Posted by JF&CS

An elderly couple holding hands.

"Jewish victims of Nazi persecution should never feel forgotten,” said Lora Tarlin, director of Schechter Holocaust Services. Too often, survivors are left to suffer due to financial insecurity, social isolation, and age-related difficulties. Their increasing physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges often revive traumatic events they endured as children and young adults, which exacerbate their difficulties. Poverty-related stress can also be triggering for survivors, as it reminds them of their deprivation during the Holocaust.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany funds 78 percent of our Schechter Holocaust Services (SHS) program, which provides services and advocacy that lightens this stress for survivors and aims to support their physical and emotional well-being. JF&CS is the only agency in Massachusetts funded by the Claims Conference and is also the only agency that works directly with survivors. While some agencies provide educational resources about the Holocaust, JF&CS offers individuals person-centered, trauma-informed care.

For Sasha*, an SHS client, a case manager stepped in to help her in her time of need. Sasha had broken her pelvis, but due to her poor financial situation, the hospital wanted to send her home after only a couple of days. Sasha also had dementia and faced a language barrier when communicating with others. She spoke Russian as her primary language and had no family living in the area to translate for her when she needed to speak to doctors.

Had Sasha gone home, she would have been unable to care for herself. She was injured and only received a few hours of homecare a week through JF&CS. These few hours of homecare were enough to help her when she was healthy, but with a broken pelvis, she would need around the clock care. Sasha had already suffered a lack of medical care as a child, and now the hospital was attempting to send her away in a state unfit to take care of herself.

When SHS heard about her situation, they knew they had to advocate for her. Sasha’s case manager reached out to a pro bono attorney in order to convince the hospital that their patient needed and deserved care, despite her financial situation. With the help of her lawyer and advocate, Sasha was able to stay at the hospital for the duration of her six-week healing process. Her advocate helped translate her needs to doctors and nurses and got her the legal help she needed. Although lengthening her stay was a huge accomplishment, the hospital refused to move Sasha to the rehab wing. Each day, someone had to bring Sasha to her physical therapy, which still put unneeded strain on her by moving her farther distances than necessary.

This struggle is not uncommon for survivors. Poverty effects the resources they’re able to access, such as medical care, which harms their well-being. “It shows how the system falls short, even with MassHealth assistance. There is so little help for those who need it in navigating the system,” said Lora.

Victims of Nazi persecution also struggle with social isolation that inhibits their connections to those who could assist them as they age. In addition to advocating for survivors, SHS also holds a monthly social gathering that helps counter isolation. By giving survivors access to events where they can socialize with other survivors, they are able to build friendships and know that they are not alone.

“Survivors started their lives scared; they shouldn’t have to end their lives frightened. We want to bring peace to them and their families,” shared Lora. By standing up for those who can’t advocate for themselves, SHS drastically improves the lives of those who need it most.

More than 270 survivors are helped by JF&CS each month, enabling survivors to live full, happy lives and age with dignity.

*Name changed to protect privacy.