Fulfilling a promise Vice President Biden made last month, the newly created position of special envoy for Holocaust victims was filled last week, on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Aviva Sufian, director of regional operations for the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was appointed special envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services and will serve in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Sufian is expected to be a liaison between the federal government, Holocaust survivors and the community organizations that serve them. She will also promote federal programs that help survivors remain in their homes.
Among her first priorities, Sufian will meet with survivors, their children and the organizations that support them to learn of their needs firsthand. She will focus on helping survivors who are living in poverty and those who aren’t receiving the services for which they are entitled.
The Jewish Federations of North America praised Sufian’s appointment while at the same time announcing its own new effort to boost community programs for Holocaust survivors, which will be led by federation philanthropist Mark Wilf of New Jersey. The effort will also involve fundraising to bridge budget shortfalls, it was announced. “Chairing this effort is a tremendous privilege,” said Wilf, whose family is among the largest
financial supporters of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Israel.
He is the owner and president of the Minnesota Vikings.
Of the approximately 120,000 Holocaust survivors currently in the United States, it is estimated that about a quarter (mostly survivors from the former Soviet Union) are living at or below the federal poverty line. “Ensuring that Holocaust survivors have their physical, financial, and emotional needs addressed is a top priority and an attainable goal,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America. “We congratulate Ms. Sufian on her new role and look forward to working with her to ensure that survivors are able to live in their homes and communities with dignity, comfort and security.”