Caf? Europa is a once-a-month social event for Holocaust survivors that many Jewish Family Service agencies around the country offer. For many survivors, the Caf?’s music, refreshments, and conversation offer a rare outlet for fun and entertainment.
Many survivors are lonely, many are in need, and they look forward to the Caf? as their raison d’etre. But in some places those programs are threatened by lack of funds. At Jewish Family and Children Services in Wayne, the Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement is making these caf? afternoons possible. But what about the other important needs of the remaining survivors, housing and health care?
The newly established Humanitarian Aid Foundation, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has come riding to the rescue in Wayne by giving grants to help social service agencies subsidize case management and homecare for survivors. It recently granted $18,000 to the Wayne JF&CS to pay for a case manager for the agency that serves approximately 1’0 Holocaust survivors in Passaic and Northwest Bergen counties.
"Frankly, we aren’t sure of exactly how many survivors there are," JF&CS executive director Abe Davis told The Standard. "We reach out, we get some results, but we cannot be certain we have found everyone in need. Some may prefer not to contact us. But it is one of our priorities to find them, because now is when the survivors need us most."
At a time when federal funding has been cut back drastically, Davis said that he is grateful to HAF for reaching out.
"This funding supplements NJ State funding that goes directly to agencies that serve the Holocaust survivors,"-Davis said. "When the Humanitarian Aid Foundation came to us, it seemed they already knew there was a need in the area."-
The Humanitarian Aid Foundation (www.humanitarianaidfoundation.org) was co-founded by former Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat and others.
Eizenstat, an Undersecretary of State for the Clinton administration, was a special envoy on Holocaust issues for five successive presidential administrations. He also served as ambassador to the European Union, and was extensively involved in all negotiations concerning restitution for Holocaust survivors from European governments and corporations, including the $’5.5 million Hungarian Gold Train settlement under George W. Bush. He worked with Jimmy Carter on the establishment of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and with Ronald Reagan on the Holocaust Museum.
HUF was established in ’00’, after the settlement of the slave labor case, to augment funds being distributed by the Claims Conference, because its founders believed there was not enough money to take care of indigent survivors around the world. In addition to making outright grants, the Foundation also finds matching funds to programs that assist survivors.
The non-governmental agency collects funds from major American corporations, individuals, private organizations, and foundations for the benefit of victims of war and natural disasters. It started with a generous contribution from the Ford Motor Company.
Eizenstat told The Standard that he got the idea while working on a slave labor agreement with Germany.
"We were having problems getting a final figure, and I committed to finding ways to get American parent companies whose German subsidiaries were put into Hitler’s service to bring in additional funds," he said. "When I left the administration, I wanted to find a way to help in any event, so that gave me the impetus, but it was Dan McCormick’s and Wendy Pittman’s idea to set up the foundation. I didn’t have the leverage that I had when I was in government, and when I was there, I couldn’t raise funds for the cause anyway. So I was looking for a vehicle, and Dan came to me with this idea that was based on my work. It turns out to be a happy marriage of my desire to raise additional money to fill the gaps and their initiative to help me do it."
Because the clock is ticking and the problem concerning indigent survivors is severe, the first round of grants has been designated for victims of slave labor who served during World War II. Last year most of the Foundation’s grants, almost $’50,000, were distributed to a number of JFS agencies in Florida a state that offers seniors no services, and where most of the country’s poor Holocaust survivors live. This year, the greater metropolitan New York area has received the bulk of funding.
American Holocaust survivors constantly plead with the Claims Conference, which is the primary distributor of reparation funds, to make changes in its allocations policies, so that funds for desperate cases would come forth more quickly. Roman Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, is also the treasurer of the Claims Conference, and has been a close colleague of Eizenstat’s through his negations with European governments who owed reparations. They have fought as a team for years to wrest concessions, money, and apologies from the Europeans.
Kent has also been fighting his own Claims Conference allocations committee for additional funding.
"Twenty percent right now goes for education, archiving, and commemoration," he said. "But that can wait until we meet the needs of the indigent survivors. Unfortunately, that is a bitter battle that has yet to be won, but we have a job to do to help our survivors."
By providing badly needed funds, the Humanitarian Aid Foundation makes that job a little easier. The hot button-issue was the subject of an entire morning session held by the American Gathering in D.C. last weekend. Attendees, including survivor Abe Peck of Fair Lawn, Mark Sarna of Englewood, and other New Jersey residents met with colleagues from around the country to discuss it.
The UJA Federation of New York estimates that there are ‘5,000 survivors living below the poverty line in the New York area. In Florida, the count is higher. The New York federation has begun a $10 million survivor campaign. In Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and other cities, agencies and independent citizens are raising funds for the survivor population. In Israel, Noach Flug and Zev Factor, who run the umbrella organization that supports needy Holocaust survivors there, have shut it down for lack of funds but that situation is in flux because it is now under public scrutiny, too. One of the problems has been establishing the number of Holocaust survivors still alive in the world. Some estimates are as high at 300,000.
The Foundation estimates that, all told, the country has approximately 130,000 Holocaust survivors in need, in nursing homes and hospitals and in private apartments with no family, where they have fallen through the cracks.
The Foundation also wants to serve the needs of other categories of survivors including those who survived prisoner-of-war camps in the South Pacific and Japan during World War II as all legal rights to compensation were waived when the U.S. began to redevelop its relationships in the region.