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January 15, 2009 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-01-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

and Cohen; Dykema Gossett PLLC;
and Bodman LLP have volunteered to
assist.
"The response from the legal com-
munity has been overwhelming" said
Mendel. "We actually have had to cur-
tail our effort to recruit attorneys due
to the initial response."

Easy Process
To date, the clinics, which take place at
JFS offices in West Bloomfield and Oak
Park, have helped almost 40 survivors
complete their applications. Many
other survivors were helped by JFS
case managers prior to the start of the
clinics.
Although the application process
is formal, the goal of the clinics is to
make the survivors feel as comfortable
as possible.
"We understand," said Salzenstein,
"that the survivors will be asked to
relive the most horrific events of
their life. The volunteer attorneys are
trained to work closely with each sur-
vivor, to listen as the survivor strug-
gles to remember the painful details
of the past and to naturally elicit the
necessary information to complete the
application."
According to Salzenstein, "The
application process can be an emo-
tional experience, not only for the sur-
vivor, but also for the attorney who is
volunteering to assist the survivor."
Both Mendel and Salzenstein recog-
nized very early that survivors might
be reluctant to complete applications
that required them to verify that the
ghetto work was "voluntary."
"Certainly," said Mendel, "all work
performed in the ghettos could be
deemed to be coerced. Thankfully, we
quickly discovered that the German
government will deem work to be vol-
untary for purposes of this program

as long as it was not secured by the
immediate threat of physical violence.
"The work will even be deemed to
be voluntary if the survivor had some
choice or influence with respect to
how the work was performed or even
if they could decide when to take a
break:"
Salzenstein said this new program
was adopted because a previous pro-
gram had so many restrictions that 90
percent of the applicants were rejected.
Volunteers who have participated
in the clinics have characterized their
involvement as a life-changing experi-
ence. According to Mendel, "The pro-
cess has been one of the most impor-
tant services I have ever provided in
my 18-year career as a lawyer and as
a Jew in this community. I couldn't
possibly have had a bad day since I
started doing this. Any problem I have
pales in comparison to what these sur-
vivors endured.
"While I initially set out to hope-
fully provide a little benefit to some
Holocaust survivors, this turned out
to be one of the most valuable experi-
ences in my life' 0

Survivors (or their family mem-
bers) who believe that they
might be eligible for benefits are
encouraged to call JFS, (248)
592-2300. A JFS employee will
be able to provide information,
screen for potential eligibility
and set up an appointment to
have an application completed at
an upcoming clinic. Subsidized
transportation is also avail-
able through JFS for those who
qualify.

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Breakfast On M.L. King Day
American Jewish Committee Detroit
Chapter and the Detroit Urban League
will host the 14th annual All People's
Breakfast, commemorating the life
of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — an
opportunity for the African-American,
Jewish and greater community to
come together for candid discussions
in the positive spirit of Dr. King.
The breakfast will take place on
Martin Luther King Day, Monday,
Jan. 19, at 8 a.m. in the Detroit Urban
League's Albert Kahn ballroom, 208
Mack in Detroit. The topic of this

year's program is "A Dream Fulfilled."
Arthur Horwitz, publisher of the
Jewish News; Thomas Costello, executive
director of the Michigan Roundtable for
Diversity and Inclusion and others will
speak about how the media can encour-
age positive leadership by citizens and
officials. Also speaking will be Jerry
Rosenfeld, AJC chair for the event. N.
Charles Anderson, president and CEO of
the Detroit Urban League will moderate.
The breakfast is free of charge but
reservations are necessary. To register,
call AJC, (248) 646-7686, or the Detroit
Urban League, (313) 832-4600.

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January 15 • 2009

A25

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