Regina Dollman is a Holocaust survivor in our community. She is aging and suffered a major health setback last month, but with support from Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City (JFS), Dollman is able to stay in her home, something that is extremely important to her. As she always says, “Home is home.”
JFS’s older adult programs work to support seniors, including Holocaust survivors, age with quality of life in the community through care management, transportation, and home maintenance. These programs include Care Management, JET Express, and Help@Home.
Through the Help@Home program, Dollman has access to an occupational therapist who assessed the kinds of medical equipment and home modifications she will need to safely transition back home. She also accesses critical home maintenance and repair through Help@Home and loves that she knows and trusts her JFS handymen. Her JFS care manager keeps her connected to meaningful community resources and helps her navigate her yearly Holocaust pension recertifications.
JFS provides Holocaust survivors with services like these thanks in part to funding from Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.
In 2017, JFNA awarded JFS grant funds to provide trauma-informed care education to agencies that serve Holocaust survivors. JFS educated more than 300 home care workers about potential triggers — the shower room in a rehab facility, for example — and best practice when caring for survivors.
This grant also helped give JFS some recognition for the work they do to serve Holocaust survivors.
“(The JFNA grant is) what started us providing Holocaust survivor services in a visible way,” said Laura Gilman, director of Older Adult Services at JFS. “We’ve always provided services but that really provided us with a platform to let the community know that if they know a Holocaust survivor, they can send them to JFS.
“Jewish Family Services and Federation have worked tirelessly and intentionally to collaborate around survivor needs for many years.”
Locally, JFS and Federation have worked together to raise funds from donors here in Kansas City that receive national matching money from the KAVOD Survivors of the Holocaust Emergency Fund (SHEF). In 2019, the Federation helped to raise $15,000 that was matched by KAVOD. In 2020, they had a more aggressive goal of raising $30,000, which resulted in $60,000 for local survivor services when matched by the national emergency fund, via the Seed the Dream Foundation.
“A lot of what has been made possible for our survivors, particularly in the last five years, is because of this partnership,” said Derek Gale, Federation’s vice president and chief operating officer.
“Our Federation takes pride in the way we’ve partnered with JFS to bring these national matching dollars to our Kansas City community, but the relationship we have with JFS to help our survivors is much deeper than these recent grant opportunities,” he added, noting that Federation has long supported the JFS Care Management, Help@Home, and JET Express programs.
Most recently, the Federation approved an allocation of $188,500 for JFS’s older adult services in 2021. It’s a significant investment that emphasizes the Federation’s prioritization of supporting the community’s survivors, and older adults more generally.
“The lived experiences of Holocaust survivors are tragic. These are people who have been through the worst thing anyone could probably imagine,” Gale said. “The least we can do — as their descendants, relatives, community members — is to ensure that they live out their years in dignity. It would be unspeakable to not take care of these people’s basic needs in the later years of their lives.”
Other local survivors served by JFS include (from left) Fanya Furman, Gitla Doppelt, and Raisa Izrailev
In addition to the JFNA and KAVOD SHEF grants and Federation allocations, JFS receives funding for survivor and homecare services from JFS of Metro Detroit, which acts a liaison to and helps JFS receive funds from the Claims Conference, an organization that negotiates with Germany’s government for payments to Holocaust victims, and for homecare funding for elderly survivors. The Blue Card, a national program that provides financial assistance for everyday needs as well as for emergencies, such as medical and dental care, also supports JFS’ services for survivors.
The pandemic has heightened the need for new services, as many seniors are unable or unwilling to leave their homes. Because of this, JFS has made a concerted effort — with the help of KAVOD and the Seed the Dream Foundation — to provide funding to connect Holocaust survivors with technology that can reduce isolation and increase opportunities for social engagement.
As part of its Tech Connect program, JFS is distributing tablets to more than 100 clients to ensure they have access to things that can enhance their quality of life, like online prescription and grocery orders and delivery. The program also will help them learn various technology literacy skills, including email and video chatting.
“It’s important to JFS that our survivor community have access to all the connectivity technology has to offer, whether it be using video chat to remain connected to family or staying in touch with their Heritage Center community through online programming,” Gilman said.
Coordinating all the various avenues for survivor resources and making the process as streamlined and as simple for survivors isn’t easy, “but it’s an honor,” she said.
As of February, JFS serves more than 80 survivors in our community. If you are a Holocaust survivor or know one, who isn’t getting services, Gilman encourages you to contact JFS. She said survivors usually contact JFS when they’re struggling, but resources are available to survivors at any time.
“We want all survivors to know that they deserve to access the support that they’re entitled to and they don’t have to struggle to be entitled to those supports,” she said.