Today, a resolution introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20), passed the House of Representatives unanimously. The resolution, H. Con Res 323, seeks to ensure that Holocaust survivors live with dignity, comfort and security. More than 120,000 Holocaust survivors are living in the United States. These individuals embraced the American dream, raised families, and enriched our nation and society. But more than half of all Holocaust survivors fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold, making them vulnerable to being forced into a group living situation.
"All Holocaust survivors are at least 65 years old and a majority in their 80s and 90s," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz said "As a nation that upholds the values of freedom, liberty, and justice, we have a moral obligation to acknowledge the plight and uphold the dignity of Holocaust survivors to ensure their well-being in their remaining years."
As victims of terror and torture, Holocaust survivors have special needs that would benefit from the further development of social service programs to allow survivors to age in place in their current residences. Institutionalized settings, while appropriate for many older Americans, have a disproportionately adverse effect on Holocaust survivors, as these environments reintroduce the sights, sounds, and routines reminiscent of experiences during the Holocaust.
"Our children's generation will be the last to know Holocaust survivors and hear their stories first hand," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "We must do all we can to honor their struggles and their lives by granting them the utmost peace in their remaining years."
The resolution urges the Obama Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Administration on Aging, to provide Holocaust survivors with needed social services through existing programs; and encourages the Administration on Aging to quickly develop and implement programs that ensure Holocaust survivors are able to age in place in their communities and avoid institutionalization during their remaining years.
"The Jewish Federations movement has worked for years to help Holocaust survivors age with dignity, however, more work needs to be done," said William C. Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of The Jewish Federations of North America's Washington office. "We applaud Representatives Wasserman Schultz and Wolf for increasing awareness about this issue and for their commitment to helping Holocaust survivors live in peace."