Groups seek to coordinate care for Holocaust survivors

Fifteen organizations discuss ways to improve their service to some 200,000 survivors living in Israel, and how to work better together.

Holocaust survivor 311 (photo credit: Etti Cohen)
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 Victims.
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 together.
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 Israel.
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.
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“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 survivors.
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.