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Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services Visits with Survivors at Weisman Delray Community Center

In an effort to better understand and address the needs of Holocaust survivors living in the United States, Special Envoy for United States Holocaust Survivor Services, Aviva Sufian, visited the Shirley & Barton Weisman Delray Community Center on Tuesday, May 20. With South Florida home to the second largest population of Holocaust survivors, this visit offered important dialogue between survivors and Jewish service professionals and afforded Special Envoy Sufian greater insight into the particular community needs.

Sharing stories of hardship with failing health, finances, and lack of transportation for medical and other services, the members of the group detailed their growing despair. Listening to the plight of the Holocaust survivors and taking the information back to Washington, DC was the purpose of the meeting with Special Envoy Sufian.  In her capacity as Special Envoy, she listened and acknowledged the struggles of the survivors. She will represent their needs and advocate on their behalf to find ways to try helping them navigate through bureaucracy.

“Our survivors have suffered immeasurably as a result of their Holocaust experiences. As they age they have become increasingly frail, more infirm and some are becoming impoverished,” described Ellen Ullman, MSW, and Holocaust Case Manager. “The cost of living and rising expenses have made them more vulnerable than ever before.”

Currently twenty-five percent of the Holocaust survivor population is living below the poverty level nationally. Danielle Hartman, President, CEO of Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services introduced staggering statistics, “In our local community the numbers of survivors qualifying for social services has risen dramatically. Fifteen to twenty thousand survivors are living in south Florida, and three quarters of them are 75 or older. Of that number, two-thirds live alone.” It was reported that from 2011 to 2013, the number of survivors qualifying for the maximum number of in-home healthcare services hours per week (twenty-five) has more than doubled, rising from 45 to 92 clients each week.  Those utilizing minimum weekly services have diminished from twenty-two to fourteen.

Seeking support from the government through Sufian, personal stories were shared at the meeting illustrating the immediate need for services to support the aging Holocaust survivors. Many face fear of eviction because of inabilities to afford rising homeowners association fees; worries about running out of money yielded from reverse mortgages were also expressed. Other unmet needs of Holocaust survivors are lack of transportation and the fears associated with diminished quality of life without transportation access.  

Survivor Barbara Nieder-Tejada has been struggling financially and has been fighting to receive her desperately needed pension from Germany. Howard Horowitz, Supervisor, Chaplaincy & Senior Services Outreach dedicates countless hours to helping survivors handle reparation issues. Acknowledging that the need for other professionals to assist survivors to gain access to receiving their pension from a reluctant German government is needed because, “the Holocaust survivors deserve our care, respect and help while they are still here. Time is of the essence.”

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