly non-Jewish students from local public and parochial schools through our youth symposiums. It is an overwhelming experience for many of these children, and for our survivors it can be a therapeutic outlet to share their stories and forge new relationships. Our annual Holocaust memorial ceremony, this year held just a day after the tragic shooting at the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, convened hundreds of people throughout the region to stand side by side with our community of survivors.

As determined as we are to never let the Holocaust happen again, we are equally resolved to find as many ways as possible to support those who survived one of humanity’s greatest nightmares. We are grateful to all of our communities’ volunteers and professionals who are similarly focused on this vital work.

Thank you in advance for ensuring survivors can access the new resources available through Kavod SHEF by making this outreach a priority today.

Please encourage all survivors and their loved ones to call the Kavod SHEF hotline (720-295-8484) so we can help them with any and all of their day-to-day needs. The hotline will connect to a representative from JFCS, who in turn will distribute funds directly to survivors in the form of gift cards or by directly paying their bills.

I hope you will join us in sharing the news wide and far. For as we learn in Proverbs 31:8, it is our duty to “speak up for those who cannot speak. … Speak up and judge fairly, and champion the poor and the needy.”

Naomi Adler is the CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

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