From buses to bills, JFCS Holocaust program aids survivors

Paulina Goldberg (left) and Raisa Moroz, Holocaust case manager at Jewish Family & Children’s Services, review paperwork at Goldberg’s Council House apartment. (Phyllis Braun)

Raisa Moroz, Holocaust case manager/program manager at Jewish Family & Children’s Services, has more than 80 clients on her caseload. But she wants more.

“I want people to know this program is available,” says Moroz, who estimates that there are 120 or more Holocaust survivors in Southern Arizona. Every few weeks she gets a call from a new client, she says, adding that as survivors age and develop health problems, they often need more assistance.

The program helps clients in various ways, from financial assistance with prescriptions and medical supplies, to a bus that takes survivors living at the Council House Apartments on weekly shopping trips. Moroz meets with each client at least twice a year and checks in with them every three months. “Some people need more attention, more information. They call me, I call them, so we are in constant communication,” she says.

The program, once fully funded by grants from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference), now requires a matching contribution to help ensure local involvement in the well-being of survivors.

A new grant from the Claims Conference in 2010 has allowed JFCS to arrange for in-home support services — help with shopping, cooking and more — to help survivors stay in their own homes rather than enter assisted living or a nursing home. JFCS has an approved list of companies that provide such services.

Some 65 to 70 percent of the local survivors are Russian speaking, says Moroz, who came to Tucson as a refugee from Belarus in 1996 with her husband and two children. She has been working at JFCS for three years. Previously, she was the coordinator of the New Americans and adult education programs at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

Moroz holds two monthly meetings open to all Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors. On the second Wednesday of the month the meeting is held at B’nai B’rith Covenant House, and on the fourth Wednesday at Council House. The meetings may address problems people are having, but they also include Jewish holiday celebrations and discussions of current events, she says. A JFCS volunteer who is fluent in Russian, Richard Fenwick, helps facilitate the meetings and also helps her with other projects, Moroz notes. The program also coordinates weekly social meetings for English-speaking survivors at the JFCS office on Fifth Street.

Among other services, Moroz helps clients figure out changes to their Medicare and AHCCCS (Medicaid) programs. She also helps survivors submit applications for Claims Conference funds and German ghetto pension and ghetto fund payments (see “JFCS offers help for Holocaust fund claims”).

As Moroz visits with one of her clients, Paulina Goldberg, at Council House, mutual respect and trust are immediately evident.

“When we have some question and don’t know all the rules — it is new life, new language, new everything — she helps explain what we should do in different situations,” says Goldberg, who came to Tucson in 1994 from Ukraine and speaks more English than many of the survivors from the former Soviet Union. Moroz, in turn, relies on Goldberg to help disseminate information to the other dozen or so survivors who live at Council House.

Without a car, the transportation the JFCS program provides is vital, says Goldberg, who notes that the bus driver (from Arizona Senior Transport) is extremely accommodating, not only helping residents onto the bus but also hoisting their heavy groceries from shopping carts.

A couple of years ago, Goldberg relates, she called Moroz because she was having trouble getting out of bed. Within two hours, she says, laughing, Moroz was at her door with a walker.

Along with the practical assistance, Goldberg also enjoys the monthly meetings, especially the holiday celebrations, and the occasional outings, she says, reminiscing about a trip to the gem show a few years back. “We did not buy something, but we saw beautiful stones and creative items.”

Moroz is seeking volunteer “friendly visitors” to supplement the program. Currently there are three such visitors.

“Most of our clients are in their 80s,” she says. “They are very lonely at home. They would really appreciate somebody to come once a week, for an hour, just to chat with them or read to them,” she says.

For more information, contact Moroz at 795-0300, ext. 2214. To volunteer as a “friendly visitor,” contact Linda Krauss, JFCS volunteer coordinator, at ext. 2267.