The expanding needs of the community’s Holocaust survivors prompted the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey to think outside the box and mount a community campaign that brought in $170,000 in two weeks.
Despite receiving a “huge” increase this year from the Conference of Jewish Material Claims against Germany, the demand for services is increasing.
“The survivors are getting older and frailer so there was an urgent need,” said federation executive vice president Susan Antman. “They need home care and housekeeping care so they can age in place, and they have increasing medical needs.”
Financial pressures had led Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County and Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Monmouth County, both federation beneficiaries, to “start cutting services that can now be restored,” Antman said.
Antman said the federation board voted to put up $25,000 seed money, which was used to leverage another $75,000 through donations and matching grants, while individuals pitched in and synagogues, Jewish community centers, and organizations throughout the community spread the word among their constituencies.
“We were able to bring in $170,000 in just two weeks, and what makes this story so wonderful is how the community really engaged with each other,” said Antman. “It was a real community-wide effort that will restore some measure of human dignity to people who have already suffered so much.”
Sara Levine, executive director of the JFS of Middlesex County, which already is the largest recipient in the state of conference money because of the county’s large number of survivors, said the agency received an increase this year of $100,000 to $1.249 million. However, it still fell short by $300,000 and was forced to cut services.
“Our caseload has doubled in recent years to 130 individuals, with another 15 on the waiting list,” Levine said. “Of those, 105 receive homecare services, which are the most expensive piece.”
As a result of the federation campaign, which earmarked $120,000 for the agency, it is in the process of reinstating some services, said Levine.
“But we’re still short,” she said. “We’ve taken five off the waiting list because they absolutely could not wait. We are getting new cases every week from people we’ve never heard from before.”
To make ends meet, JFS has stretched dollars by cutting housekeeping services in some cases from weekly to every other week, while other survivors have had to rely on family for assistance.
Among the other services provided are kosher Meals-on-Wheels and its monthly Cafe Europa social and cultural group.
Paul Freedman, executive director of the JFCS of Monmouth County, said his agency serves 90 survivors and, like Middlesex, its biggest expense is home care, which is provided in periods of 10 to 35 hours weekly.
“We have 45 [survivors] who are not receiving intensive services but participate in socialization activities such as the monthly Café Europa at the Freehold Jewish Center or going on trips with other senior socialization programs,” he said.
The agency received an additional $120,000 this year from the conference, bringing its total to $367,000. With federation funding, JFCS will have over $500,000 for survivors and is reaching “maximum funding,” said Freedman.