Federations applaud Senate support for Holocaust survivors
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Special Committee on Aging today heard Holocaust survivors, their family members and Jewish community professionals call for social services to help low-income survivors live in comfort and dignity in their homes and communities. The Jewish Federations of North America praised the committee’s Chairman, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Ranking Member, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), for convening the panel on this pressing issue.
JFNA is submitting testimony for the record by William Daroff, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office. Lee Sherman, President/CEO of the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies, a member of JFNA’s National Federation/Agency Alliance, offered expert testimony at the hearing along with others.
“Far too many Holocaust survivors struggle to meet basic needs, and we have a moral responsibility to help lift them up,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations’ Board of Trustees. “We applaud Chairman Bill Nelson, Ranking Member Susan Collins and the entire Senate Special Committee on Aging for recognizing this critical issue. The proposals discussed today, coupled with the support Vice President Biden recently announced, will provide survivors with the care and programs they so desperately need.”
Last month, Vice President Biden announced that the Obama Administration would take concrete steps to help Holocaust survivors living in poverty. The Administration announced plans to establish a Special Envoy at the Department of Health and Human Services to act as a liaison for Holocaust survivors and the nonprofit community organizations that serve them; to create a partnership with the AmeriCorps VISTA program to dedicate volunteers to increase the capacity of community organizations to serve impoverished Holocaust survivors; and to explore public private partnerships to address resource shortfalls so that community organizations can continue to serve Holocaust survivors.
“The Jewish Federations of North America is pleased to be working together with the White House to lead the implementation of this initiative to serve Holocaust survivors,” said Daroff. “Federations and family service agencies are working tirelessly to meet the need, and we are pleased to have support at the highest levels of government.”
Of the approximately 120,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States today, three-quarters are over the age of 75 and about two-thirds live alone. Many of these survivors struggle to afford basic needs, such as adequate food and healthcare; about half of the survivors arriving in the U.S. after 1965 from the former Soviet Union fall beneath the poverty line.
Sherman testified about the thousands of Holocaust survivors needing assistance. “Living in poverty, plagued by immeasurable loss, they are at risk of falling into isolation and despair,” Sherman testified. “It is for them—and to honor the memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust—that we commit ourselves each and every day to ensure they live with respect and dignity. It is our greatest honor to ensure that those who suffered the most heinous brutality of the last century are able to live their twilight years with dignity, comfort, and security. Holocaust survivors are living, breathing triumphs of survival over bigotry and hatred.”