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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


September 9, 2016  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Help aging Holocaust survivors live in dignity

Emilie Socash

About 10 years ago, I learned the ins and outs of Rule 116 of German National Law, which in some way tries to address the issue of “denaturalization,” or the “process” by which many German nationals lost their citizenship between 1933 and 1945. The rule allows for the “renaturalization” of former citizens and their descendants, provided the proper documentation is submitted. Interestingly, the records exist that would present a good case for both my daughter, Hila, and her father to benefit from Rule 116, giving them each dual citizenship. We celebrated the envisioned benefits: European university education! Healthcare across the continent! Easier travel and even living abroad!

But then we paused. Was this something we really wanted to do? Did we really feel comfortable taking that step, having a legal connection to this land that murdered so many of our own, having our family name “on a list?”

It’s been a decade and we haven’t yet answered that question.

About two weeks ago I received this encyclopedia-like tome at the Federation offices. It was entitled And Every Single One was Someone, by Philip Chernovski. In it, it lists the word “Jew” in tiny print, 6 million times. I flipped through it, focusing on one word here, or a whole column there. That one was a schoolteacher; that group was a neighborhood. In the mere seven decades since the Holocaust, we continue to try to enumerate the horror:

…in the stolperstein that I saw across Germany last summer, commemorating the name of just one person at their last known residence.

…in the Paper Clip Project from 2006, launched by a school in Tennessee to try to comprehend just what 6 million of anything looks like.

…in lighting six candles or building six pillars or saying a prayer six times.

But making a count of the outcomes of the Holocaust isn’t enough. I propose that we need to make the remaining days of our survivors, our heroes, count.

Over the next few weeks, many of you are going to be getting a letter from me, separate from our usual Rosh Hashanah annual campaign ask. Regardless of your level of interest in supporting the Federation’s annual campaign, I implore you to take a moment to consider this important communique (either now, or when you receive it in your mailbox). And if you’re one of our regular donors, know that your gift supports this program and so many other important initiatives around the world.

This is the best way that I can think of to make our support of our Holocaust survivors really count.

Your invitation:

A few months back, I received a call from Helen, (not her real name) who shared with me that she was an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor experiencing some terrifying trouble regarding her housing. If she didn’t take action immediately, she was going to be evicted from her apartment. Her power was mere days away from being shut off. Her home helper wasn’t due back for another week. And she had run out of two prescriptions, one of which was assuredly for anxiety. She needed a lawyer. She needed money for medicine. And she needed someone to help.

As I listened, I learned something that might be new to you too: even though the cost of care for our aging Holocaust survivor population is rising (due to factors like elder care expenses, the cost of gas, and management of their services becoming increasingly costly), financial support for Holocaust services in our region has been cut at the state level.

This means that Helen, and other survivors in our area, are not getting the vital support services they need. After surviving the terrors of the Holocaust, imagine that Helen may injure herself at home due to frailty, age, or mental difficulties; may become homeless; and may, at the end of her spirited life, pass away alone and confused.

Helen doesn’t know that funding has been cut. Honestly, I hope that she never has to know. And this is where you come in.

Immediately after hanging up with Helen, I got in touch with Cindy Minetti at Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, who educated me about the funding cuts. Together, we committed to launching an effort to raise at least $50,000 from the Pinellas and Pasco communities, 100 percent of which will go to the critical services that Helen and so many other survivors need.

Imagine the life that Helen can live with your support: one in which she receives more homecare hours, in which she has a competent adult monitoring her medicine and helping her with her finances, and getting the pro bono legal support she needs.

Holocaust survivors are our family. Our responsibility. Our inspiration.

My daughter Hila is named after her great-grandmother, Herta (z”l), an equally spirited woman who survived the Holocaust and escaped Germany to Bolivia together with her husband Gerhard. In her memory, and because I can’t imagine living in a community in which the Helens, the Hertas, and the countless other survivors are left without the care they need, my family is committing the first gift of $500 toward this effort.

Will you join us with a gift of at least $500, all of which will be applied toward the services needed by this very special population?

Please contact me at your earliest convenience with your commitment, or simply mail it in to the Federation office at 13191 Starkey Road, Suite 8, Largo, FL 33773 or make your gift online at Make checks payable to JFedPP and note in the memo line that this is for Holocaust survivors. Remember, 100 percent of your gift will be used toward the Holocaust survivor programs offered by Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services.

Thank you in advance for your generous consideration.

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