Holocaust Community Services (HCS) has just completed an ambitious, large-scale mailing to all current clients to help them during the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of their age, frailty, and the trauma they have endured, many Holocaust Survivors are particularly vulnerable to the stress that comes with upheavals and change. For example, CJE Rabbi Michelle Stern said that, in her meetings with some survivors, she noticed they were having difficulty with the concept of mandated confinement and safety measures that included strict limitations on their movements and the use of masks. We cannot forget that many Survivors might have witnessed the death of many people as disease swept through their confined quarters, ghettos, or camps during the war. Worry about shortages of basic resources, such as food and medicine, can also be heightened in survivors.
Dr. Yonit Hoffman, Director of HCS, notes that survivors may be especially worried about food now because they were extremely hungry back then. Because of this, she adds, “We need to help with their real needs as well as with the anxiety triggered by the past.” In a severe pandemic, like we are going through, uncertainty about safety, the future, and the very real fear of contracting Covid-19 can severely affect their physical and mental well-being.
That is why HCS knew it was important to put together an emergency package that not only had information about extra funds for food and medication and a list of supportive resources but practical items as well. The mailing went out to 1,900 HCS clients. Included in it were these pandemic-essentials:
A detailed program update letter that included valuable information about additional emergency funds HCS was able to add to the financial assistance they already receive. These funds were made available by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) and the JUF.
- A list of local essential resources, like food delivery and transportation, and how to obtain them.
- Complete CDC guidelines about the pandemic
- Disposable gloves and masks, some purchased with emergency funds made available through KAVOD SHEF in partnership with Seed the Dream Foundation and Sephardic Home for the Aged Foundation, as well as donations from Abbott Labs and Milena Patron
- Sturdy reusable masks, some donated and some purchased by Lava & Sons and the Peter Polsky Freedom Fund.
- A File of Life, a little card that clients (or loved ones) fill out with their emergency contact and medical info and then fold up and place in a magnetic pouch that can be stuck on the refrigerator
After the tremendous preparation for this project—including writing letters and obtaining items and resources—the assembly and sending of the packages took about two weeks and several trips to the Post Office! HCS received help from many areas of the agency to get this project done—from staff members of HCS, Central Mail, Finance, Transportation, and Independent Housing, to volunteers and CJE Leadership. Shown here are HCS Care Managers Alla Bondarenko and John Wickham, and Ludmila Luscika, Staff Accountant in the CJE Finance Department. Thanks to all of the many helpers!
Holocaust Community Services plans to send about 250 more Pandemic Care Packages to survivors who are not currently receiving financial assistance but are on our mailing list for invitations to socialization events, attending support groups, or obtaining assistance with reparations.
As you can see, this was a combined effort, made possible by the infusion of emergency funds, donations, and gifts from many sources and the hard work of many people. Because of this, CJE’s Holocaust Community Services was able to step up their care for fragile survivors in this challenging situation, and we are sincerely grateful for everyone’s contributions.
Inna’s Heartfelt “Thank You” to Holocaust Community Services at CJE SeniorLife
In this video, a HCS client, Inna, shares her heartfelt thanks with the HCS team after receiving her care package.
Special thanks to JUF Chicago for producing this video.
HCS is a program of CJE SeniorLife, JCFS, and the Jewish Federation, supported by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the German Government, private foundation grants, and individual donors.