As the pandemic passes its year mark, Holocaust Survivors across the United States continue to face new and renewed daily struggles. Covid-19 has only further exacerbated and enhanced the challenges that this vulnerable population faces. Health and safety protocols have heightened social isolation for Survivors.
Holocaust Survivors living in poverty have been forced to choose between heat or food, medicine or rent. Many have lived in dire conditions because they did not have the funds needed to repair their homes. Over the past year, Survivors have been forced to reckon with new, difficult questions: How will I get food this week if I cannot go to the grocery store? Will I be able to afford my medicine with decreased access and rising prices?
The KAVOD Survivors of the Holocaust Emergency Fund (SHEF) initiative, launched by Seed the Dream Foundation in partnership with KAVOD-Ensuring Dignity for Survivors in March 2019, supports thousands of Holocaust Survivors across the United States. With the emergence and rapid spread of Covid-19, this special initiative has been identified as a key program reaching any Survivor in need regardless of where he or she may live.
Moving into 2021, KAVOD SHEF serves as a bright light of assistance for Houston’s Survivor emergency needs. The KAVOD SHEF initiative partners with the national nonprofit aid organization, KAVOD, Jewish Family Service of Houston, the Jewish Federation of Houston, National Philanthropic Partners, and local donors to directly respond to Survivor needs in nine emergency areas: food, medical, dental, vision, urgent home needs (utilities, rent, repairs), emergency home care, transportation, essential deliveries, and PPE.
Linda Burger, CEO of Jewish Family Service Houston, highlights the needs for survivors in our community. “Houston is fortunate to have many dedicated resources to ensure that survivors in the greater Houston area have a connection to the community, social services, access to a variety of public and private assistance as they age. However, there is a great sense of urgency as survivors are aging and are becoming frail. As a community, we want to make sure that we can provide what they need to live with comfort and dignity. That is why we are so pleased that KAVOD SHEF has included Houston in its program to provide matching funds for emergency funding for a wide range of needs we identify from our clients who are survivors.”
What began in 2019 as emergency services for Holocaust Survivors across 18 cities, quickly expanded in 2020 to community partnerships in more than 28 U.S. cities. 2021 is starting with 32 cities, and the coalition continues to grow. KAVOD SHEF funds have enabled more than 16,000 emergency requests to be filled across the country in 2020. Seed the Dream Foundation proudly partners with more than 25 foundations and philanthropists to provide national dollars that match all funds raised by local communities and enables KAVOD SHEF to address these ongoing and increasing needs. 100% of all KAVOD SHEF matching funds raised go directly toward Survivor services, serving as a secondary resource to what is already in place.
Marcy Gringlas, President & Co-Founder of Seed the Dream Foundation, explains that “the Survivors’ unmet needs far outweigh the resources available to cover these emergency services, it is for this reason that we launched this initiative and are prepared to continue matching every dollar raised on the national level. We can and must do more to alleviate these impossible choices and help our Survivors live in dignity during their last years. When we come together and work together, our collective reach extends beyond what we thought possible.”
“Seed the Dream Foundation is committed to working with our partners across the country to create a collective communal response and bring most-needed attention to address this silent crisis,” shares Talia Kaplan, Executive Director of Seed the Dream Foundation.
“Every day, we lose more than 40 Holocaust Survivors, and yet every day we continue to see hundreds of new request for care. There is no time to waste,” adds Gringlas.
If a Holocaust survivor in the Houston area needs services, they can contact: (713) 986-7833. The KAVOD SHEF hotline also allows Survivors who are not in contact with their local agencies to have a place to call to begin the process of gaining support. The KAVOD SHEF hotline is (720) 295-8484.
KAVOD Ensuring Dignity for Holocaust Survivors, is an organization that is making a massive impact for Holocaust Survivors living near or in poverty in the US. KAVOD was created in the fall of 2015 when the founders, John and Amy Israel Pregulman, learned that 1/3 of the up to 80,000 Survivors living in the US struggle with day to day basic needs when there is an emergency situation. Sometimes, it is their life that is in constant chaos that is the emergency. It seemed unbelievable. “We still get looks of dismay every time we share these numbers. We get asked time and time again how is this possible and why is this happening?” says John Pregulman, Co-Founder of KAVOD.
“The issue is not going away and is not dwindling! Our Survivors are getting older and are having bigger financial stresses. We only have a few years left with these courageous individuals and we feel it is our responsibility to take care of them and offer them peace in their final years. They have been through enough and as a human community, we are responsible,” says Amy Israel Pregulman, Executive Director of KAVOD.
This really is our last chance to help our Survivors—those who are still with us—to live out their lives in dignity.
You can learn more about KAVOD SHEF at http://www.kavodensuringdignity.com/
Learn more about JFS Houston's work with Holocaust Survivors online.