Opinion | Survivors’ Unmet Needs Far Outweigh Resources Available

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Elderly man sitting with head down on cane
KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Marcy Gringlas

Seed the Dream Foundation would like to thank and congratulate Naomi Adler, president & CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, for bringing attention to the time-sensitive and urgent issue of the critical needs of Holocaust survivors through her June 19 op-ed, “Call to Action.”

Philadelphia has stepped forward as one of the first communities to join a special national initiative launched by Seed the Dream Foundation in March to support thousands of Holocaust survivors across the United States.

Because I am a child of two survivors, this topic continues to be of central importance to me and to our family. I am blessed to have both my parents alive today, and they are truly blessed to have the resources that they each need in these later years. Sadly, there are too many survivors living their last days without such blessings.

Recent studies indicate that up to 80,000 Holocaust survivors are living today in the United States — and more than 30,000 of them are living at or near poverty. The support these survivors receive does not allow them to afford what they need to live a dignified life. Many are choosing between heat or food, medicine or rent. Others have dire living conditions because they cannot invest what is needed to repair their homes.

Recognizing the importance of reaching every survivor, wherever he or she may live, Seed the Dream Foundation partnered with the remarkable organization Kavod, whose mission is “ensuring dignity for Holocaust survivors,” to establish the Kavod Survivors of the Holocaust Emergency Fund (SHEF). This initiative presents a unique model we have put forward across the United States to maximize the resources available to impoverished survivors.

Seed the Dream Foundation has committed the substantial amount of funding necessary to launch this effort — and more than 15 philanthropists and foundations have quickly joined a coalition of national partners to set SHEF in motion for the second half of 2019.

Kavod SHEF exponentially multiplies the dollars and critical services directly aiding survivors. One-hundred percent of all Kavod SHEF matching funds raised over the next two years will go directly toward survivor services, serving as a secondary resource to what is already in place. These funds will be used quickly, with few restrictions, to address unmet dental, vision, medical, emergency home, and food needs of survivors in all our partner cities.

Kavod SHEF will bring millions of additional dollars into this space over two years. We are proud that the Kavod SHEF coalition now includes 11 communities across the United States, with several more gearing up to join within the next month.

As I speak about this critical issue across the country, I continue to emphasize this urgent reality: The survivors’ unmet needs far outweigh the resources available to cover these emergency services. It is for this reason that we launched this initiative and are prepared to continue matching every dollar raised on the national level. It is our hope that Kavod SHEF will be far-reaching, and allow survivors across the country to have access to these critical services.

As our home community, Philadelphia holds special importance and significance to our family and to our foundation. We are honored to be working in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and our local agencies to bring this most needed attention to our special survivor community. And together, as a community, we must continue to push forward. We urge you to join us — with your hearts, with your resources, with your actions.

Every day, we lose more than 40 Holocaust survivors, and yet every day we continue to see hundreds of new requests for care. There is no time to waste.

Marcy Gringlas is the president and co-founder of Seed the Dream Foundation.

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