Bipartisan group seeks fund for survivors

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Holocaust survivor Nesse-Godin (left) speaks to Aviva Sufian, White House special envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services, and Mikaella Kagan, a survivor living in Bethesda. Photo by Shelley Roof of Jewish Federations of North America
Holocaust survivor Nesse-Godin (left) speaks to Aviva Sufian, White House special envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services, and Mikaella Kagan, a survivor living in Bethesda. Photo by Shelley Rood of Jewish Federations of North America

A bipartisan group of more than 60 members of the House of Representatives is seeking to create a $5 million Holocaust Survivor Assistance Fund.

The request was made in an April 4 letter to Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member of that committee.


The two-page letter, authored by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), requests that the money be included in the 2015 fiscal year budget to help survivors living in poverty.

The goal of the assistance fund is to leverage public-private partnership opportunities with nonprofits, foundations and the private sector to assist both survivors and the nonprofits that support them.

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Ideally, the fund would attract three times as much private and nonprofit funds as government money, according to the Jewish Federations of North America, which was active in pushing for this new fund.

“Without immediate action on behalf of these survivors, we risk losing them to the very things they should never have to face again – eviction, hunger, inadequate medical care, loneliness, social isolation and despair,” the letter states.


According to the letter, the average age of these survivors is 82, but nearly one-quarter are at least 85 years old.

“As a group, Holocaust survivors are at increased risk of depression, social isolation, and extremely poor outcomes associated with institutionalization, which can be emotionally and physically devastating for survivors as a trigger of the traumas of forced institutionalizations and relocations during the Holocaust,” states the letter.

The World Jewish Congress backs the effort to help the estimated 30,000 impoverished Holocaust survivors living in the United States.

“We welcome the creation of this fund, which would help individuals who experienced some of the world’s worst barbarism deal with poverty and social isolation in their declining years,” said Rabbi Joel Meyers, WJC-US chairman.

Meanwhile, a group of Holocaust survivors met March 31 with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Aviva Sufian, White House special envoy for the U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services, and discussed their social service needs and challenges.

“We did all that we could together at the meeting, and I hope that everybody’s words were appreciated,” survivor Nesse Godin of Silver Spring said following the meeting.

“We are hoping that people get the help they need.”

Also attending that meeting were Matt Nosanchuk, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement for Jewish Outreach; Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of the JFNA.

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