A bipartisan group of United Sates lawmakers introduced a bill that would facilitate assistance for Holocaust survivors.
The legislation, which was introduced Tuesday in both the House and the Senate, would add survivors to a priority list for social services outlined in the Older Americans Act.
The sponsors of the initiative, called the RUSH Act (Responding to the Urgent needs of Survivors of the Holocaust), worked with members of the Jewish Federations of North America to develop the legislation, calling upon their expertise on this vulnerable community.
“It is critically important that we meet the needs of aging Holocaust survivors,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees. “Jewish Federations and their partner agencies across the continent work toward this goal every day and it is gratifying to have the support of members of Congress.”
Services under the Older Americans Act include meals, transportation, case management and caregiver support. Additionally, the RUSH Act seeks to allow funding for congregate and home-delivered meals that may cost more due to a religious or cultural dietary requirement.
“Enabling Holocaust survivors to age in place is vital for health, comfort and security and brings dignity to this vulnerable population,” said William Daroff, JFNA’s vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office. “Today the Congress took a needed step toward reaching this important goal.”
Of the approximately 120,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States today, three-quarters are over the age of 75 and about two-thirds live alone. Many of these survivors struggle to afford adequate food and health care; about half of the survivors who arrived in the United States after 1965 from the former Soviet Union fall beneath the poverty line. The fact that atrocities during the Holocaust have caused so many to survive alone, with little family to depend upon, compounds the problem.
“Autonomy and choice in living arrangements and care are extremely important to the Holocaust survivor population,” said Andrew S. Hochberg, JUF/JF Chicago Government Affairs Committee Chair. “Additionally, the negative effects of isolation can be devastating for survivors who also face financial challenges and fewer family members to help care for them.”