There are about 80,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States today. Many are 85 and older, and as many as 1 in 3 live in poverty. Social isolation, poor health, and depression are common, stark reminders that the scars of trauma can last a lifetime and that, for this most vulnerable of groups, time is running short for us to help heal them.
In 2015, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) received a grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living/Administration on Aging to develop innovations in ‘person-centered, trauma-informed’ (PCTI) care for Holocaust survivors and to build the capacity of the Aging Network to provide PCTI care to Holocaust survivors and their family caregivers. PCTI care, as defined and developed by JFNA, is a holistic approach to service provision that promotes the empowerment and well-being of trauma survivors by systematically infusing knowledge about trauma into agency-wide programs, policies, and procedures. JFNA used the grant and additional philanthropic dollars to create the Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care, which to date has funded over 400 PCTI programs across the country for Holocaust survivors and their family caregivers. The initial ACL/AoA grant served over 15,000 Holocaust survivors and over 4,000 of their family caregivers, and trained 10,000 professionals in the PCTI approach.
In 2020, with growing awareness of the prevalence and impact of trauma in the lives of older adults, ACL/AoA awarded JFNA a new grant to develop innovations in PCTI care for Holocaust survivors, older adults with a history of trauma, and their family caregivers. Older veterans and first responders; older survivors of crime, domestic violence, and natural disasters; and older adults who have been traumatized by racial, ethnic, economic, and gender discrimination will all be reached by the grant. With Holocaust survivors as our guides and teachers, we will enshrine their legacy of resilience and hope, as we work to build a national Aging Services Network that ensures that all older adults with a history of trauma are able to receive the care they need to flourish despite the trauma. Our new name, the JFNA Center on Aging and Trauma, reflects this new goal.
Our commitment to serving and supporting Holocaust survivors through our Holocaust Survivor Initiative remains as deep and as strong as ever. As COVID-19 spread and isolated Holocaust survivors from each other, their families, and their communities, we quickly raised money to help some dire situations. We brought agencies together to share their creative solutions to help survivors through the crisis. We taught a new generation of Jewish leaders about Holocaust survivor care at the Jewish Changemakers Conference and led a session at this year’s JFNA General Assembly on innovative approaches to Holocaust survivor care using local, national, and international examples as a guide.
This year, on Yom HaShoah, First Lady Jill Biden offered this message to Jewish Federations as we remember the six million Jews and millions of others killed in the Holocaust. This provides an important recognition of the work and commitment of Federations, communal agencies, philanthropists, and the Claims Conference to help care for the 80,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States today.
Want to get a better sense of our work and impact? Explore the Holocaust Survivor Initiative Infographic and Stories of Impact.