Besides creating programs for the many seniors who remain at home, social service agencies in our area have an additional consideration – a large number of Holocaust survivors, especially in Bergen County. This introduces the need for special services, both medical and psychological.
Leah Kaufman, the JFS of North Jersey director, pointed out that while survivors may take advantage of existing services, “They have other needs as well, because of their wartime experience. There’s an increase in more specific types of physical ailments [caused by] exposure to cold, malnourishment, psychological issues. They need home support, but are distrusting of institutions and of having someone there; it’s too intrusive.”
Kaufman also noted the success of the CafÃ© Europa program, based in Fair Lawn, where about 80 survivors – and more than 100 during the holidays – “get together, re-establish old friendships, and develop support systems” through these once-a-month social gatherings. Smaller gatherings are held in Passaic, said the Clifton JFS’ Esther East.
According to Kaufman, her agency is able to “provide services through the back door,” with staff members at CafÃ© Europa gatherings assessing the needs of individual attendees who won’t call the agency.
“We’re there to develop trust,” she said.
According to Lisa Fedder, the Jewish Family Service of Bergen County and North Hudson she heads serves about 70 survivors, for which it receives some extra funding from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, distributed through the Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey.
While many survivors have died, she said, “Some younger ones are in their 70s. It’s certainly important to have them live with the dignity and support they need.”
Fedder said her funding comes from private foundations. She pointed out that the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has been able to help somewhat with emergency assistance, providing funds for people in danger of foreclosure.