Saturday, July 25, 2009

Letter to the Editor: The Going Has Been Tough for Needy Survivors

In its July 24 issue, The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles published an article about communal efforts to help people who've become needy due to the recssion: When the Going Gets Touch, Where Do You Go? Here is my letter to the editor in response.

Dear Editor,

We can all be proud of the organized Jewish community’s response to the newly needy among us (“When the Going Gets Tough,” July 24). Yet the going has been tough for some time for too many survivors. Virtually every challenge demonstrated in that article can be applied to needy survivors as well.

A recent community forum at Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust highlighted the needs of indigent survivors. Representatives of the Federation, Jewish Family Service, Bikur Cholim, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, 2nd Generation, and Generations Connect described their efforts to meet those needs. Yet it emerged there is no complete understanding of the full extent of survivor poverty.

Many factors make this identification difficult. None is as powerful as the prison of shame, as stated eloquently by Temple Aliyah’s Jeff Bernhardt in Julie Fax’s effective journalism. Whether Holocaust survivors or not, no one wants to admit need. But even the resources available to survivors before the recession – augmented by some key philanthropists in our community -- could not meet the full need of many.

Rabbi Mendel Cohen of Generations Connect and I met recently with Federation and JFS leaders to chart next steps. The will exists to make a difference for the destitute survivors among us. The most well-intentioned leaders can fail without their community behind them. Each of us must ensure our communal safety net stretches further.

Mark Rothman, Executive Director
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

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