There are approximately 5,000 Holocaust survivors over age 75 living in the Philadelphia region, with the majority residing in the Northeast and City Line area. As this population ages and becomes more frail, so too do their needs increase, particularly those related to home care services.
A top priority identified by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's strategic philanthropy plan and its Center for Social Responsibility is to enable community members to age in place with dignity, grace and independence. In fact, the center's Coordinating Council for the Elderly was established to create initiatives ensuring that this goal be achieved.
"It is our responsibility as a Jewish community to support, respect and take care of these survivors in any way we can," said Karen Kramer, chair of the Coordinating Council for the Elderly.
In that vein, for the second consecutive year, Federation has provided funding to match the Home Care Grant of the Jewish Conference on Material Claims Against Germany — also called the Claims Conference. By matching this grant that is carried out through Jewish Family and Children's Service (JFCS) of Greater Philadelphia, the agency has been able to significantly increase its services to meet the needs of this close-knit group of survivors.
"Federation so generously stepped up to the plate to match funding for this grant," said Lenore Wasserman Scola of JFCS, who has a long history of working with Holocaust survivors. JFCS has actually been a recipient of this grant, along with the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, for approximately eight years. Yet now, with Federation as its partner, JFCS has had the chance to greatly expand direct services.
"For many of the survivors, the fact that they suffered deprivation has had lasting physical effects," stated Scola, noting the contrast to other elderly who perhaps had better nutrition during childhood. "Survivors are getting older; 57 percent of those we serve are between 76 — 85 and 34 percent are 85 or older."
JFCS arranges for an array of home care services as needs arise, such as assistance with laundry, cleaning house, changing linens and delivery of meals. In other cases, for those with physical impairments, a health aide provides personal care with bathing or dressing. "We try to make access to these services as easy as possible," said Scola, who maintains an ongoing relationship and dialogue with survivors such as Alex Warszaswski and Max Sheiman through JFCS's Holocaust Advisory Committee.
Additionally, she and her colleagues regularly attend meetings and social functions held by the Philadelphia Association of Holocaust Survivors, an organization led by President Arie Shnaper. Scola says it's a way of keeping a close pulse on members and their evolving needs.
"It is an honor and a privilege to serve and offer help to survivors," said Scola. "Our agency takes this responsibility very seriously. These extraordinary people represent the last of a very sad portion in Jewish history."
Said Kramer: "I feel that is incumbent upon us to do everything in our power to make the aging process a bit easier and more manageable for them."
Scola says that the outpouring of gratitude from the survivors in the form of many beautiful letters has been truly touching. She shared an excerpt from one sent to JFCS' coordinator of Holocaust Services: "Thank you for everything you have done for me. I could not have made it without your kindness and caring. You are always there for me."
For more information, call 215-832-0818.