Longtime outlet for survivors of Holocaust at risk


HELEN BERKOVITZ comes to remember.

“I was 14 when I was in the concentration camps, in Auschwitz,” she said. “I lost my whole family there. I was the only family member left.

“Now we are alone, so we talk to each other,” said Berkovitz, 79, who gathers each month with 50 other Holocaust survivors in Flatbush. “You get together with other people so you can remember things. Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you laugh.”

But the gatherings that mean so much to Berkovitz and the other survivors could be in danger.

Selfhelp Community Services, which hosts four Coffee Houses at the Flatbush Jewish Center every month, lost $700,000 in city funding this year. Private fund-raising has also taken a hit.

Each coffee house costs about $3,000 per event, including the cost of lunch and car service transportation for the elderly attendees, many of whom are too frail to leave the house on their own.

“The intent is to recreate the atmosphere of a coffee house they might have gone to back in Europe before the war,” said Selfhelp Vice President Elihu Kover of the 15-year-old program. “It takes them out of their daily existence, which might be one of physical pain and emotional stress.