Two weeks ago we observed Yom HaShoah, a day on which we commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and honor the heroic survivors. Tragically, many of them are still struggling to survive. In the U.S. alone, 25,000 Holocaust survivors live below the poverty line. These survivors lack the most basic needs – food and medicine – and often have to choose between the two. It is horrifying to contemplate that after all they have been forced to endure, these survivors are continuing to suffer. For many, it is organizations like The Blue Card that help them make ends meet.
The Blue Card is the only organization with the sole mission to provide financial assistance to needy survivors. It assists 2,400 survivors annually with the cost of food, medicine, rent, utilities, and other necessities. By doing so, it provides more than just financial support, it restores the dignity that has been snatched away from them.
The Blue Card provides for additional urgent needs such as telephone emergency response systems, dental services, and a program for survivors battling cancer. It also arranges for supplementary programs for survivors that add some joy and comfort to their lives. Survivors enjoy summer retreats and cards with $100 checks on their birthdays. One program they particularly appreciate is the Bring a Smile program. It is similar to the Make-a-Wish foundation in that it grants recipients their final wish. For example, one survivor had never learned to swim, so the organization sponsored the cost of swimming lessons for her
The Blue Card was originally created in 1934 to help Jews that were being affected by Nazi persecution through the loss of jobs, forcibly closed businesses, etc. The name of the organization derives from the blue card donors would receive and which would get stamped with each benefit. After the Holocaust, the foundation was reorganized to help survivors from all over Europe reestablish their lives in this country. Today, 82 years later, its mission has stayed the same: to allow survivors to age safely in their homes, enable them to be independent, and help them maintain their dignity.
Unlike most charities, this organization has a limited time frame. It is imperative to remember that these survivors won’t be with us forever. Executive Director Masha Pearl states: “It is a very time-limited mission and we have to support survivors because we don’t want to say that we could have done more when we had the chance.” The organization foresees that the needs will remain high until 2025, because Holocaust survivors face more physical, emotional, and financial challenges than the general elderly population.
Survivors receive help by connecting with their local communities and service agencies. Case managers at social service agencies review the application and help the survivors get what they need with minimal amount of red tape. The amount of help a survivor receives is dependent on his or her need. Some may need one-time assistance like for hearing aids, dentures, or accumulated hospital bills. There are others who have been supported for over twenty years.
Sounds like a great organization? It is and could use our help. The Blue Card sends volunteers to visit survivors in hospitals and also to distribute food packages on the holidays. The organization also recruits professionals who donate their services, such as dentists, attorneys, and doctors. People who are athletically inclined can give to the organization by participating in endurance events, such as the New York City Marathon.
Survivors living in poverty is not something people like to talk about, though it should be. Let’s start a conversation today.