Holocaust survivor 311.
(photo credit: Etti Cohen)
Representatives of some 15 government and non-government organizations working
to aid Holocaust survivors in Israel came together for the first time Wednesday,
at a special parlor meeting organized by the Ministry of Welfare and Social
Affairs, together with the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust
Held less than a week before Holocaust Remembrance Day – which
will be marked countrywide on Monday – the organizations, which until now have
been operating with little coordination between them, discussed ways to improve
their service to some 200,000 survivors living here, and how to work better
The conference, which will be an ongoing series of meetings
between the various bodies, was first recommended by Ministry of Welfare and
Social Affairs director-general Nachum Itzkovitz, who in 2007 published some
troubling findings regarding the status of thousands of survivors living in
According to groups working with victims of Nazi atrocities,
roughly two-thirds live below the poverty line and must choose on a daily basis
between food and essential medical supplies.
A series of measures taken
by the government over the past four years to improve their situation have been
successful to an extent, but NGOs point out that there are still thousands of
survivors who are not adequately utilizing their benefits – or do not clearly
understand their rights.
“There are more than 15 different bodies and
organizations that provide support and benefits to survivors – and no one really
knows what is owed to the survivors [because] the process is very complicated,”
explained David Silberman, founder of Aviv LeNitzolei HaShoah (Spring for
Holocaust Survivors), a nonprofit that assists survivors in understanding and
obtaining the benefits owed to them from the state.
In a statement,
Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Moshe Kahalon, said he welcomed the steps
taken to improve coordination, and that his office was involved in providing
care and services across the country to improve the quality of life for
The next meeting of those involved in working with survivors
will be organized by the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority, a department of
the Finance Ministry that is responsible for distributing thousands of shekels
in benefits to survivors.