JF&CS News Spring 2018
"It's a nice thing to help people who are in need, particularly people who were in a situation like what Holocaust survivors went through," says Richard Slifka. "It's a mitzvah."
Slifka, Chairman of Global GP, LLC, one of New England's largest fuel wholesalers, makes a generous gift each year to JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services, specifically to assist elderly Holocaust survivors who are otherwise unable to pay for home heating oil. Without Richard's annual gift, local survivors of Nazi persecution would otherwise go without heat or other necessities during our treacherous New England winters.
"When I first met with [JF&CS CEO] Rimma Zelfand and members of the JF&CS Development team in 2015, I realized that there was such a great need for fuel assistance among this population," explains Richard. "They thought that since I was in the oil business, it was a natural fit – and they were right. It's actually a monetary donation, not fuel," he adds, "which allows the benefit to reach more people." Richard made the gift in addition to an unrestricted yearly gift he had already made to JF&CS. Richard has continued to make both gifts annually.
Although he did not have any family members who were personally affected by the Holocaust, Richard remembers working in his father's business, Slifky's Reliable Oil Co. on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester as a teen and meeting many Holocaust survivors. "Sometime in the mid ‘50's, there started to be an influx of survivors into our neighborhood. They were our customers. I listened to their stories and I developed an appreciation for what they went through," Richard recalls. "It affected me."
Richard still thinks of those survivors, who were 20 to 30 years his senior, today. "The truth is, the Jewish community is blessed to be, essentially, a pretty well-to do community, but it hides the fact that, believe it or not, there are still plenty of poor Jews, especially elderly Jews, some of whom are Holocaust survivors. People don't like to talk about it. The assumption is that everyone is well-off, but that's not really true," he notes. "It is our duty to help these people and make sure they are not forgotten."
"Recent studies show that more than 25% of Holocaust survivors live in poverty," says Lora Tarlin, Director of Schechter Holocaust Services. "Most of the 356 Holocaust survivors that our program currently assists are living below the poverty line. We're so grateful that Richard stepped up to help people who truly need support staying warm in the winter."
Richard credits his father, Abraham, for setting an example in helping others who were not as fortunate. "We were not by any means wealthy when I was a kid. But my father always had an open door, whether it was to help others in the religious community or with social issues. We were not religious, but my dad was active in the Jewish community. He belonged to five synagogues. He supported these little shuls, and he was very involved in the Dorchester Free Loan Society. He was very welcoming and he cared," explains Richard.
"When I first visited JF&CS, I could see how passionate they were about helping
people," adds Richard. "It resonated with me. I was amazed at the breadth of what
[JF&CS] does. It helps so many different populations."