UJA seeks more aid for poverty-stricken survivors

Originally published in The Jewish Star on March 22, 2021.

UJA-Federation of New York is campaigning to insert into New York State’s estimated $103.4 billion budget an allocation of $2.5 million in aid for poverty-stricken Holocaust survivors.  

Of 40,000 survivors living across the state, 40 percent live in or near poverty, according to the UJA.

During the coronavirus pandemic, elderly Holocaust survivors, living with advanced age and health issues, have faced increased risk of illness and many remain stuck in their homes, unable to shop for food and other items or gather with friends and possibly family. 

In the Five Towns, nearly 25 percent of the Holocaust survivors that the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC have in its programs live at or near the poverty level, according to Associate Executive Director Cathy Byrne, who oversees the older adult and special needs programs.

“Our Holocaust survivors continue to teach us the meaning of courage, commitment, tolerance and resilience,” said Gural CEO Aaron Rosenfeld. “It is our honor and duty to ensure they are cared for, celebrated and that their life lessons are retold to each successive generation.”

State Senator Todd Kaminsky, whose district includes the Five Towns and Long Beach, joined with state Sens. Anna Kaplan (Great Neck) and Diane Savino (Staten Island) in writing letter that urged the added money should be included in the budget for fiscal 2022.

“It is imperative that we look after our community’s Holocaust survivors and ensure that they can live out their lives with dignity,” Kaminsky said. “After all they have experienced — and following a year of isolation during the pandemic — that is the least we can do for them.”

Assemblywoman Melissa Miller of Atlantic Beach said she is also supporting the uptick.

Money for food and meal delivery; emergency cash for rent, medicine, and other basic needs; and virtual programming to alleviate the isolation of homebound survivors, along with helping thousands of survivors secure the vaccine and meet pressing needs exacerbated by the pandemic, are efforts that the UJA noted it has done throughout the pandemic.

Saying that more is needed, the UJA highlighted that the extra $2.5 million would pay for mental health services, legal services, emergency cash assistance, Covid-compliant transportation to doctor’s appointments and vaccine appointments, Covid-compliant programming to keep survivors socially engaged and connected and specialized care for trauma survivors.

The New York state budget is legally required to be approved by April 1.

The UJA is encouraging people to urge their state legislative leaders to ensure sufficient funding is available to care for New York’s Holocaust survivors, and to “never abandon and never forget,” those in need, by signing a UJA petition at bit.ly/3lceo7K