fbpx
Thursday, June 4, 2020

Many aging Shoah survivors are living a new nightmare

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Sammy Moscovitz sits alone in his drab one-room Los Angeles apartment watching cable TV and wondering how he ended up like this.

Like the frayed sweatshirt he wears, the 75-year-old Holocaust survivor looks tired and a bit rundown. He owns a bed, a dresser, a television, some clothing and little else. Racked with pain and plagued by various ailments, he points to five bottles of pills and complains that he sometimes rations them because of the high cost.

The Romanian-born Moscovitz has no children, and his wife died years ago. He has a caregiver, Candace Harbin, who is paid by the state to cook, clean and make meals for him 23 hours a week. That helps. Yet when she takes him out for coffee or a meal, Harbin says, Moscovitz sometimes wants to return home after just five minutes because of his pain.

Without medical insurance, Moscovitz lost his house 15 years ago, after a stroke and heart problems sent him to the hospital for an extended stay, which he paid for with his savings. On a recent day, he had $300 to his name, with outstanding debts of $180 and counting.

The phone rings. He debates whether to answer it. Chances are, Moscovitz says, it’s a bill collector. It’s always a bill collector these days. Against his better judgment, he picks up the receiver. A kind voice greets him and asks how he’s doing.

“Fine,” Moscovitz says, before quickly ending the call. “That was some Jewish group,” he says matter-of-factly in his rasp of a voice. “They want to see if I’m dead.”

Moscovitz is one of the tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors living in abject poverty in the United States. These witnesses to the 20th century’s worst atrocity are enduring a second nightmare, often struggling just to feed and clothe themselves.

Their wartime experiences, which included malnutrition and physical and psychological abuse, have made them prone to costly medical and mental problems as they age. Having depleted their savings or worked at low-paying jobs without pensions, they now largely subsist on government Social Security and disability checks, along with some assistance from Jewish organizations, and, if they are lucky, financial compensation from Germany and the other European countries that sent them to concentration camps, conscripted them into forced labor battalions and decimated their families.

An estimated 25 percent of the 122,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States live below the poverty line, according to a report issued in December 2003 by the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization for the nation’s federations. Because the UJC based its findings on data from 2000-2001, many observers believe that the number of survivors has fallen to about 100,000. But with the typical victim approaching 80 and often spending much of his income on high-priced drugs and medical care, the poverty rate may now approach 33 percent.

In Los Angeles, which is home to some of the world’s wealthiest Jews, two Holocaust museums and affluent and heavily Jewish neighborhoods such as Brentwood and Bel Air, an estimated 3,000 of city’s 10,000 to 12,000 Holocaust victims live at or below the poverty line, according to Andrew Cushnir, vice president for planning for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Largely invisible to many in the community, impoverished survivors often exist at subsistence levels as shut-ins in aging apartments or in dilapidated homes they can no longer afford to repair. In many ways, they have become the forgotten people.

Which is not to say that some Jews haven’t stepped up to help after learning about their difficult circumstances. For example, after the publication of an article about Bet Tzedek’s work on behalf of Hungarian survivors, an anonymous donor gave the Jewish nonprofit legal aid society a much-needed gift of $100,000.

“That was a nice surprise,” Bet Tzedek Executive Director Mitchell Kamin said.
But there have been too few nice surprises, experts say.

Area Jewish philanthropists “seem to have a strong desire to give money in remembrance of the Holocaust to a Holocaust museum, but are not as generous in helping the survivors themselves,” said Todd Morgan, former chairman of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and creator of the Morgan Aging With Dignity Fund, which pays for food, medicine and transportation for poor victims, among other needs.

Morgan, a money manager, said he started his $2 million fund five years ago after an indigent victim asked him for $400 for heart medication. Morgan approached several big donors, educated them about the struggles faced by many survivors and asked for contributions. He raised $200,000, much less than he expected. Morgan said he has never again tapped the Jewish community for survivor money.

To be sure, many Holocaust victims have flourished in America and have led productive, full lives. They have become doctors, lawyers, congressman and corporate titans. Still, many have suffered greatly, especially those who immigrated to the United States after 1965, according to the UJC report on Holocaust victims in America.

Survivors who came to the United States more recently, many of them from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, appear to have had a harder time acclimating, in part because of language problems. Whatever the reasons, on the whole, this population has more financial problems, as well as physical and mental health disabilities than survivors who came to America earlier, the study says.

Regardless of when they immigrated, many survivors grapple with indelible scars.

Based on more than 50 years of experience ministering to more than 100 Holocaust victims and their families, social worker Florabel Kinsler, formerly of Jewish Family Service (JFS) Los Angeles, estimates that about half of all victims are still experiencing, or have suffered from, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The mental and physical hell they endured during the war, she said, produced an abundance of corticosteroids in their bodies, which weakened their immune systems and has made them susceptible to lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s Disease, a stomach disorder. Many of those survivors’ children have also inherited a form of PTSD and might suffer from similar afflictions, Kinsler added.

Survivors with PTSD often have nightmares, become easily disturbed by loud noises, have difficulty keeping their emotions in check and tend to be controlling, a quality that often causes heightened friction between them and their offspring.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Petition Launched Calling for UC Divestment From Israel in Response to Police Brutality

A petition was launched on June 1 calling for the University of California (UC) to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel, to...

Palestinian Authority Refuses to Accept Taxes Collected for It by Israel

The Palestinian Authority is refusing to accept the taxes collected for it by Israel. It’s part of the P.A.’s decision to boycott anything that smacks...

Norway Will Withhold Funding to Palestinians Over Textbooks It Says Promote Hate and Violence

Norway said Thursday that it will withhold half of the year’s funding to the Palestinian Authority’s education system until it stops using textbooks that...

The Rashi Button – a poem for Torah Portion Nasso

All the numbers…who are fit to perform the service for the service I found a musical secret in the Torah thanks to clicking the Rashi button. The service...

Penn State Condemns Photo of Student With Swastika on Her Back

Penn State University condemned a photo circulating on social media of students showing off swastikas drawn on their bodies. The student-run Daily Collegian reported that...

White House Removes Social Media Posts Claiming That Antifa Put Bricks in Front of Sherman Oaks Chabad

The White House took down posts on Facebook and Twitter on June 3 stating that antifa had been put a series of bricks in...

Some Thoughts About Being Safe

You are not on Earth to be safe. You are on Earth to lead a full life.

Black Jewish Woman Speaks out on Racism She Experienced at L.A. Jewish Day Schools

"As a black Jew, I've never faced more racism in my life than I have from the Jewish community and Jewish schools."

Pandemic Times Episode 52: Dealing with the Rise of Jew-Hatred

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. Author Severyn Ashkenazy discusses the plague of anti-Semitism and his new book, Swords of the Vatican, Reflections of a...

‘Mrs. America’ Is a Love Letter to Jewish Women

Who else could stand up to a figure as formidable, organized and savvy as Phyllis Schlafly?

Culture

Black Jewish Woman Speaks out on Racism She Experienced at L.A. Jewish Day Schools

"As a black Jew, I've never faced more racism in my life than I have from the Jewish community and Jewish schools."

‘Mrs. America’ Is a Love Letter to Jewish Women

Who else could stand up to a figure as formidable, organized and savvy as Phyllis Schlafly?

Amid Accusations, Lea Michele Apologizes for Racist Behavior

The meal-kit company HelloFresh also responded quickly, terminating its relationship with Michele.

Rep. John Lewis Taught Me Good Advocates Have Allies

In February, I headed to Washington D.C. for a national public policy conference for the Los Angeles chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. I was thrilled...

Latest Articles
Latest

Petition Launched Calling for UC Divestment From Israel in Response to Police Brutality

A petition was launched on June 1 calling for the University of California (UC) to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel, to...

Palestinian Authority Refuses to Accept Taxes Collected for It by Israel

The Palestinian Authority is refusing to accept the taxes collected for it by Israel. It’s part of the P.A.’s decision to boycott anything that smacks...

Norway Will Withhold Funding to Palestinians Over Textbooks It Says Promote Hate and Violence

Norway said Thursday that it will withhold half of the year’s funding to the Palestinian Authority’s education system until it stops using textbooks that...

The Rashi Button – a poem for Torah Portion Nasso

All the numbers…who are fit to perform the service for the service I found a musical secret in the Torah thanks to clicking the Rashi button. The service...

Penn State Condemns Photo of Student With Swastika on Her Back

Penn State University condemned a photo circulating on social media of students showing off swastikas drawn on their bodies. The student-run Daily Collegian reported that...

Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein Accused of Sexual Assault by 4 More Women, Including Minor in New York Lawsuit

A new lawsuit filed against Harvey Weinstein in New York city accuses the former film producer of raping four women, including one who was...

Lil Dicky Is the Larry David of Rap in His Show ‘Dave’

If you haven’t heard of the comic rapper Lil Dicky, and you are at least tangentially interested in rap or comedy, you should familiarize...


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 52: Dealing with the Rise of Jew-Hatred

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. Author Severyn Ashkenazy discusses the plague of anti-Semitism and his new book, Swords of the Vatican, Reflections of a...

The Orthodox, Libertarian, Pro-Weed Israeli Politician

Once upon a time, in an election far far away, in April of 2019, amidst the political cacophony of right and left, one party...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x