The Jewish Social Services Agency is cutting services to low-income Holocaust survivors to help close a budget gap of approximately $700,000, said Shane Rock, JSSA director of operations for senior services.
The Holocaust Survivor Program provides safety net services to Holocaust survivors, such as in-home nursing care, housekeeping, food and medical assistance, said Holocaust Survivor Program and Volunteer Coordinator Ellen Blalock. The program, which serves 200 survivors in the Washington, D.C., metro area, most of whom she said are from Montgomery County, is over budget due to new clients and increased costs per client.
To qualify for the program, an individual must make no more than $16,000 per year and have less than $500,000 in assets, Rock said. Their average age is 85, though the youngest, children born during World War II, are in their late 60s.
“Many of our survivors are living in subsidized housing,” Blalock said.
JSSA, a nonprofit with offices in Rockville, Silver Spring and Fairfax, Va., provides mental health services, case management, transportation for seniors, meals on wheels, employment and career services for the Jewish community in the Washington area.
The total budget for the Holocaust Survivor Program is $1.6 million. It is funded by public and private sources, including the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, an organization that continues to negotiate with representatives of Germany and Austria to secure compensation for Holocaust survivors. Rock said JSSA gets about $500,000 per year from the Conference.
Survivors could have been born anytime up to May 8, 1945, but the Conference has expanded eligibility requirements for Holocaust survivors, making more Jews from the former Soviet Union eligible for funds, Blalock said. In the last 18 months, the number of clients in the Holocaust Survivor Program has increased by 40 percent, Rock said.
He said JSSA staff realized early in the year that expenses were up. Since April they raised $180,000, an effort he said they will continue by reaching out to potential donors.
In a move Rock said will save $200,000 per year, they are cutting the number of hours available each week to individuals who require personal nursing care to 15. The move will save approximately $110,000 in the current financial year, which leaves a gap of nearly $500,000, he said.
“Unless there’s some miraculous donation, I can’t imagine us going back to 25 hours,” he said.
Nesse Godin, 84, of Silver Spring, is co-president of the Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Friends of Greater Washington, an organization dedicated to perpetuating the memory of Jews killed during the Holocaust. Born in Lithuania, as a teenager she survived the Siauliai ghetto in Lithuania, Stutthof Concentration Camp, several labor camps and a death march before being liberated at 17 years old, when she weighed 69 pounds.
Her husband Jack, 94, also a survivor, escaped the Vilna ghetto in Poland through the sewer system and hid in the forest, she said.
Although Godin is healthy enough to help take care of her husband, they depend on personal nursing care from JSSA when she volunteers at the United States National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She said many Holocaust survivors are not lucky enough to have family to take care of them in their old age, and fifteen hours per week of home care is not enough for many people.
“We have many widows or widowers,” she said. “Some don’t even have children to help. Some lost children in the Holocaust and they later in life remarried but never had more children.”
Raising an additional $500,000 per year may be the new norm for JSSA. Rock said staff does not want to make up the funding gap in future years by cutting additional services.
But it is a problem time that could be alleviated in about a decade, when there will be fewer survivors, Blalock said.
“It’s a challenge, but that’s why we exist,” Rock said. “That’s what we do.”
To donate, call JSSA at (301) 838-4200, or donate online at www.jssa.org/holocaust-survivor-program