by Nicole Bruce
Holocaust Community Services staff members (left to right): Maya Gumirov, Care Manager; Aubrey Scheffey, Program Support Specialist; and Yonit Hoffman, Program Director.
Since 1999, Holocaust Community Services (HCS), a collaboration of Jewish Child and Family Services (JCFS), CJE SeniorLife and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, in partnership with HIAS Chicago, has helped ensure that the Chicago Holocaust survivor community and their families can continue to live independently and to age with dignity.
With the greater potential for survivors to benefit from the many eldercare resources available through CJE SeniorLife’s continuum of care, the administration of HCS transitioned in January from JCFS to CJE. The average age of a survivor is 79, with nearly a quarter 85 or older, so their need for eldercare services is profound. The consequences of advanced aging are compounded by the physical and emotional horrors they endured during the war. As aging and frailty take their toll, the number of Holocaust survivors turning to community agencies has intensified. CJE’s mission to enhance the lives of older adults makes it a perfect fit for Holocaust Community Services.
“There’s a major misconception that the needs of the survivor community are dwindling, but in actuality, the reverse is true. HCS received nearly 300 new requests for services in the past year,” said Yonit Hoffman, Ph.D., Holocaust Community Services Program Director. “The complex needs of many survivors in our community—related to their traumatic histories as well as deteriorating physical, social and economic factors—are just beginning to emerge. Our survivor community has also been affected by reductions in public benefits for older adults, so we particularly focus on assisting the neediest and most vulnerable survivors who may not have other means of support.”
HCS reaches out to approximately 800 Holocaust survivors and their families annually, offering support groups, socialization programs, and assistance with various Holocaust reparations and compensation programs. About half that number receives ongoing financial help with food, medication, home care or emergency needs.
“There’s a major misconception that the needs of the survivor community are dwindling, but in actuality, the reverse is true. HCS received nearly 300 new requests for services in the past year.”
Yonit Hoffman, Ph.D.
Holocaust Community Services Program Director
The transition of HCS to CJE will enable survivors to benefit from CJE’s expertise in counseling, support and referral services for older adults. HCS case managers will also facilitate in-home support, including personal care and housekeeping services, kosher food delivery, and transportation services, and provide training for professionals who work with survivors and their families.
CJE will also focus on the strategic development of HCS to address the significant increase in requests for assistance. HCS is supported by social welfare grants from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc., and other generous foundations and donors. Approximately 75% of the total funding is from the Claims Conference, which recently increased its worldwide allocations by 21 percent for 2015, for a total of $365 million for 2015. Though a small portion of this additional funding will be allocated to local agencies, it will be spread across social service organizations serving Jewish Holocaust survivors in 47 countries to provide home care, hunger relief, medical care and transportation.
Steve N. Miller, HCS Committee Chair, JUF Board member and longtime leader in Chicago’s Jewish community, believes it’s important to provide for the survivors in our community. “When I learned about the immense needs of the several thousand survivors living in our community, I knew this was a cause I wanted to support,” said Miller. “These people have suffered so much in their lives—it’s imperative that we provide for them and let them age with dignity.”
CJE SeniorLife welcomes HCS’s dedicated staff and remains committed to working with Federation and JCFS in the effort to support the program and seek new opportunities for ways to serve more survivors and families.
For more information about the supportive resources of Holocaust Community Services at CJE, please call 773.508.1004.