Jewish charitable organizations are helping to get New York City Holocaust survivors vaccinated against COVID-19.
UJA-Federation of New York, working with the Claims Conference, is leading an effort to reach survivors through UJA’s network of local agencies, said Hindy Poupko, the deputy chief planning officer at UJA-Federation of New York.
While locations of the pop-up immunization sites cannot yet be disclosed for security reasons, Poupko said, the effort will work towards vaccinating Holocaust survivors based in Brooklyn.
“You can’t call a survivor and say, ‘I know you live in Brooklyn, I have a vaccine available for you in the Bronx, can you be there in 20 minutes?’” said Poupko. “Part of this work is the need to find culturally competent organizations that are in survivors’ local neighborhoods to do this. Making receiving the vaccine as accessible and comfortable as possible — that’s how to get this work done.”
A previously announced site, at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, was set up to serve mainly Russian-speaking survivors and World War II veterans, through the occupational care provider Mobile Health. Last Thursday it was able to vaccinate 330 Holocaust survivors before doses ran out. Poupko said there are 700 more survivors from Borough Park and Williamsburg on the waitlist.
UJA-Federation also funded efforts at the Boro Park YM-YWHA and the Boro Park JCC to help 503 survivors get vaccines through the Ezra Medical Center clinics in Brooklyn.
Many of the survivors who turned out last week in Bensonhurst are wheel-chair bound or otherwise physically impaired.
UJA CEO Eric Goldstein said it was “no surprise then that some of the most vulnerable — particularly Holocaust survivors and isolated elderly — are having an incredibly difficult time navigating the system.” Goldstein said in a statement that the philanthropy released $220,000 to about 30 grassroots community organizations that are working on vaccine access and education in under-resourced areas.
Jewish groups were heartened after Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week that the city will partner with a “number of organizations in the Jewish community” to vaccinate Holocaust survivors, who number under 40,000.
UJA-Federation welcomed the mayor’s efforts to augment the work that has already begun.
“This effort was ongoing — we were placing and connecting survivors to health care providers,” said Poupko. “We are also gratified to hear the mayor and City Hall’s commitment to opening up spots for survivors.”