Holocaust Survivors’ funding falls victim to budget crunch

15 08 2008

Jewish activists are lamenting the death of a bill in the State Legislature that would have provided $500,000 for services to Holocaust survivors.

The combined monies were intended for programs administered chiefly by local Jewish federations, including counseling, case management, home care, and semi-monthly survivors’ gatherings called Cafe Europa.

“The funding was contained in a supplemental appropriations bill,” said State Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Dist. 38), one of the bill’s prime sponsors. He said he wasn’t sure just how it was removed but did say it fell victim to the state’s financial crunch.

“The state is broke,” explained Gordon. “We are going to wind up closing hospitals. That is how dire things are. Things I submitted years ago that would have gone through without batting an eye were just slashed out of the budget.”

The New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, which would have distributed the funds to individual federations, began seeking the appropriation in April.

“But we were a victim of the state’s financial crisis,” lamented Jacob Toporek, the association’s executive director. “It was an earmark we requested — one of those Christmas tree/Hanukka bush items.”

Money from the bill would also have been used to match funds from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

“The federations — in order to get matching funds from the Claims Conference — have to use their own resources, and those are in short supply,” Toporek said. Federation fund-raising campaigns “are not at the level they once were, you’ve got the economy, and it is difficult to raise funds.”

“If we can’t get the matching funds, then the money from the Claims Conference goes to other states,” Toporek added. “We would like to keep that here.”

Gordon said Toporek and other federation leaders asked him, State Sen. Linda Weinberg (D-Dist. 37) and State Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Dist. 30) to introduce the appropriation when they were all together in April at a signing ceremony for an unrelated bill.

Although the new state budget retains the $244,000 annual budget of the state’s Commission on Holocaust Education, its executive director, Paul Winkler, said the Cafe Europa program the commission helps administer could have used extra funds and will suffer from the cut. Among other things, Cafe Europa brings together students and survivors in an effort to perpetuate contact between younger generations and those who experienced the Shoa firsthand.

“It is a nice program, and it is important to have the kids break bread with the survivors,” Winkler said.

Reuben Rotman, executive director of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, said his agency would have to seek a source of money other than the state to match funds from the Claims Conference targeted for financial aid, home health care, and emergency assistance to survivors.

“It is going to be a struggle for us. It would have been a nice way to raise those matching dollars, but in this economy it isn’t easy.”

Rotman said his agency “is committed to these survivors. We are not going to stop the program for this. It is a not a dead issue.”

Gordon was confident that he and colleagues would succeed in future attempts to secure the appropriation.

“But for the foreseeable future we are going to have substantial deficits every year,” he said. “We start out every year several billion dollars in the red, and the day of reckoning has arrived. What bothers me is that the people less able to weather these cuts are the ones who suffer.” News Source Njjn/Pcjn

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One response

23 11 2008
Mogen David

Maybe Obama’s strings can be pulled for national reparations to Jews?

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