Opinion | Pandemic Especially Trying for Survivors

Happy gray-haired senior Caucasian woman listening as her doctor is explaining therapy details and medication dosage during house call medical check-up
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By Marcy Gringlas

This month, for Yom HaShoah, we remember the millions of lives we lost in the Holocaust, and we recognize the remarkable individuals who survived.

This week, April 11, is an especially significant date for my family, as it marks the 75th anniversary of my father’s liberation from the concentration camp Dora Nordhausen.

This week also brings the holiday of Passover, when most families would gather together to celebrate. Not so this year. Celebrations and commemorations canceled, postponed or moved to virtual platforms.

This article is devoted to our survivors with a clear message: You are not forgotten.

The statistics are heartbreaking. Out of 80,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States today, close to 30,000 are living in poverty. Many are choosing between heat or food, rent or medical bills. Others cannot afford basic home repairs.

As a child of two Holocaust survivors, I was shocked a number of years ago to learn that so many of these courageous souls, who endured the most unimaginable horrors, were now suffering once again in the final years of their lives. How was it possible that I and so many others were unaware of this crisis?

Many of us assume that the Holocaust survivors we are fortunate to still have with us today are taken care of by family or service agencies. Unfortunately, the needs of our aging survivors far outweigh the available resources. For many of us, until we see this silent suffering firsthand, it is impossible to believe.

Sadly, those same survivors and thousands more are even further isolated and in greater need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current coronavirus has compromised access to food, access to quality care and access to other emergency needs. Together, we must take action to address this crisis — while our survivors are still with us.

The Survivors of the Holocaust Emergency Fund is one model our foundation has put forward to aid impoverished survivors across the United States.

In March 2019, Seed The Dream Foundation launched a unique nationwide matching initiative in partnership with KAVOD, a nonprofit aid organization for Holocaust survivors.

KAVOD SHEF ensures that 100% of all funds raised go directly toward emergency needs of survivors, including: food, medical, emergency home care, urgent home needs, dental, vision and transportation.

Seed The Dream Foundation has committed to matching all dollars raised on the national level, and 18 philanthropist and foundation partners have since joined. Together, our national funding coalition is matching dollar for dollar all local funds raised by partner Jewish Federations and Jewish Family Service agencies — in over 20 communities throughout the United States — contributing a combined additional $5 million for emergency services through KAVOD SHEF in 2019 and 2020.

Having launched just 10 months ago, the KAVOD SHEF team has worked tirelessly to deliver desperately needed funds and services to survivors.

Philadelphia joined as a lead community from the very start — and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia continues to be a most valued partner as we have come together to increase the emergency resources available to our Holocaust survivors during this COVID-19 pandemic.

To ensure maximum access and awareness of the resources now available to them, KAVOD SHEF encourages use of its national hotline to put survivors in direct contact with those who are able to help them locally. The KAVOD SHEF hotline also provides access for survivors who are not yet in contact with local agencies. This point of connection has become even more critical now, during this time of increased isolation.

I am blessed to have both my parents alive today. And they are blessed to have the resources they need to live in dignity in their final years. Sadly, there are too many survivors living out their last days without these blessings. It is our duty to learn of, speak about and respond to the critical needs of the survivors still with us. This was true before the coronavirus, and is even more so today. Time is of the essence.

The average age of Holocaust survivors is 85, and their need for support grows stronger with each passing day. My greatest fear is that by the time we rally around this cause, they may all be gone. We are losing survivors every day, but every day we also see hundreds of new requests for care.

KAVOD SHEF continues to see significant increases in requests for emergency food and medical needs with each passing week of this pandemic. In response, Seed the Dream Foundation has been providing additional emergency aid grants to the local communities within the KAVOD SHEF coalition for food, emergency home care, and deliveries. We are grateful that the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has once again partnered with us to address this heightened need.

Heartbreakingly, we know that the need for emergency services during this pandemic and beyond will continue to grow for this most vulnerable population.

It is our hope that together, through our shared efforts, we will be able to offer survivors the dignity they deserve. This really is our last chance. We can and must do this together. There is no time to waste.

Wishing you and your families a safe, healthy and meaningful Passover.

For Holocaust survivors in need of support, call the KAVOD SHEF Hotline at 720-295-8484.

Marcy Gringlas
Marcy Gringlas (Courtesy of Marcy Gringlas)

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

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