At the end of May, many Americans look forward to a three-day holiday weekend. Memorial Day began as a somber day of remembrance and has evolved for many to a first sign of summer and time for a barbecue. Over one million soldiers gave their lives in service of the United States of America. Many remember the sacrifice of soldiers by placing flags in front of their home or in cemeteries.
In the Jewish tradition, we remember those we have lost with a yearly yahrzeit (memorial) and as a community we remember the six million who were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust on Yom Hashoah which was on May 4 this year.
I was fortunate to meet Representative Ted Deutch, a Jewish Democratic Congressman from Florida, on Yom Hashoah. He spoke to our group from the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles about the Holocaust Survivors Resolution and the needs of Holocaust survivors. Many of them are in their 80s or older and need support for their unique health and welfare needs, including home care and other medical treatments.
On May 18, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved a resolution co-introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) which calls on the German Government to satisfy its moral responsibility to fully provide for the medical, mental health, and long-term care needs of Holocaust Survivors so they may live their remaining days in dignity. The resolution, H. Con. Res. 129, asks the Federal Republic of Germany to reaffirm its commitment to this goal through a financial commitment to comprehensively address needs of vulnerable Holocaust victims.
Jessie Kornberg, President and CEO of Bet Tzedek, told me: “At Bet Tzedek we provide free legal assistance to Holocaust survivors. We honor the memory of those who perished, in part, by ensuring that all those who survived are able to age with comfort and dignity. Survivors are three times more likely to live in poverty than other Americans of the same age and the majority of survivors live at or below the poverty line. Legal services ensure access to reparations, disability benefits, medical care, affordable housing, and other essential resources. There is still much work to be done and we are committed to making sure no survivor is without access to these services.” Holocaust survivors need our support with this resolution introduced by Congressman Deutch.
After the unanimous approval the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Deutch said; “I thank my colleagues on the Committee for recognizing the imperative nature of this bipartisan resolution and moving swiftly and unanimously to send it to the floor of the House of Representatives. There is no time to waste. Right now, the German Government is negotiating how to meet the needs of Holocaust Survivors for the rest of their lives. This resolution will send a strong message that Congress is closely watching these negotiations and expects an agreement that meets the growing needs of this most vulnerable population in full.” I appreciate Deutch’s commitment to the survivors of the Holocaust. Through his efforts, this important resolution was introduced with bi-partisan and bicameral support and there is a concurrent resolution in the Senate.
Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, the senior rabbi at my synagogue, Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, told me “Our tradition asks: “If not now, when – ואם לא עכשיו אימתי?” The message is clear: now is the time for righteous action. Now is the time to fulfill our obligations, whatever they might be. With the Shoah now more than 70 years behind us, the imperative to do right by survivors is more urgent than ever. Our elected officials and, more importantly, those who were responsible for the atrocities, must act now to ensure that survivors live out their remaining years in dignity.” I agree with Rabbi Zweiback that we all must stand up to support those who have been harmed and we must work for peace and understanding in our world so that genocide does not keep happening.
Congressman Zeldin, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, said, “I strongly support this resolution, which I cosponsor and supported in committee, and will be voting for it when it comes to the House floor. The international community must always remember the millions of innocent lives that were senselessly lost during the Holocaust, and we, especially Germany, must always provide support for and pay tribute to the remaining survivors. I have spoken to many people through the years who are holocaust survivors. Many of the remaining survivors from the Holocaust are struggling and need assistance to live their remaining years with dignity.” Congressman Zeldin is the only Jewish Republican Congressman and the grand-nephew of Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin who founded my synagogue, Stephen Wise Temple.
In Israel on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, at 10 a.m. a countrywide air-raid siren wails. The entire country stops and remembers. This weekend for Memorial Day, I hope you will pause and remember the soldiers that gave their lives in service of our country and think about what we can do for survivors of all wars.
What can you do to make a difference? Please encourage your Congressional Representative in the House and Senate to join as a co-sponsor in support this resolution, H. Con. Res. 129, for Holocaust Survivors. The concurrent resolution in the Senate is S.Con. Res. 36 which was introduced by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
Hear Congressman Deutch’s address to the committee:
What did Congressman Deutch say about his advocacy on behalf of survivors:
“Holocaust survivors are aging and their needs are increasing. There are 100,000 survivors in the USA and tens of thousands live in poverty, do not receive sufficient medical care, home care,and other vital life sustaining services. These survivors who made it through the darkest time in history need support to live with the dignity that they deserve.
There are significant gaps in survivor care which are most dramatic in terms of home care especially as they approach their late 80s 90s and beyond. Currently, home care is capped
to a maximum of 25 hours of home care, 5 hours a day 5 days a week. There is no funding for additional hours.
Many of those who survived the Holocaust lack family to help with their daily needs, for transport to medical appointments or help preparing meals, or help to meet medical and mental health needs
There is an opportunity RIGHT NOW to alleviate the suffering of holocaust survivors. There are negotiations going on right now with the German government to reaffirm their commitment to comprehensively address the unique health and welfare needs of vulnerable holocaust survivors.
No amount of money can ever erase the horrors faced by Nazi victims. But there is a moral responsibility to insure that they can receive the vital services and medical care to live out the remainder of their days with dignity and in comfort.
This resolution puts congress on record that the time to act is now. There need to be no more limitations on home care hours, and the negotiations need to be completed. The time to act is now.”
S.Con.Res.36 – A concurrent resolution expressing support of the goal of ensuring that all Holocaust victims live with dignity, comfort, and security in their remaining years, and urging the Federal Republic of Germany to reaffirm its commitment to that goal through a financial commitment to comprehensively address the unique health and welfare needs of vulnerable Holocaust victims, including home care and other medically prescribed needs.
Photo Credits from Wiki Commons for 3 photos in this article:
Photo from Nazi Concentration Camp in Romania Sept 1941: from Wiki CommonsAn der Sowjetfront: (Rum‰nien) So sieht es in einem der j¸dischen Konzentrationslager Bessarabiens aus. PK-Aufnahme: Kriegsberichter: Baas Sept. 41
WWII Europe, Germany, Concentration Camps, “Piles of dead prisoners” – NARA – 195344 author: By Unknown or not provided – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain
Victims of Nazi Terror in the Darnitsa concentration camp, Kiev, Ukraine By Unknown, – http://waralbum.ru/10905/, Public Domain,