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Helping Them Cope
hey survived Hitler and his "Final Solution"
to annihilate the Jews of Europe. They now
confront a less oppressive, but just as power-
ful foe: the aging process.
They are survivors of the Holocaust.
Today, 58 years after allied forces ended Nazi
Germany's reign of terror, many of these hardy souls
are widows and widowers battling isolation, depres-
sion, loneliness and fear.
For survivors, aging causes faded memories of ghet-
tos, concentration camps and lost loved ones to again
stir against the already challenging backdrop of illness,
mortality and unsettling emotions.
Typically, traditional therapy isn't the answer.
For the last 10 years, the answer for local
Shoah survivors has been an unassuming but
essential program that has helped them bat-
tle intermittent gale-force winds of distress
Budget cuts spurred by the weak economy now
threaten the DMC-Sinai Hospital Program for
Holocaust Survivors and Families. But its work is far
from done. Metro Detroit is still home to 3,000 sur-
vivors. With the youngest in their 60s, their ranks are
steadily thinning. Those still with us need care and
comfort even more; the anxiety of aging does that. So
they turn to the organized Jewish community for com-
panionship, support and understanding.
The West Bloomfield-based Jewish Home & Aging
Services has been a godsend for the DMC-Sinai
Program. Since Feb. 1, it has provided a home base
and in-kind support, but no direct funding.
The move has created a window of opportunity to
develop a plan to keep the multi-layer program up and
solvent. The window is propped open by a fragile tim-
ber, however. The program is staring at a 2003-2004
fiscal year deficit of $40,000 in its frill-free, $100,000
Detroit Jewry must step up and intervene. We owe it
to the survivors, whose courage and contributions have
helped make Detroit Jewry a model for communal
service. We owe it to Dr. Charles Slow — a child of
survivors, a clinical psychologist and
the program director — who so elo-
quently champions the notion that sur-
PA 6S-ri N IAN)
vivors should be revered, not forgotten.
The need is urgent, even more so in
the wake of a depressed economy. Top
priorities are increased outreach to sur-
vivors and their families, a strategic
plan to assure funding for the program
and a marketing push to boost aware-
ness of the program and its plight.
Anticipated funding includes a
$25,000 grant from the local Jewish
Fund as incentive to solve the pro-
gram's economic crisis. The
Conference on Jewish
Material Claims Against
Germany is expected to give
$15,000. DMC has pledged $5,000,
but a budget crisis of its own is likely to
make that pledge the last.
Program expenses cover informal get-
togethers, regular support groups, a
Jewish-Yiddish film series and counsel-
ing and consultations, all tailored to the
unique needs of survivors and their
families. The program coordinator is
A community treasure is the pro-
gram's Portraits of Honor, a traveling
exhibit that seeks to educate, honor
and preserve. It sports black-and-white
images with short biographies of local
survivors. So far, 300 survivors have
been photographed and interviewed;
formed an advisory team to develop a structure that
the goal is to add 75 portraits each year.
resonates and is worth endowing.
Our community's philanthropic catalyst, the Jewish
Its finances are shaky, but the program provides a
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and its investment
safe haven for, and good will toward, an aging, very
arm, the United Jewish Foundation, ultimately must
special group of heroes that we're fortunate to still have
be the leader in the race against time to start an
among b us. 111
endowment fund for the Program for Holocaust
Survivors and Families. For his part, Dr. Silow has
The program office number is (248) 661-2999.
IT R E FERS To
Holocaust Insurance Setback
Running And Hiding
n the fuss over the affirmative-action
decision involving University of
Michigan admission policies, it was
easy to overlook the U.S. Supreme
Court's important invalidation of
a California law that tried to
make it easier for Holocaust sur-
vivors to deal with recalcitrant
European insurance companies.
The decision was right in principle;
America should speak in a single voice to
the companies and states cannot overrule
But the judgment was wrong in effect
because the United States needs to do
much more to make sure that the survivors
aybe now Johann Leprich knows how it feels to be hunted
and caught and what it will be like to be sent away from
the comfort of family and friends.
As a young man, Leprich was a Waffen SS guard at the
German-run Mauthausen concentration camp where
200,000 Jews were murdered. He immigrated to the
U.S. after World War II and became a citizen. But in
1987, he was convicted of lying about his military
service. Rather than face deportation, he fled. Last
week, U.S. agents tracked him down at his Macomb County home,
where they found him in a secret compartment beneath the stairs.
We think about the tens of thousands of Jews who huddled in attics
and closets and haylofts and under the floorboards, scared and despair-
ing as the Nazis caught them and sent them to Mauthausen and the
other camps to die. And we are pleased that, half a century later, justice
has finally caught up with Johann Leprich. ❑
are being repaid the money they are owed.
Many companies continue to set unwarrant-
ed barriers to recovery, such as unreasonable
application deadlines, and demands for origi-
nal documents, such as death certifi-
cates that the German concentration
camps did not issue. They have
done little to advertise their claim
policies or to seek out the families of
In trying to make the insurance compa-
nies behave better, California set a fine
moral example. Maybe Uncle Sam will now
more enthusiastically and effectively shoul-
der the burden that the court says falls on
his shoulders alone.