On Yom HaShoah

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. And, as is customary this time of year, the Jewish press has been offering us a great deal of Holocaust-related material to read and consider. For me, one of this year’s most important contributions is The Jewish Week‘s article (by staff writer Steve Lipman) on financially needy Holocaust survivors.

“On the streets of Jerusalem, their plight is well chronicled, and even debated in the corridors of power in the Knesset. It is a well-told story across Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union, too, where a frayed social safety net affords little protection.

But here in New York, probably the world’s wealthiest Jewish community, the story of needy Holocaust survivors exists beyond the media’s glare. The overall level of Jewish poverty here — exacerbated by the economic downturn — has come into much sharper relief of late in the wider Jewish community. Soup kitchens have opened, UJA-Federation has launched a major recession-fighting initiative and reports have trumpeted unprecedented numbers of Jews living a paycheck or two from financial ruin.

Yet the plight of Shoah survivors — most of them in Brooklyn — struggling to eke out an existence remains stubbornly out of view. ‘It is a totally unknown problem,” says Louise Greilsheimer, senior vice president for agency and external relations at UJA-Federation.'”

Well, for my family, it isn’t an entirely unknown problem. We have supported The Blue Card, one of the resource organizations cited alongside the article, for years. My sister has served on The Blue Card’s board. As I’ve mentioned, I plan to donate portions of proceeds from the sale of my story collection, Quiet Americans, to The Blue Card, too.

But there is so much need. This article just reminded me. Whether you’re also being reminded, or you’re learning about the plight of these elderly people for the first time, won’t you please consider, today, contributing to one of the organizations mentioned by The Jewish Week?

“The Conference on Material Jewish Claims against Germany ([646] 536-9100; claimscon.org) funds more than 100 Jewish organizations, primarily Jewish family and children’s service agencies, in more than 20 states.

In the last decade, the Claims Conference came under attack from survivors, who complained about its lack of transparency and accountability, and its funding of educational programs at the expense of survivors’ immediate needs. In response to the criticisms, the Claims Conference has changed many of its operating procedures, decreasing the amount of its annual grants to educational projects from 20 percent to about 13 percent.

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty ([212] 453-9500; metcouncil.org) coordinates services for survivors provided by a local network of Jewish community councils and other agencies. These services include kosher food programs, minor home repairs, transportation and home care.

The Blue Card ([212] 239-2251; bluecardfund.org) was founded to assist indigent refugees from Nazi Europe and now provides modest stipends to nearly 1,900 indigent survivors each month, 80 percent in the New York area.

Selfhelp Community Services ([866] 735-1234; selfhelp.net) is the largest provider of services to survivors in North America, offering ‘enhanced case management services’ for home health care, guardianship and financial management, and assistance accessing benefits and government entitlements.

iVolunteer, ([646] 461-7748; ivolunteerny.com) coordinates a visitation-companionship program for survivors.

The New York Legal Assistance Group ([212]613-5000; nylag.org) has a Holocaust Compensation Assistance Program that helps survivors obtain legal information about various benefits.

The Project for Holocaust Survivors of the Bikur Cholim of Boro Park ([718] 438-2020; info@bikurcholimbp.com) has a special outreach to childless survivors.

Project Dorot ([212]769-2850; dorotusa.org) on the Upper West Side and Project Ezra ([212]982-4124; projectezra.org) on the Lower East Side number several Holocaust survivors among their elderly clients.”

Thank you.