Over 350000 Holocaust Survivors Are Still With Us. Who’s Addressing Their Basic Needs? Inside Philanthropy – Inside Philanthropy

Posted By on November 30, 2021

Hate crimes, anti-semitism and Holocaust denial are on the rise in the U.S. and overseas, which makes acknowledging and caring for those who survived past scourges more important than ever.

Holocaust denial, after all, is easily discredited by tangible proof: the survivors who still live among us. Today, those who experienced the Holocaust are often overlooked and unacknowledged, in part because many people assume that few are still alive. Another common myth is that the remaining survivors are wealthy, and that reparations cover all of their needs.

These are the misconceptions that The Blue Card grapples with every day. In fact, there are over 350,000 Holocaust survivors worldwideabout 65,000 live in the U.S.and they range in age from 76 to 105 years old. For many, daily life is a struggle. The scant reparations that some survivors received didnt go far, and today, one-third live below the poverty line. According to The Blue Card, 78% have difficulty performing basic activities like cooking, washing and dressing, and 67% cant leave home without help.

The Blue Cards mission is to support Holocaust survivors in need, and that can mean countering myths and raising awareness about survivors and their stories. But most of the organizations efforts are focused on directly supporting survivorsproviding home care, hearing aids and everything in between.

The Blue Cards backers include the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the UJA Federation of New York, which calls itself the worlds largest local philanthropy, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and other supporters. The organization also relies on pledges from marathon and bike race participants, and on individual donations.

The Blue Card is the only organization in the U.S. solely dedicated to providing financial assistance to Holocaust survivorsthough a number of other U.S. groups support survivors as part of a broader agenda. According to the organizations website, Their lives were forcibly taken from them during the Holocaust. The Blue Card ensures that needy Holocaust survivors dont lose their dignity again, in their last years.

Blue cards

The Blue Card actually dates to before the Holocaust. The organization was created in Germany in 1934 to help Jewish people who were losing jobs and facing other forms of discrimination as the Nazis consolidated power. Its name comes from the blue cards that were given to donorsthe cards were stamped each time a donation was made. In 1939, The Blue Card was re-established in the U.S. to help Jewish refugees.

Today, The Blue Card helps survivors stay in their homes by providing emergency cash assistance for rent, groceries and home repairs. It underwrites medical costs not covered by insurance, and helps pay for hearing aids, dentures and medications. Some survivors need ongoing financial assistance; still others need in-home support, hospital visits or company to ease their isolation.

Masha Pearl, the executive director of The Blue Card, describes one survivor, named Eva, who lives in the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. A widow who lives alone, Eva has cancer. The Blue Card helps cover her medical copays, special dietary needs, and a car service to take her to and from her cancer treatments.

Eva was sleeping in a recliner because sleeping upright helps relieve her pain, Pearl said. But her recliner had gotten so much wear and tear and use over the years, so The Blue Card bought her a new one.

The pandemic was hard on many people, but it was particularly difficult for poor elderly people living alonea description that fits many Holocaust survivors. Some survivors with dementia had trouble understanding what was going on, and why friends and neighbors were no longer visiting or even dropping by to say hello. The Blue Card checked in on survivors and provided opportunities for them to join virtual gatherings. It also sends birthday cards and financial support so survivors can celebrate the High Holidays. As COVID restrictions have eased, The Blue Card is getting many requests for appliance and home repairs, as well as dental care and healthcare that survivors put off during the height of the pandemic.

Basic and life-saving care

The Blue Card provides basic forms of care, but it makes a real difference in survivors quality of life. Sometimes its even life-saving. Funding from Schusterman, for example, helps underwrite emergency response unitsso called panic buttons that elderly people wear around their necks and can use to call for help. The units are relatively inexpensive, but they are financially out of reach for many survivors, Pearl said. Weve had cases of survivors who had just received one of the units, and they had a fall, and thankfully, were able to call for help.

According to a recent survey, close to two-thirds of young adults in the U.S. dont know that 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jews caused the Holocaust. Close to half of the respondents had seen Holocaust denial or disinformation on social media or online. Given this alarming ignorance, education and outreach is important, and as some in the next generation of Jewish donors chart a different path with their philanthropy, as IP has reported, its important to remember that thousands of Holocaust survivors are still living and need support as they age.

Pearl would love to do more to get the word out about The Blue Cards work and attract more support. We are told all the time that people havent heard of The Blue Card, and that is something were working on changing, she said. The organization has a video library that includes interviews with survivors, and is starting a podcast that will feature their stories.

But with limited resources, direct support for survivors is the organizations priority, and Pearl never forgets that time is running out. The window is closingwe cant wait until next month, we cant wait until tomorrow if were going to help survivors, and there is so much to do, she said. That is a reality I wake up to every day.

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Over 350000 Holocaust Survivors Are Still With Us. Who's Addressing Their Basic Needs? Inside Philanthropy - Inside Philanthropy

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