Survivors to benefit from increase in aid

Survivors to benefit from increase in aid

Claims Conference raising its allocations for social services

Survivor Erwin Weiss takes care of his wife, Regina, with JFS of MetroWest assistance funded by the Claims Conference, which, he says, “helps me keep my health and my sanity.”
Survivor Erwin Weiss takes care of his wife, Regina, with JFS of MetroWest assistance funded by the Claims Conference, which, he says, “helps me keep my health and my sanity.”

Needy Holocaust survivors in New Jersey will benefit from an increase in allocations by the organization that administers Shoa restitution and indemnification funds from Germany. 

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced it will increase its allocations to social service organizations by 21 percent over last year.

The allocations for 2015 will total $365 million, an increase of $80 million over 2014, the Claims Conference announced in a statement. 

For those in New Jersey, total Claims Conference allocations in 2015 will be $6.5 million, a 127 percent increase over the amount for 2014, with most of that increase earmarked for home care.

Additional allocations from Germany enabled the increase, the Claims Conference said.

As they have for the past 19 years, the funds will be distributed through Jewish Family Service of Central NJ to the 12 JFS agencies across the state. Those agencies provide health and home care services to approximately 450 frail and needy Holocaust survivors, in addition to their work with other clients.

“New Jersey, which has the fourth- or fifth-largest survivor population in the United States, received one of the biggest bumps in funding in the country,” said JFS of Central NJ executive director Tom Beck.

In addition to social worker support, services provided to survivors by the JFS agencies range from light housekeeping and cooking to help with the basic activities of daily living, such as dressing and hygiene. Services can also include kosher meals-on-wheels, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and social and recreational activities like Cafe Europa.

Recipients of the aid must meet certain income stipulations, but the limits have been raised. Those who own their own homes or have other assets might still be eligible. Beck urges all Jewish survivors who lived in Nazi-occupied areas between 1933 and 1945 to check with their local JFS to see if they qualify and to have their needs assessed.

As part of the allocations process, each JFS agency in the state submitted a detailed compilation of its survivor clients’ needs. 

“The increase comes close if not totally to what the agencies asked for,” said Beck. “There has been a steady increase in the Claims Conference allocations over the years; they have been very good to us, but this one is really substantial. We are thrilled. It will really help people meet their needs.”

Central JFS deals with around 70 survivors, including some who up until now have come only to its social programs.

Reuben Rotman, the executive director of JFS of MetroWest, described the increase as “an absolutely wonderful response to true need that we’ve been documenting for some time. Getting the amount that matches what you’ve calculated you need almost never happens.”

At present, his agency is providing home care service to 70 survivors, and has another 80 to 100 survivors on its list of attendees at Cafe Europa, the social program that meets twice a month. “For every five people who have died, we have had five new people who now need help,” he said.

According to a statement issued this week, Claims Conference chair Julius Berman said the increase is “the result of intensive and prolonged negotiations [with Germany] with one focus: to provide the help that Nazi victims need in order to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible.” 

Berman told NJ Jewish News, “On the face of it, an increase might seem peculiar. Obviously, we are facing a daily attrition in the number of survivors. But for those who, thank God, are still living, their needs are increasing as they become more frail.”

The focus has been on home care, he explained, as opposed to institutional care, not just because it is regarded as less costly. “Many are so deathly afraid of institutional settings,” he said. “Those who know about the hell these people went through during the war understand their overwhelming fear of losing their independence.”

The increase, Berman acknowledged, was not something he was counting on. “It’s not as if you walk into negotiations with a big suitcase, counting on getting what you want,” he said. “The majority of Germans didn’t live through those days. They might be expected to be feeling empathy fatigue, to want to be done with this.” 

However, he said, Chancellor Angela Merkel has emphasized the ongoing importance of Germany’s responsibility to those who suffered under the Nazis.

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