Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Your Dollars at Work: JFNA Urges Passage of New Legislation to Support Holocaust Survivors

The Jewish Federations of North America hailed legislation that was introduced today in both the House and the Senate that will help Holocaust survivors age in place. The sponsors of the initiative, called the RUSH Act (Responding to the Urgent needs of Survivors of the Holocaust), worked with members of the JFNA Washington office to craft the legislation, calling upon their expertise on this vulnerable community.

“It is critically important that we meet the needs of aging Holocaust survivors,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees. “Jewish Federations and their partner agencies across the continent work toward this goal every day and it is gratifying to have the support of members of Congress.”

JFNA applauds the legislators who introduced the bipartisan bill: Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), as well as Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Other original co-sponsors include Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), as well as Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Brad Schneider (D-IL).

If passed, the RUSH Act would amend the Older Americans Act by adding Holocaust survivors to the designation of those with the ‘greatest social need’ to receive services to age in place. Services under the Older Americans Act include meals, transportation, case management and caregiver support. Additionally, the RUSH Act seeks to allow funding for congregate and home-delivered meals that may cost more due to a religious or cultural dietary requirement.

Aging Holocaust survivors have needs similar to those of other older Americans, but they have different responses to aspects of institutionalized care because of their distinct histories. The loss of privacy, autonomy, and control combined with certain sights, sounds, smells or practices, such as showers, can trigger residual psychological effects from experiences during the Holocaust. The RUSH Act can help survivors remain in their homes
for as long as possible.
“Enabling Holocaust survivors to age in place is vital for health, comfort and security and brings dignity to this vulnerable population,” said William Daroff, JFNA’s vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office. “Today the Congress took a needed step toward reaching this important goal.”

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 adequate food and health care; about half of the survivors who arrived in the United States after 1965 from the former Soviet Union fall beneath the poverty line. The fact that atrocities during the Holocaust have caused so many to survive alone, with little family to depend upon, compounds the problem.

“Autonomy and choice in living arrangements and care are extremely important to the Holocaust survivor population,” said Andrew S. Hochberg, JUF/JF Chicago Government Affairs Committee Chair. “Additionally, the negative effects of isolation can be devastating for survivors who also face financial challenges and fewer family members to help care for them.”

The JFNA is dedicated to working with Congress, the Administration and nonprofit organizations to ensure that Holocaust survivors get the support and care they need to live in their communities with comfort and security. The RUSH Act builds on the goals outlined in a Congressional resolution that passed unanimously in the House of Representatives in 2010.


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