Mark Wilf of Livingston — chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Holocaust Survivor Initiative — welcomed the Obama administration’s announcement that it has awarded $12 million for assistance to survivors.
The allocation from the Department of Health and Human Services to JFNA, to be disbursed over five years, is part of an initiative launched in late 2013 by Vice President Joe Biden to address the needs of survivors in the United States, a quarter of whom live below the poverty line.
“With this award, we will be able to advance our efforts to provide crucial services to vulnerable survivors, including those living in poverty, those in the Orthodox Jewish community, and those from the former Soviet Union,” Wilf said in a statement.
Combined with matching private funds, the approximately $2.5 million per year over the five years “will support $4.1 million in programming annually for organizations that help Holocaust survivors,” JFNA said in a statement. According to JFNA, the funds will be used to advance “innovations in person-centered, trauma-informed supportive services for Holocaust survivors.”
The JFNA statement also thanked congressional sponsors of the funding, including U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
As part of the initiative, JFNA launched a multi-pronged, $45 million fund-raising effort, linking support from federations; foundations; private citizens; and federal, state, and local governments. To date federations have raised $22 million. Based on assessments of regional survivor populations, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ community was asked to raise about $1.3 million; according to the GMW federation senior vice president, Stanley H. Stone, the local effort — chaired by Alan Pines, Wayne Zuckerman, and Murray Halpern — exceeded that goal, raising more than $2 million.
After Biden launched the initiative in December 2013, the White House in 2014 named a special envoy to the community to coordinate volunteer activities to assist the survivors.
“These are our mothers and our fathers, our teachers and our mentors,” Wilf, the son of Holocaust survivors Joe and Suzie Wilf, said of the HHS allocation. “They deserve to live their remaining years in dignity, and this award will help make that hope a reality.”
Some 130,000 Holocaust survivors are living in the United States, according to U.S. government estimates.
Wilf, a real estate developer and co-owner of the Minnesota Vikings, helped organize the distribution last week of hearing aids to about 100 people in the New York area — more than 20 of them Holocaust survivors — at Yankee Stadium in New York.
The hearing aids, USA Today reported, were provided by the Starkey Hearing Foundation, with backing from JFNA, the Wilf Family Foundations, the NFL’s Vikings, and the New York Yankees.