February 24, 2003
It has been estimated that there are more than 500,000 Holocaust survivors living throughout the world today many of whom are elderly and infirm and some of whom are living in abject poverty, lacking basic needs including food, shelter and medical care.
This shocking situation has only recently begun to come to the attention of many in the Jewish community, for a variety of reasons, including in part because the problem is a relatively new one, resulting largely from the advancing age of the overall survivor population, and the fact that needy survivors are, in some measure, a hidden population many of whom are hesitant to seek assistance.
As the Holocaust survivor population continues to age, many more survivors are likely to find themselves in need.
Some restitution payments have been made as partial recompense for the massive material losses and the immeasurable human suffering of the victims of the Holocaust. Vigorous efforts must continue to be made in order to obtain additional restitution payments from governments and institutions that have not as yet made significant and appropriate contributions.
Substantial portions of such payments have been earmarked and are available for discretionary allocation and distribution for humanitarian purposes and certain portions of such payments, while originally earmarked to compensate individual victims and claimants, have gone unclaimed and are also available for such discretionary allocation and distribution (collectively from all sources, the “Holocaust Related Funds”).
Decisions regarding the allocation and disbursement of Holocaust Related Funds are complex and must take into account factors such as the relative needs of survivors in various parts of the world. In addition, there are some in our community who desire to see a portion of such funds used to promote tolerance, to teach about the history of the Holocaust, for Jewish education or for various Jewish continuity programs.
Notwithstanding such complexities and competing priorities, it is clear from the recent alarming revelations concerning the unmet needs of many Holocaust survivors that those Holocaust survivors who have endured so much hardship in their lives and who continue to suffer, should be of paramount concern to the Jewish community and that all funds obtained in their name should be expeditiously allocated and disbursed to help alleviate their plight.
The JCPA hereby asserts that:
- As long as Holocaust survivors living anywhere in the world are lacking basic needs, including food, shelter, medical care or any other form of assistance now or hereafter deemed necessary to allow them to live out the remainder of their lives in comfort and dignity, any and all Holocaust Related Funds now or hereafter obtained, from whatever source paid and by whatever agency administered, which are not legally restricted to a specific contrary purpose, shall be promptly disbursed to or on behalf of such Holocaust survivors in order to meet such needs. To the extent that there are Holocaust Related Funds remaining after all the present and anticipated needs of such Holocaust survivors have been fully met, it would be appropriate to consider the use of such remaining funds for programs of research, documentation and education of the Holocaust, among other uses.
The community relations field should:
- Educate themselves and others about the current conditions in which many Holocaust survivors live.
- Raise this issue in their communities to determine the extent to which local survivors are living with significant unmet needs.
- Raise these issues with agencies involved in the determination of the needs of Holocaust survivors and the allocation and disbursement of Holocaust Related Funds to meet those needs.
- Encourage such agencies to involve in their determinations representatives of Holocaust survivors and professional social service agencies such as the Jewish Family and Children’s Services.