The annual Lore Ross Cafe Europa Hanukka party, held Dec. 8 at Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange, was, as always, a festive celebration of the holiday.
But this year, it was something more; in addition to marking the Festival of Lights, guests also celebrated the more than $2 million raised locally by Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ toward a national effort to raise money for Holocaust survivors in need. An estimated one in four Holocaust survivors lives in poverty.
The Holocaust Survivor Initiative, launched by Vice President Joe Biden in 2013, is being coordinated by the Jewish Federations of North America and chaired by Mark Wilf of Livingston with Todd Morgan of Los Angeles. The national goal is $45 million over three years. As of early October, $22 million had been raised.
The monies raised locally have far exceeded the Greater MetroWest federation’s designated fund-raising goal of $1.5 million, which was based on the area’s survivor population. Cafe Europa, an informal social and cultural group for Holocaust survivors, is a program of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest.
Wilf, president and co-owner of the Minnesota Vikings and a longtime leader and supporter of the Greater MetroWest federation, attended and spoke at the gathering. The 70 survivors at the celebration were joined by 12 donors, among them two of the chairs of the local campaign, Alan Pines and Murray Halpern (the third chair, Wayne Zuckerman, was unable to attend). The event honored the contributors who gave to this effort.