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A Voice for Survivors
April 6, 2015
A Voice for Survivors

JF&CS News Spring 2015

Schechter Holocaust ServicesWhen JF&CS President-elect David Schechter attended a Hakalah dinner a decade ago, he had no idea that JF&CS even had a Holocaust Services program, let alone that it had already existed for ten years. A JF&CS Board member since 2003, David listened attentively that evening to a story told by Holocaust survivor Dr. Robert Berger. "His story inspired me to get involved," says David. Shortly afterwards, David made a substantial donation to JF&CS, specifying that the entire amount go to the Hakalah/Holocaust Services program. He still remains an active, supportive member of the Advisory Committee.

Schechter Holocaust Services (SHS), as it is known today, relies primarily on funding from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany as well as philanthropic sources like the Dorot Foundation to achieve its goals. SHS ensures that survivors of Nazi persecution can age with dignity, preserve their self-respect, and enjoy a sense of independence. The program provides comprehensive no-cost assistance to survivors, including emergency financial assistance, homecare subsidies, assistance with reparations and restitution of assets, and advocacy and help accessing community resources.

The social part of the program includes Café Hakalah, a monthly social and cultural gathering of Holocaust survivors, and the Holiday Visitor program, where volunteers visit survivors on major Jewish holidays and maintain ongoing contact with survivors in need of companionship. They also participate in the annual Chanukkah and Passover events coordinated by JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections.

"We are passionate about making a difference in the lives of people who experienced such tragic events. We are a voice for survivors, when needed, so that they can live with dignity," explains Carol Laibson, SHS Case Manager.

Clients range in age from their 70s to 100. With age, they often become frailer and have increasing needs. "Our goal is to ensure that every survivor can remain in the living situation of their choice," says Elyse Rast, SHS Manager of Outreach and Education. "We are tremendously successful when we utilize flexible resources to meet the needs of our clients," Elyse emphasizes. Carol adds, "We act as a comprehensive safety net for survivors. We try to find every resource possible, both within JF&CS and outside the agency. It does take a village.'"

One recent story demonstrates how the many different departments at JF&CS act in concert to help survivors. Chaya* is an 89-year-old survivor from Germany who came to this country alone at the age of nine. She lived in foster homes until she married at 18.

Chaya has been a JF&CS client for many years. Early on, her SHS case manager helped her obtain financial assistance for heat, food, clothing, telephone bills, and medicine as well as homecare subsidies and companion care. Her case manager also helped re-establish contact with distant family members, complete applications for hardship fund reparations, and connect her with an elder law attorney to sort out long-term care planning.

Increasing dementia has recently made it unsafe for Chaya to live at home. Her case manager worked with a geriatric care manager from Your Elder Experts at JF&CS to get the medical care she needed and to find an assisted living option. Her case manager even helped orchestrate Chaya’s move . One month later, Chaya was happier than she had been for quite a long time. Her family was confident that she was in the right place and that she was well cared for. "This gives us such peace of mind," says one family member.

Holocaust survivors tend to present greater challenges than the typical JF&CS older adult client. Their early traumas often linger into old age. Institutional settings can trigger unpleasant memories, and it is essential that these concerns be addressed. "It's important that we work with institutions and home health aides on the importance of safety and trust issues in the lives of survivors," Carol explains. "Sometimes survivors do not want to impose on anyone. Quite often, they don't ask for help, so we have to read between the lines."

Despite the numerous complexities and challenges facing survivors, families, care givers, and case managers, Schechter Holocaust Services gets results. Whether it is a client’s new hearing aid or reparation and restitution payments that enable a survivor to live more comfortably in her own home, there is a sense of justice in seeing a Holocaust survivor supported, cared for, and living with greater dignity. As more than a few clients have said, "I don't know what I would do without JF&CS." 

*Name changed to protect privacy.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.


Challenge Grant for Schechter Holocaust Services

Jewish Family & Children’s Service is proud to announce that we have received a generous challenge grant of $50,000 from the Seed the Dream Foundation for Schechter Holocaust Services. This gift will fund critical hours of homecare that survivors need to live safely and comfortably in their own homes, as well as emergency expenses such as rent or utilities assistance, emergency food, and medicine. In order to receive this gift, we are charged with raising $75,000 in 2015 from individual donors. All of this funding will be used to keep Holocaust survivors safe and healthy.

“Please join me in helping the many Holocaust survivors in our community get the support they need as they grow older,” states David Schechter.

For more information or to make a contribution toward this $75,000 in matching funds, please contact Ruth Maffa at rmaffa@jfcsboston.org or 781-693-5059.

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