We applaud Stewart Ain and The Jewish Week for shining a spotlight on the needs of Holocaust victims (“Fla. Survivors Caught in Cruel Funding Irony,” Dec. 31). The Claims Conference, of course, knows better than anyone the extent of this growing need, in Florida and indeed throughout the world.
If Ain had the opportunity to meet Holocaust victims in the countries of the former Soviet Union, Argentina or Romania, he would understand as the Claims Conference does, the extent of the need that outstrips even that of the elderly survivors mentioned in his story. The life of survivors in south Florida would seem like paradise to the elderly double victims of Nazism and Communism who are the most destitute Jews in the world and for whom Claims Conference funding is a literal lifeline.
Unfortunately, the Claims Conference is the sole funder of many programs worldwide, including at Jewish Family Service agencies in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S., that provide home care for Holocaust victims, along with hot meals, transportation, emergency cash assistance and socialization to relieve loneliness. We are allocating $270 million in 2011 alone for these and other services.
The Claims Conference continues to negotiate with the German government for increased funds for home care — even after obtaining $145 million for 2011, double the 2010 amount.
Restitution-related funding for these services are diminishing, and it is very likely that the needs of the victims will outlast currently available resources.
To be sure, the Claims Conference allocates $18 million annually for Shoah education, documentation and research as an investment in the long-term legacy of the Holocaust, endorsed by many survivors on the Claims Conference board of directors.
However, were the Claims Conference to cease this funding — no doubt delighting Holocaust deniers and revisionists worldwide — and to direct the entire $18 million toward home care for survivors around the world, it would provide approximately a half-hour of care per week for each Holocaust victim living in the 46 countries where the Claims Conference funds services. The needs extend far beyond Florida, and the number of victims receiving or needing care would make this $18 million far less effective than critics believe.
Chairman, Claims Conference