JF&CS Supports Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors

March 02, 2022

JF&CS Supports Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors

JF&CS Supports Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors

As all of us try to absorb the barrage of heartbreaking news coming out of Ukraine, there is one group that has been deeply impacted - Holocaust Survivors. JF&CS provides support for Holocaust Survivors in Atlanta, and 10 states in the Southeast region. Many of these survivors once called Ukraine and Russia their homes. And although they left for a better life, it is still incredibly difficult to watch their former homeland under attack. Many still have loved ones or close friends in Ukraine. Others have difficulty seeing familiar and beloved places destroyed by tanks and bombs.

We talked to our Holocaust Survivor Services (HSS) team at JF&CS who are in regular contact with Survivors from all over Europe and Russia, with a special sensitivity right now to those survivors from Ukraine, Russia and other parts of the Former Soviet Union. Each of the HSS team members that we spoke to agreed that ALL Survivors are experiencing complicated and difficult emotions as a result of the war in Ukraine. The team members all stated how important it is right now that our Case Managers and Clinicians reach out to Survivors in the hopes of providing crucial support during this difficult time.

Of the 96 Holocaust Survivors from the Ukraine in the HSS program, 62 of them live in Georgia, with the remaining 34 Survivors living in different areas of the Southeast region. There are also 40+ survivors from Russian, including 33 in Georgia and another nine in the Southeast region. Survivors in the Southeast region live in the following 10 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

For both the Georgia and Regional programs, JF&CS is the Claims Conference Administrator of homecare services to Survivors. In this role, the HSS team is responsible for providing funds for homecare services to help Survivors continue to live independently in their own homes safely and with dignity. Both programs offer Survivor clients essential in-home care services, case management financial and emotional support, virtual social events and reparations assistance. For Georgia Survivors, in-person social events are additional and very important opportunities for Survivors to get together for socializing, entertainment and good food.

Helping Clients and Providing Support

Understandably, the Survivor clients at JF&CS feel an overwhelming amount of anxiety about the current events in Ukraine. For most, if not all of them, their anxiety increased significantly a few years ago when the Pandemic began. During that time, they witnessed empty shelves at grocery stores, listened to conflicting rhetoric about Covid-19, saw people get sick, and many people dying. For many, they experienced flashbacks to World War II .The Russian invasion of Ukraine has piled on top of the already snowballing anxiety experienced by Survivors over the last few years.

The HSS team is making a concerted effort to reach out to Survivors individually. Their main goal is to provide caring and support to Survivors by listening to their fears and anxiety. The teams listen, makes sure to avoid cliché platitudes like, “Everything will be ok” or“Don’t worry.” Instead, each case manager listens intently to Survivors while showing kavod (respect) for their unique perspectives and anxieties.

The HSS team reaches out to the survivors individually, listen, and makes sure to avoid cliché platitudes like “Everything will be ok” or “Don’t worry.” Instead, each case manager listens intently to individuals and their unique perspectives and anxieties.

Anat Granath, a clinician on the Holocaust Survivor Services team at JF&CS, encourages her clients to stay away from the TV and Internet as much as possible during anxiety-inducing events. “They are already a vulnerable population during the Pandemic, and they are stuck at home,” she said. “So, a lot of them end up watching television all day, which can increase their anxiety. When I walk into homes, I tell them gently, ‘Let’s go ahead and turn the TV off.”

“I hear about their anxiety, fear. 'It’s starting all over again.' These feelings are not only from Survivors from Ukraine and Russian, but for all of our Holocaust Survivor clients. It is hard. The memories come up. They see the streets they used to walk. They tell us about their experiences. They are very anxious and afraid of war on a bigger scale. Communication is spotty. For those that have family there, they are all so scared,” she said.

According to Amy Neuman, Program Manager of HSS, for any major city in the US, the majority of current Holocaust Survivors are from the former Soviet Union, with most from Ukraine.

“A lot of these Survivors have co-workers and friends there. They have reconnected through the Internet over the years. They are understandably worried. These people are in danger. The bonds they made through the workforce were incredibly strong,” said Emily Papera, Russian Information & Referral Case Manager.

“I spoke with a client, who has a cousin there, and he sent a picture of a huge crater next to his house. They don’t know if they are going to make it through the night,” she said.

“It is so hard - watching things be destroyed that they loved – Kyiv, Odessa. They talk about how they loved their cities. They are proud to be American, but they still care a lot about Ukraine. They are used to having their feet in two cultures, and it tears at them too. It adds a lot of conflict within themselves. Russian was the language of business and school. One client said “I don’t need to see these memes on Facebook about the names of Ukraine vs Russian, I just want people to help’,” she said.

“It’s important for people to understand how triggering all of this is for Survivors, but I do think it is also important to acknowledge how incredibly strong these people are. What they have endured during the war, we can never possibly understand,” said National Homecare Program Coordinator and Case Manager, Kellee Rosenberg.

Help From Around the World

Though the current situation in Ukraine understandably triggers memories for our clients that are Holocaust survivors, Anat mentioned that it’s important to remember one key factor today versus back then: the media and social media.

“Because of the advancements in media, we can sit here and watch this all happening live. The media has power. Unlike in World War II, when nobody stood up, people are now. We can mobilize quickly and make things happen.”

And things are already happening. The world is stepping in to help Ukraine. Countries have banded together to provide ammunition and supplies to Ukraine. The United States and its allies have issued economic sanctions against Russia to weaken Russia’s military presence and encourage the invasion to stop. There’s also strong support from Jewish organizations within Ukraine and other countries. The Chabad presence in Ukraine is strong, and Chabad organizations were able to successfully relocate hundreds of children to safety across the Poland border. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which is the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian organization, has been pouring resources into existing networks for Jews in Ukraine, Belarus and other countries in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries where Ukrainian refugees are likely to flee to. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is also raising money to support Ukrainian Jews.

Case Manager Inna Lyubimova also wanted to remind others that the war in Ukraine is stressful for both sides.

"It is important to have compassion for both sides. Holocaust Survivors have friends and relatives in Russia as well that are affected by the war and severe economic sanctions. Russian people are undergoing major economic changes because of severe sanctions yet they did not choose, nor want to fight this war,“ she said.

For now, the HSS team will continue to provide support for their Survivor clients. At a virtual Café Europa this week, the group led the participating Survivors in prayers for peace for the people of Ukraine.

“It gives them comfort when we say “please don’t hesitate to call. We are here for you,” said Anat.

Do you know a Holocaust Survivor that is not getting services in the Southeast Region?

JF&CS is actively searching for Holocaust Survivors in both Georgia and the Southeast region to provide support. For Holocaust Survivors needing help in Georgia, contact Amy Neuman at 770.677.9382. For Survivors in the Southeast Region, should contact Kellee Rosenberg at 770.677.9360.

Learn more: https://jfcsatl.org/services/aviv-older-adults/holocaust-survivor-services

Holocaust Survivor Services are funded by: The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), URO Charitable Trust Limited, Holocaust Survivor Support Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta (HSSF), Cherie Aviv, Kavod SHEF, and the Jewish Federations of North America.