Beersheva–
Representing more than 85,000 survivor families in North America, The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants rejects the attempts of the Israeli Ministry of Finance to demand that thousands of Israeli Holocaust survivors give the government control of their bank accounts. A Ministry cover letter sent to Israeli survivors makes it clear that if they do not sign power of attorney forms and return them to the Finance Ministry by August 31, they will no longer receive their benefits.

In 2007, a law was passed granting benefits of NIS 1,000 a month to survivors who were not receiving other pensions. While the Ministry budgeted for 8,000 such survivors, benefits were only granted to approximately 3,000. Other survivors who believe they are eligible have applied–only to find themselves caught in a delaying morass of red tape.

Rafi Pinto, who heads the Holocaust survivors department at the Finance Ministry, told Haaretz that all of the approximately 40,000 survivors living in Israel who receive benefits- and not just those qualifying under the 2007 law – are required to submit a similar form.

The American Gathering agreed with Avi Bitzur, outgoing director general of the Ministry of Pensioner’s Affairs, who, when telling Haaretz that he had no idea that the Finance Ministry intended to send out these forms said, “It is doubtful that they [the Holocaust survivors] know what they are signing.” Then, referring to the Finance Ministry, he added, “They have… gone wild.”

The American Gathering urged the Knesset and Cabinet to annul this heinous decree and allow the elderly and impoverished Israeli Holocaust survivors to live out the remainder of their lives in Israel with a modicum of dignity and without being harassed by the government of a State that owes them so much more than they are getting.

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