Jewish Federations Welcome Vice President Biden’s Announcement to Support Aging Holocaust Survivors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                                                                                   

December 10, 2013

CONTACT:

Max Samis, Rabinowitz Communications, max@rabinowitz.com, (o) 202-265-3000, (c) 202-681-2528 

Jewish Federations Welcome Vice President Biden’s Announcement to Support Aging Holocaust Survivors 

White House Initiatives Would Help Ensure Holocaust Survivors Live with Dignity, Comfort and Security

WASHINGTON – The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) welcomed Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) Centennial luncheon to launch an initiative together with the Jewish community to address the needs of Holocaust survivors living in poverty in the United States.  This announcement follows years of conversations between the White House, Members of Congress, and Jewish Federations and Jewish Family and Children’s Service agencies to address the social service needs of Holocaust survivors through fundraising and legislative efforts such as the RUSH Act.

Vice President Biden announced that the White House would take concrete steps to help address the need.

  • Appoint a Special Envoy at the Department of Health and Human Services to act as a liaison for Holocaust survivors and the nonprofit community organizations that serve them.   The Special Envoy will support programs that help Holocaust survivors live with comfort and security and will help educate the public and private sectors on the needs of Holocaust survivors.
  • Create a partnership with the AmeriCorps VISTA program to dedicate volunteers to increase the capacity of community organizations to serve impoverished Holocaust survivors.  The volunteers would engage in capacity building activities such as fundraising and outreach for Jewish family and children’s service agencies.
  • Explore public private partnerships to address funding shortfalls so that community organizations can continue to serve Holocaust survivors.

Throughout his remarks, the Vice President praised the work of Jewish community organizations in serving Holocaust survivors and in helping them access nutrition and other services to live with dignity and comfort in their homes and communities.

Vice President Biden said that most Holocaust survivors he has known–such as the late Tom Lantos who was his staff member and later became Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee–were not poor. He was surprised to learn that approximately 25 percent of Holocaust survivors in the United States were living below the federal poverty line, and about half of the survivors in New York were in poverty.  Holocaust survivors in South Florida brought this issue to Vice President Biden’s attention and he and the President decided to act.

“Today our country took a major step forward toward addressing the needs of many Holocaust survivors,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Jewish Federations of North America.  “We are looking forward to working with the Special Envoy to raise awareness and help ensure that Holocaust survivors receive the support of programs to help them live with dignity and comfort.”

Of the approximately 120,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States today, three-quarters are over the age of 75 and about two-thirds live alone.  Many of these survivors struggle to afford basic needs, such as adequate food and healthcare; about half of the survivors arriving in the U.S. after 1965 from the former Soviet Union fall beneath the poverty line. Compounding the problem is the fact that atrocities during the Holocaust have caused so many to survive alone, leading to smaller families to lean on.

“As Jewish Federations continue to raise needed funds to support social service programs for Holocaust survivors, we will use the momentum from the Vice President’s announcement to draw extra attention to this cause,” said Jerry Silverman, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Jewish Federations of North America.  “Enabling Holocaust survivors to age in place is vital for health, comfort and security and brings dignity to this vulnerable population.”

The Jewish Federations of North America, which works closely with the Jewish Family Service agencies and the Holocaust survivors they serve, is continuously dedicated to working with Congress, the White House and nonprofit organizations to ensure that Holocaust survivors get the support and care they need to live in their communities with comfort and security.

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The Jewish Federations, collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent, protects and enhances the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity and social justice) and Torah (Jewish learning).

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