NEW YORK – The American NGO iVolunteer, which provides individual assistance to
Holocaust survivors in the US, held its annual fundraising “Light Up the Night”
Hanukka gala last week in New York City to raise funds for survivors and
increase public awareness of their needs.
Sheva Tauby, who runs the
organization with her husband, explained that the help iVolunteer provides
ranges from covering certain expenses to volunteers simply going over to the
survivors’ homes to keep them company, fix something around the house or call
them regularly just to chat and hear their everyday concerns.
involved with very hands-on things. It could be anything like cover a couple of
hundred dollars worth of medical expenses that the insurance doesn’t, for
example,” she said.
“We help them with everything and anything. It’s kind
of like adopting a family member for our volunteers,” Tauby explained. “They’ll
sit down with you and tell you stories that really teach you tremendous life
In Israel, Holocaust survivors have recently been facing
financial obstacles as funding ran out for the reimbursement of their medical
expenses – with some even protesting against the shortage in front of the
Finance Ministry in Jerusalem two weeks ago.
Tauby explained the
challenges that Holocaust survivors encounter in the US are in fact quite
similar to those in Israel: “It’s not much different: are they suffering
financially? Of course. Are they suffering of loneliness? Of course.”
had a survivor who had been staying at home for two months and refused to go
outside because she had lost her hair after chemotherapy and was embarrassed to
go out; she couldn’t afford a $500 wig.
Within 20 minutes, we made some
phone calls to donors and we got one for her,” she said.
“We are here
because survivors have needs that no one takes care of.”
organization, which is composed of about 800 volunteers, relies on private
Jewish donors, most of whom are from Manhattan.
“Our budget is extremely
modest,” Tauby said, “and a lot more could be done.
Tauby explained that
iVolunteer, to her surprise and outrage, gets no help whatsoever from the Claims
Conference, a body that represents world Jewry in negotiating for compensation
for Holocaust survivors and allocates funds to institutions that provide them
with social welfare services.
“There are millions of dollars just sitting
there and not going where they should go,” she said. “A lot of times, the Claims
Conference was very close to giving us something but at the last minute, they
always have some story. If they managed themselves better, the money could be
distributed, but they don’t care. I think there are a lot of politics
Holocaust survivors in the US, just like in Israel, suffer
from poverty and difficult financial situations that often prevent them from
satisfying their basic needs, according to iVolunteer.
literally need food on the table. The funds are available, that’s not the
problem, but they are just not going where they should,” Tauby
“There are a lot of organization out there which, if they were
given money, could do a lot,” she added.
“Survivors are aging, they are
getting older everyday, what are we doing waiting around?” Despite the struggles
and the stress of running the NGO by herself in addition to raising four
children, Tauby sees her occupation as a fun, rewarding experience: “I don’t go
into it thinking,‘Oh these poor people need my help.’ Our organization is very
upbeat, survivors are very strong and lively people, it’s a very upbeat
atmosphere,” she said.
Today, iVolunteer also has three branches
operating in Toronto and Miami, where there are large survivor communities, as
well as in Dallas.