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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘receive’

A Call to Action: Shut Down the Claims Conference

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

By Naomi Vilko, MD

Many Jewish Americans are unaware not only of the sordid behavior of the Claims Conference (Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany); they are also unaware of its existence and mission. Established in 1951, the Claims Conference has the tasks of negotiating for compensation and restitution for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution and of distributing payments from the German government to individual Jewish Holocaust survivors and the social services agencies that serve them.

Shamefully, $57.3 million intended for survivors was stolen from the Claims Conference by 31 people – 11 of them employees – over 16 years. [For more information, please read Isi Leibler’s numerous articles covering the Claims Conference scandal on his blog.] Now, influential Jews including Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress and Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel have insisted upon an independent investigation into the Claims Conference fraud as well as a change in its leadership and governance. I am grateful to Rabbi Mark Golub of Shalom TV, Isi Leibler of The Jerusalem Post and staff writers from The Jewish Daily Forward and The Jewish Week who have been following the Claims Conference scandal and pressing for justice for the survivors. I hope that we can mobilize the Jewish community to quickly close this corrupt agency and transfer the funds to another agency who will distribute them in time to help those in need.

Many Holocaust survivors have not received compensation for their suffering and losses because for some of these aging victims, the process is simply too painful; others have not received compensation because the Claims Conference is at best, difficult and obstructionist, and at worst, corrupt. Claims Conference officials have also continued to expand the definition of “Jewish victim of Nazi persecution”. Today, it administers programs providing funds not just to those who survived ghettos, concentration camps, forced labor battalions and death marches, but to anyone who fled Nazi invasion, lived in hiding, or lived under curfew. As a Psychiatrist specializing in trauma, I am well aware that it is difficult to tease out the quantitative and qualitative differences between different traumatic experiences – but I am certain that those who survived concentration camps (the youngest of whom are in their 80s) should receive assistance immediately and without the frustration of dealing with the uncaring staff of the Claims Conference and its various agencies.

My mother and I have dealt with the issue of reparations since my father, a survivor of 5 concentration camps, death marches, Hungarian forced labor and a ghetto, died suddenly in 1962. My father was denied any compensation. As his widow and a survivor herself, my mother appealed, but the appeals were denied. Recently, I again contacted several Jewish agencies in a futile attempt to assist my now 92-year-old mother with paying for her home-care. I was astounded to learn that if she only needed assistance 20 hours/week, she would receive funds, but since she requires 24-hour assistance (which she pays for herself) she will receive nothing to defray the expense. We were advised that she could go on Medicaid and/or be sent to a nursing home.

Jewish social agencies are doing the best they can to help survivors, but they say that they have limited funds. After helping themselves to large salaries and allowing fraud to persist under their noses for over a decade, is it any surprise that the Claims Conference does not have enough funds for the survivors it “claims” to serve? Furthermore, while it is commendable in theory for the Claims Conference to work to expand eligibility for these funds, I must ask: if there is not enough money available to help the survivors who have already been identified, what is the result of such efforts beyond making the bread lines longer?

It is an outrage and an embarrassment that the Claims Conference has continued to operate without oversight, even after failing in its responsibility to adequately investigate and prosecute the fraud for so many years. We must shut down the Claims Conference and transfer the funds to an existing agency, such as the Jewish Federation or the World Jewish Congress that can quickly prioritize the way funds are distributed to survivors. We have an obligation to take care of those who have been tortured and enslaved because they are Jewish – before it’s too late.

There are many survivors who have no children to care for or advocate for them and who live isolated lives in apartments with no services and little human contact. My hope is that raising awareness of the additional psychological trauma survivors experience as a result of the reparations and compensation processes and, specifically, the New York based Claims Conference itself, may lead the Jewish people to take action. Let’s face it: The Jewish people have not adequately taken care of the survivors, who are now extremely elderly and dying. They are entitled to live the last years of their lives with dignity.

IDF Helps Palestinians Cross into Israel from Gaza

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Major Tariq is a senior commander at the Erez Crossing where he helps thousands of Palestinians cross from Gaza into Israel every month.

Major Tariq, a senior commander in the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), works in one of Israel’s most sensitive areas. Stationed at the Erez Crossing – just steps away from Gaza – he and his soldiers face the constant threat of attacks from Hamas terrorists. Since 2005, Hamas has launched 8,000 rockets from Gaza at populated areas in Israel’s southern region.

Despite the danger, Maj. Tariq works every day to help Palestinians cross into Israel from Gaza. As a result of his cooperation with the Palestinian Authority – which also works with a division of COGAT in Judea and Samaria  –  about 400 Gazans travel into Israel each day through the Erez crossing.

“The majority of requests are related to health problems,” Maj. Tariq said of civilians traveling through the crossing. Several times each day, Maj. Tariq and his staff direct the Palestinians to Israeli hospitals that can treat their conditions. IDF officials estimate that some 100 Palestinians seeking medical care travel into Israel each day.

Although Palestinians can receive medical treatment in Gaza, many turn to Israeli hospitals for more advanced care.  “It is important to note that there are 27 hospitals in Gaza. Gaza’s population has the ability to receive medical care on site,” Maj. Tariq explained, adding that Israeli hospitals can handle complex health problems that Gazan hospitals are incapable of treating.

Photo credit: IDF

Photo credit: IDF

“When a child is sick, injured and needs prompt treatment, we take all precautions and measures so that the child can pass through the crossing as quickly as possible,” Maj. Tariq said, explaining that all Gazans in urgent need of medical care receive the highest-priority treatment at the crossing. “IDF soldiers ensure that an ambulance arrives and brings the patients to a nearby Israeli hospital, where they receive necessary medical care,” Maj. Tariq added.

Many other Gazans cross into Israel to visit relatives living in Judea and Samaria. Each month, IDF officials help more than 3,000 Palestinians pass through the crossing to visit their families. This month, as Palestinian Muslims observe the holiday of Ramadan, higher numbers of travelers are visiting Israel to celebrate the holiday with family members.

Palestinians cross into Israel for Ramadan. Photo credit: IDF

Palestinians cross into Israel for Ramadan. Photo credit: IDF


Speaking Their Language

Maj. Tariq, who comes from a Druze community in Israel’s north, grew up speaking Arabic like many other members of his unit. His fluency allows for a direct line of communication between the IDF and Palestinian travelers. According to Maj. Tariq, he often speaks directly with Gaza residents to understand their needs on an individual level.

Maj. Tariq is responsible for facilitating all passages through the Erez Crossing. Photo credit: IDF

Maj. Tariq is responsible for facilitating all passages through the Erez Crossing. Photo credit: IDF

Native speakers of Arabic like Maj. Tariq are not the only soldiers who can speak with the travelers in their native language. The unit requires all of its members – from new recruits to commanders – to complete a course in Arabic. This policy ensures that all of the unit’s soldiers are prepared to communicate with Gazans directly to discuss their specific requests.
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