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Through JFCS, national fund boosts safety net for local Holocaust survivors

Tucson Holocaust survivors (L-R) Sidney Finkel, Wolfgang Hellpap, Walter Feiger, and Pawel Lichter (Photo: John Pregulman)
KAVOD co-founder and photographer John Pregulman takes Tucson Holocaust survivor Edith Fox’s photo. Photo: Amy Israel Pregulman

Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona recently partnered with a national initiative that provides emergency funding to local Holocaust survivors. Assistance from the Seed the Dream Foundation and KAVOD-Ensuring Dignity for Holocaust Survivors now is available for any Holocaust survivor through the new KAVOD Survivors of the Holocaust Emergency Fund.

This funding is available to Tucson area survivors in need, regardless of other support they receive, in whatever environment they live. KAVOD SHEF funds may be utilized quickly, with few restrictions, to address unmet emergency needs such as dental, vision, medical, utilities, home repairs, rent support, and food.

Graham Hoffman, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, brought the initiative to Tucson this summer with the encouragement of the Seed the Dream Foundation. “I was deeply moved,” he says when he heard of growing unmet emergency needs of Holocaust survivors around the country. “When the opportunity was created for Jewish communities in Arizona to secure matching funds to enable our philanthropic dollars to go twice the distance in meeting these needs, I was committed to ensuring these resources be available to survivors in Southern Arizona.”

There are about 60 Holocaust survivors in Southern Arizona served by JFCS. JFCS first became involved with KAVOD when its co-founders, John and Amy Israel Pregulman, visited Tucson in February to take portraits of 46 local Holocaust survivors for their Survivor Legacy Photography Project.

“We are so pleased to partner with KAVOD and Seed the Dream Foundation to help us better meet the needs of Holocaust survivors in Southern Arizona who face occasional or frequent financial hardship,” says Susan Kasle, vice president of community services at JFCS. The funding already has been used locally to assist with emergency medical bills and for food support. It is not cash support, but pays service providers directly or provides food gift cards, Kasle explains.

“The fund is important for survivors in need,” adds Raisa Moroz, JCFS’s program manager for services for Holocaust survivors. “They can call us for screening and we also can offer other services to those who haven’t yet connected to JFCS, perhaps someone who has moved from out of state, or previously didn’t have a need but now does. This is another way of getting the support they may need or haven’t otherwise requested,” such as socialization opportunities, counseling, or financial assistance.

KAVOD will work with more than 15 communities across the United States, including Phoenix, where survivors can access KAVOD SHEF assistance through Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Phoenix.

Recent studies indicate that up to 80,000 Holocaust survivors are living today in the United States — and more than 30,000 are living at or near the federal poverty level. The support these survivors receive does not always allow them to afford what they need in order to live a dignified life. Many must choose between heat or food, medicine or rent, according to KAVOD. Others have dire living conditions because they do not have the funds needed to repair their homes.

“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.

“Every day, we lose more than 40 Holocaust survivors, and yet every day we continue to see hundreds of new requests for care. There is no time to waste,” adds Marcy Gringlas, Seed the Dream Foundation president and co-founder.

To learn more about KAVOD SHEF, visit www.kavodensuringdignity.com. Contact Moroz at JFCS for assistance information, 795-0300, ext. 2214. JFCS also accepts private donations to the fund by designating JFCS Holocaust Survivors Program/KAVOD SHEF at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/jfcstucson.