At the age of 89, Holocaust survivor Joseph Friedman is finding it difficult to live alone in Flatbush.“My wife passed away four years ago and it’s not easy to struggle and manage by myself,” he said. “Without the home attendant, I would not be able to exist.”The home attendant, Wanda Ortiz, comes five days a week for three hours each day to do the cooking, cleaning and laundry, and to accompany Friedman on the bus when he has to visit the doctor.“Medicare provided a temporary home care attendant when I came home from the hospital after surgery, but it was only temporary,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have a steady home care attendant.”The attendant is provided by Selfhelp Community Services with a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. As a result of 18 months of negotiations with the Claims Conference, the German government agreed to provide 55 million euros (one euro is equal to about $1.33) to provide homecare to 58,000 Holocaust victims in 32 countries worldwide this year, about 2,000 of whom live in New York. Next year, that figure will double to 110 million euros ($145 million).The extra money is expected to ensure that as people like Friedman age and require additional help, Selfhelp will have the money to increase the hours of homecare up to 25 hours a week, if needed.Currently, Selfhelp receives nearly a million dollars to provide home care services to 499 survivors in the city and Nassau County, according to Elihu Kover, the group’s vice president for Nazi victim services.The money was provided for two programs: housekeeping services that survivors are unable to do themselves (generally once a week for three hours), and home health care services for those with medical needs that prevent them from bathing and getting out of bed themselves, or other physical frailties that require hands-on help (two to three days a week for up to four hours a visit).Kover said that if many more hours of long-term assistance are needed, “we help people apply for Medicaid, because we can’t provide 24-hour service.
The Selfhelp study prepared a year ago said this “last generation of survivors is likely to have complex needs. Fully 35 percent of survivors will be coping with serious or chronic illness, and 51 percent will be ‘very poor’ or ‘near poor’ under federal guidelines. Therefore, this group of survivors will have significant needs for home health care and financial assistance. ”The need for such help will come years after the income derived by the Claims Conference from the sale of heirless East German property has been depleted. Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, said this is the time for the “Jewish community to step up to the plate” to help survivors.“There are organizations that are taking credit for assisting survivors when they are doing so exclusively with funds from the Claims Conference,” he said. “Selfhelp is now trying to raise its own funds to make sure it is able to serve its constituency, and that is something all organizations should be doing.”“But the major onus should still be on Germany,” Rosensaft stressed