SARAH MIZRACHI (left) ran in the New York Marathon in November to raise money for The Blue Card and help people like Auschwitz survivor Irene Hizme. They are pictured with Masha Pearl, the NGO’s executive director..
(photo credit: THE BLUE CARD)
About a third of the estimated 100,000 Holocaust survivors living in the US live at or below the poverty line, Masha Pearl, executive director of The Blue Card NGO, told The Jerusalem Post ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed annually on January 27.
Of these needy survivors, some 61% live on less than $23,000 per year, making it difficult to afford basic necessities, proper medical care, food security and mental health care.
This past year, The Blue Card, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing ongoing financial assistance to Holocaust survivors in the United States, saw a 20% increase in the number of survivors requesting help.
“We see that more survivors are coming forward and their needs are growing exponentially as maintaining independent living becomes more difficult,” Pearl said.
The Blue Card was established by the Jewish community in Germany in 1934, with the aim of helping Jews who had lost their jobs or business due to Nazi restrictions.
The organization’s name derives from the blue paper cards that were issued to the Jewish donors who worked to raise funds for their brothers in need.
In 1939, The Blue Card reorganized and reestablished itself in the United States to continue aiding refugees of Nazi persecution resettling in America.
“After the Holocaust our mission became to help survivors of the Shoah in the United States and from all European countries,” explained Pearl.
“We are the only national organization whose sole mission is to provide financial assistance to Holocaust survivors in need.”
Today, the organization provides assistance to some 2,500 Holocaust survivor households in the US.
In a recent survey of Holocaust survivors that The Blue Card works with, it found the greatest needs for financial assistance were for home care, food and utilities.
“We learned that their greatest need for assistance was for home care in order to remain safely in their homes, instead of living in institutions which often re-triggers trauma,” explained Pearl.
“Another issue facing survivors is housing and utilities, we see often that many [survivors] did not have children or could not have children or their children live far away, and with the passing of a spouse there is suddenly only one income, and so we begin to see eviction notices or utility notices,” she added.
The next most frequent needs are requests for assistance with supplies for Jewish holidays, and help with dental care, medication, housing expenses, transportation and medical supplies.
Last year, the organization also saw an increase in requests for telephone emergency response systems.
“The time to act is now, as the number of survivors is decreasing rapidly and the needs of those remaining are very high,” Pearl said. “We ask that the general public gets involved, is able to contribute, volunteer with survivors, and identify survivors in need and ensure that their final years are lived with dignity, comfort and respect.”
This year, the organization announced an inaugural Elie Wiesel Memorial Award in honor of the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate, human rights activist and Holocaust survivor.
This recognition will be presented at the organization’s annual benefit in November.
“With this award we are able to honor those individuals who are continuing his legacy, helping Holocaust survivors and in addition promoting human rights, tolerance and inclusion,” Pearl said.
Wiesel’s wife, Marion Wiesel, and son Shlomo Elisha Wiesel will be involved in the selection of the award recipient.