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2017-05-05 digital edition
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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


May 5, 2017  RSS feed
Social Services

Text: T T T

Gulf Coast JFCS bolsters Holocaust survivor assistance with new programs

Two new efforts to make life better for Holocaust survivors are underway at Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services.

With a grant from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the Holocaust Survivor Program staff is creating a special training program for workers from homecare agencies that Gulf Coast contracts with to provide aid for Holocaust survivors. Although caregivers are trained to meet the needs of elderly clients, many do not understand the unique trauma many Holocaust survivors endured. Alison Solomon, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in trauma, is developing educational material and will deliver the “patient-centered trauma informed care” training program.

“Support intended to help survivors may actually trigger memories of Holocaust horrors. A simple thing like trying to encourage a client to take a shower could evoke memories of the gas chambers. People often assume that over time, trauma fades away, but survivors actually tend to be more easily triggered as they age, especially with an increasing lack of control over their bodies and their lives,” said Solomon.

Administrators of homecare agencies expressed enthusiasm about incorporating cultural competency into their policies, procedures and training requirements.

A second opportunity to promote compassion and respect for Gulf Coast Holocaust survivor clients stems from a partnership with AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), which has created 14 volunteer positions nationwide to help Jewish agencies provide enhanced services for Holocaust survivors and low-income seniors. Gulf Coast’s Holocaust Survivor Program was lucky enough to snag one of those volunteers, Miranda Duncan, a retired lawyer and returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Duncan, who is serving the agency fulltime, is helping to ensure Holocaust survivors have access to health-related care and offering other types of professional expertise.

More than 250 survivors living in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Citrus, Manatee and Sarasota counties look to the Holocaust Survivor Program for supporting services. One-fourth live in poverty and cannot afford professional services or health care not covered by insurance or Medicaid.

Eligibility for the program includes anyone who was persecuted as a Jew by the Nazis in Germany, Austria or any other country invaded by the Nazis or their allies. Survivors include those who were in concentration camps, ghettos, hiding, fled, lived under assumed names or in forced labor camps.

“One of our most pressing requests is for dental work. Survivors who suffered from prolonged malnutrition during the Holocaust are particularly susceptible to dental problems as they age. My goal is to create a network of professional referrals to address survivors’ every need,” Duncan said. “We have a brief window of opportunity to focus on those who have suffered so much and to validate their experience with kindness.”

Gulf Coast is looking for Tampa Bay area service providers, such as dentists, ophthalmology and legal professionals, willing to provide pro bono or low-cost services to survivors.

Duncan is also working with Gulf Coast JFCS Volunteer Services to develop a Friendly Visitor Program that will utilize trained, supervised volunteers to make consistent, supportive visits to Holocaust survivors. During these visits, survivors will receive compassionate attention and volunteers may expand their own awareness about the Holocaust. Over time, this friendship can become deeply meaningful.

The program strives to improve the quality of life for Holocaust survivors through a variety of other services as well: home care, emergency financial assistance, case management, Holocaust chavurah groups, religious celebrations and Holocaust Victim Restitution Recovery.

Restitution recovery “is particularly rewarding,” said case manager supervisor Debra Cusick. “Restitution paperwork is daunting, and survivors often are overwhelmed when they have to document the details of their painful past experience. Others are reluctant to accept restitution that can never begin to compensate for the loss of family, denial of a childhood and years of deprivation and terror. When the funds finally come through, however, survivors typically feel a sense of justice and relief with this public acknowledgement of their suffering.”

Funding for the Holocaust Survivor Program is provided primarily by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, with additional support from the Florida Department of Financial Services, private foundations and individual donors.

“We are grateful to our funders,” said Cindy Stern Minetti, senior director of Jewish Family & Refugee Services. “As our survivor population ages, however, their need for supportive services, especially home care, increases drastically. The funding we receive does not meet the full needs of the program and additional donations are always welcome. We strive to make sure each survivor receives the services needed so they can live out their years in peace and with dignity.”

For more information about the Holocaust Survivor Program, contact Cusick, at (727) 479-1893. For additional information about programs and services, to make a donation (please note Holocaust Survivor Program) or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit the Gulf Coast website at: or contact

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