With a giving disposition and positive outlook, Jan Laengle exemplifies the spirit of non-profit organizations. Jan has volunteered at Jewish Family Service for the past year, assisting Jewish victims of Nazi persecution in the Cincinnati area.
Jan, a German native, was selected to serve at Jewish Family Service through Action Reconciliation Service for the Peace, which sends nearly 200 German volunteers like Jan to Europe, Israel and the United States every year. The Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors has been a project site and partner with ARSP for over 10 years.
When the program was introduced to Jan by a high school classmate speaker, he immediately wanted to participate. “After I walked out I knew I was going to sign up. Now I knew what to do after I graduated. It was a very instant decision because I was excited about the program,” Jan said.
Jan and 22 other ARSP volunteers were matched to different cities and organizations in the United States. They attended seminars in Berlin and Philadelphia where they learned about life in the U.S., Jewish culture, and how to handle difficult situations that might arise.
“The other volunteers were saying ‘yeah, I’m going to New York,’ or ‘I’m heading to Chicago.’ Meanwhile, I was thinking, ‘Cincinnati? Is that some kind of dish?’”
Although initially Jan wasn’t excited about staying in this strange-sounding city, he has since come to embrace it.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I had never heard of Cincinnati and it was very hard to imagine what I was going to be doing. I really had no idea what was going to happen before I got here,” he said.
“However, I’m so happy I got to be here. I really think Cincinnati is the jackpot of all the projects. I couldn’t be any happier with the community, with how I’ve been treated and how what I’m trying to do has been welcomed and embraced by the survivors’ community, which I’m so grateful for.”
Through his Service at Jewish Family Service, Jan assisted dozens of Holocaust survivors, most of whom, in their late 80s and early 90s, struggle to get around or socialize. He visited clients with physical disabilities, took isolated individuals to events such as museum outings, and initiated a monthly social group for survivors to meet.
Jan found that the smallest of gestures were the most impactful for the people he helped. He made it possible for one client, who wasn’t able to drive herself, to visit a hospitalized friend. Having a decades-long friendship, being separated was difficult for them; but Jan’s simple act of
kindness allowed them to be together.
“That’s just an example of things that happen daily that are very meaningful to me even though it isn’t the most spectacular event. It’s the little things that make them happiest. The things we take for granted, like driving somewhere, are not always possible for them,” he said.
“Jan is a wonderful young man. He was very helpful, very efficient, very dedicated and had a good sense of humor. I loved to converse with him. He was a very smart fellow for his age,” said Joe
Polaniecki, one of the individuals Jan assisted. “He did everything with great happiness and dedication.” Jan would often visit Joe to chat or assist in errands, such as shopping or doctor visits.
Despite the gratitude expressed by his clients, Jan believes he is the one who has benefited the most from the program and relationships he’s built. The job wasn’t always easy for Jan, who dealt with difficulties such as a client passing away and being far from home; but he found the experience to be an essential, life-altering event regardless.
“I’m positive the Holocaust survivors had a larger impact on my life than I had on theirs. The courtesy of them sharing their stories and talking to me is immense,” said Jan. “When they share their stories and you talk to them, you start to understand what hatred, ignorance and not accepting people for who they are can lead to. It showed me the importance of commemorating the Holocaust today and how it hasn’t lost meaning, even 70 years after. It’s still important today to stand up against ignorance and support tolerance for everybody. The message of these Holocaust survivors needs to be passed on.”
Jan will return to Germany at the end of August, completing his one year of service. He plans to study law because, in his own words, “it’s a profession where one can change things.”
Jewish Family Service programs and services for Holocaust survivors and older adults receive additional funding from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, The Jewish Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, United Way of Greater
Cincinnati, Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, and the Bahmann Foundation. It is a member agency of the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies.
For more information, contact Jewish Family Service at 513-469-1188.
March 2016 Cincinnati - Cincinnati’s Jewish Holocaust survivors will receive groundbreaking care to reduce isolation thanks to a $60,000 grant Jewish Family Service Cincinnati received from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). When combined with matching funds, this award will enable $80,000 in new programming for survivors.
Jewish Family Service Cincinnati is one of only 23 organizations to receive this funding through the JFNA’s Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care, which was recently launched following an award from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for up to $12 million over 5 years to advance innovations in person-centered, trauma-informed services for Holocaust survivors in the United States.
These grants mark the first time in history that the United States federal government has provided direct funding for Holocaust survivor services. Of the more than 100,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States, nearly one quarter are aged eighty-five or older, and one in four lives in poverty. Many live alone and are at risk for social isolation, depression, and other physical and mental health conditions stemming from periods of starvation, disease and torture in their youth.
Person-centered, trauma-informed services (PCTI) care is a holistic approach to service provision that promotes the dignity, strength, and empowerment of trauma victims by incorporating knowledge about the role of trauma in victims' lives into agency programs, policies and procedures.
Jewish Family Service Cincinnati will use the grant to teach Russian- and English-speaking Holocaust survivors, many of whom live below 150% of the federal poverty line, how to use a variety of tablet-based programs to stay connected to friends and family.
“Jewish Family Service will draw on its knowledge and history of providing PCTI care to pilot and implement its program, Tablets and Technology: Alleviating Isolation in Holocaust Survivors,” says Gail Ziegler, LISW-S, Senior Manager of Jewish Family Service’s Center for Holocaust Survivors. “Our trauma-informed program will ensure that survivors stay connected to the community, while also respecting their need for independence by teaching them how to communicate and interact with the world electronically.”
The Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care promotes these innovative service delivery models together with the expertise of partner organizations including the Association of Jewish Family & Children's Agencies and the Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The grant money is a combination of federal dollars and philanthropic dollars raised by Jewish Federations as part of JFNA's National Holocaust Survivor Initiative, which seeks to raise $45 million to support the Survivor community.
Jewish Family Service programs and services for Holocaust survivors and older adults receive additional funding from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, The Jewish Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, and The Bahmann Foundation. It is a member agency of the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies.
For more information, contact Jewish Family Service at 513-469-1188.
Through the support of local donors, Jewish Family Service purchased a new automobile to benefit Jewish Holocaust survivors in Cincinnati.
The Rachel and Sam Boymel Family Foundation recently contributed a generous donation toward the purchase of a Kia Soul. The car was secured thanks to the additional considerate assistance of Superior Kia.
“We are so very appreciative of the kindness of Mr. Boymel. This is just one more example of the many ways Rachel (z”l) and Sam Boymel, as Holocaust survivors themselves, have dedicated their lives to caring for others. Over the years, their philanthropic support of Jewish needs has touched millions of lives in Cincinnati and Israel,” said Gail Ziegler, Senior Manager of Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors.
Ziegler explained the importance of having the car. “It is critical to have transportation so that we can visit and assess Holocaust survivors to provide them with vitally needed services. In the last year and a half, transportation allowed us to reach over 100 Jewish Holocaust survivors in their homes, many of whom needed transportation to doctor appointments, pharmacies, shopping, social activities, and visits with their friends and family in nursing care,” she said.
The new car will be used primarily by Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) volunteers from Germany who work for a year at Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors to help local survivors. The young German volunteers provide friendly visits, drive and escort survivors to the doctor or shopping, and communicate with German and Austrian restitution authorities on behalf of individual survivors and their families. Jewish Family Service welcomes its 10th volunteer, Jan Laengle, in mid-September.
Elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors in the Cincinnati area, the last of their generation to have endured the horrors of the Nazi genocide, will receive significantly more aid in 2015. A true collaborative effort among Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Jewish Family Service of Cincinnati, and the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education will ensure that local Holocaust Survivors will receive the care they need as they grow older and that others for generations to come can learn their stories and know of their strength.
“The aging process for Holocaust survivors is often more challenging when compared to the typical aging population due to the unimaginable situations they faced in concentration camps, forced labor, ghettos, and fleeing from persecution. Hunger, inadequate medical care, isolation, and despair are situations they should never have to face again,” says Beth Schwartz, Jewish Family Service Executive Director. There are 264 Cincinnati Holocaust survivors receiving services today, and approximately 500 survivors total are estimated to live in the Greater Cincinnati area.
In 2014, Jewish Family Service provided home care and related services based on the survivors’ needs, even though these needs greatly exceeded funds available. The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati led a successful campaign with its donors to raise $375,000 to help cover last year’s deficit and to provide additional Holocaust survivor assistance this year. The Federation’s special project will also provide support to The Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education to educate students and others about the Holocaust, and to ensure the survivors’ stories are digitally captured, preserved, and told for coming generations.
“We are proud of our Cincinnati Jewish community for coming together to provide new support and a renewed commitment for the unmet needs of our community’s Holocaust survivors so they can live in comfort and with dignity, and so their stories and memories continue for generations beyond their lifetime,” says Shep Englander, CEO, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
The projected unmet needs of Cincinnati’s Holocaust survivors were also recognized by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (known as the Claims Conference), which represents world Jewry in negotiating for compensation and restitution for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs.
To meet these needs in 2015, the Claims Conference increased its allocation to Jewish Family Service of Cincinnati by nearly 150% over 2014 funding. Most of the increase is earmarked for homecare, the top social service priority for these survivors. In recognition of the quality of the agency’s work and the demonstration of the community’s needs, Jewish Family Service Cincinnati was one of only a handful of US cities to receive an increase of this magnitude.
Homecare funded by Claims Conference allocations encompasses a wide variety of services intrinsic to enabling survivors to remain living in their own homes in familiar surroundings, affording them a sense of safety, security, comfort and community. Some survivors need assistance such as light housekeeping and cooking, while others require help with the basic activities of daily living such as dressing and hygiene. The additional Claims Conference funding for 2015 will be used for all of these purposes.
In addition to home care support, Jewish Family Service provides Holocaust survivors with care management, home visits, restitution assistance, social therapeutic activities, free hearing tests, safety/adaptive equipment, and emergency financial assistance. These services enhance quality of life and help Holocaust survivors pursue a life of independence and self-determination, reducing feelings of isolation and depression, enhancing social and emotional well-being for a group whose past traumas make the aging process even more challenging. Services are delivered whether the survivors live at home or in assisted living.
The Claims Conference funding, however, may only be used for survivors living independently in homes or apartments. The Claims Conference also requires the survivors meet specific criteria to be eligible for support. Because of these limitations, the funds raised by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and allocated to Jewish Family Service will be used to aid all Holocaust survivors, including those in assisted living or independent retirement communities.
Holocaust survivors and their family members are encouraged to contact Jewish Family Service. Even those previously ineligible for funding may now be able to receive needed support. Contact Gail Ziegler at 513-469-1188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jewish Family Service is hosting an information session on compensation and restitution issues for Jewish Holocaust survivors. Ms. Deborah Kram, the Claims Conference’s Client Outreach Manager, will guide a discussion on the Claims Conference’s compensation programs from 10:30 am – 12 pm on Thursday, April 16 at the Mayerson JCC, 8485 Ridge Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45236. Russian translation will be provided for the first half of this program, while the second half will be presented in English only. Adult children and grandchildren of survivors are welcome to attend, including those who are not yet clients of Jewish Family Service.
For the past two years Ms. Kram has traveled across North America speaking to groups of survivors about compensation and restitution issues at Café Europa gatherings and socialization programs, which are underwritten with a Claims Conference grant. Ms. Kram is invested in sharing the latest news in Claims Conference negotiations on behalf of survivors, and welcomes your feedback.
Ms. Kram’s visit is especially poignant as it falls on Holocaust Remembrance Day. "While we take time to remember those who died during the Holocaust, it is also important to remember those who survived persecution. These survivors live in our community and still need help seeking justice and information about relevant benefits, programs, and assistance," said Gail Ziegler, Jewish Family Service’s Senior Manager of the Center for Holocaust Survivors.
For more information on Ms. Kram's visit, contact Gail at 513-469-1188 or email@example.com.
Bella Ouziel sits at her dining room table, her hands folded on the white tablecloth, speaking of the Holocaust she and her late husband survived. She says, “Young people need to know it happened. It could happen to anybody. Our generation, we’re 80, 90 [years old]. We’re not going to be here forever.”
This thought inspired Bella’s decision to speak more about her experiences. In the past she’d been more private about the subject because she didn’t want her children to be afraid. “I wanted them to be real Americans,” she says. But with the recent waves of Holocaust deniers she feels it’s her responsibility to tell her story.
Bella was the second of four children born to Avram and Bevinida Benizio in the beautiful city of Salonika, Greece. She has warm memories of her childhood there: dinner parties with ouzo and olives and cheese, her parents’ love of singing, and her mother’s wonderful Greek recipes.
But in 1941, World War II changed everything. She and her family were sent to a Jewish ghetto and eventually to Birkenau. Life in the camps was particularly difficult for Greek Jews, as they didn’t speak German and were isolated by the language barrier. Of the 76,000 Greek Jews sent to camps, only 1,000 returned home. By the time she was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, 17-year-old Bella was the only surviving member of her family. In 1945 she was sent on a death march to Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated by British troops a few months later.
In 1946, Bella married Samuel Ouziel, a survivor of Birkenau and Buna. They came to the United States in 1951 with their three-year-old daughter Sylvia (named for Bella’s late sister) and 12-month-old Morris. “We didn’t have any money. We came here with two suitcases,” Bella relates, “They’d say, ‘You’re gonna go to America. You’re gonna be rich.’ But it wasn’t that way.”
When the Ouziels first arrived in Cincinnati, Jewish Family Service moved them into an apartment in Avondale and supplied them with $20 a week (about $183 a week today) while Samuel looked for work. Bella and the children were even given free health care. “They really helped. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to make it,” she says.
Today, however, Bella’s needs are even greater than they were when she first arrived. Her daughter Sylvia was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and Bella is her sole caregiver. Bella doesn’t drive anymore, and she’s beginning to have mobility issues. It’s getting harder and harder to care for her own needs, as well as those of her daughter.
“My son lives in Florida, and my daughter’s sick. If I don’t have Jewish Family Service helping me, what will happen to me?” Bella asks.
Jewish Family Service assists Bella in many ways, whether that’s taking her to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store; arranging for someone to clean Bella’s house on a weekly basis; or helping her translate, fill out, and notarize documents for her restitution claims against Germany. “They help us with everything,” she says.
It’s more than just caring for her physical needs. Jewish Family Service staff and volunteers take her out to lunch and visit her when she’s in the hospital. They organize social gatherings with other survivors, known as the Friendship Club. They help her enroll in programs like the Public Library’s Outreach Program for seniors, which delivers large-print books to Bella’s door every other week.
“If I need anything, I give [Gail] a call,” she says. Gail Ziegler is Jewish Family Service’s Senior Manager of the Center for Holocaust Survivors and has worked very closely with Bella over the years. Gail was even able to get in contact with a genealogist from Bella’s home town of Salonika, who went to the town hall to obtain a copy of Bella’s marriage certificate that she hadn’t seen since she was married almost seventy years ago.
These are just a few of the many services that Jewish Family Service provides for Holocaust survivors. There are countless others within our community who rely on these services to remain in their own memory-filled homes. This is only possible with generous donations from the Jewish community and others who recognize the importance of caring for these courageous survivors.
Eligible Holocaust survivors and their surviving heirs may be able to receive funds by completing a free application by December 31, 2014. Jewish Family Service is assisting those eligible - former owners of residential and/or commercial properties stolen by the Nazis in specific areas of the former East Germany - with the application process.
The funds are available through the Claims Conference’s Late Applicants Fund (formerly the Goodwill Fund).
“We encourage anyone in the Jewish community whose family had ties to the former East Germany to review the on-line list, even if someone in your family received compensation for property following WWII,” says Gail Ziegler, Manager of Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors. “Our staff are aware of quite a few survivors who have found family members listed on the site, and Jewish Family Service is here to assist heirs in the application process. Don’t miss this deadline!”
You can view a full list of former owners and properties at www.claimscon.org/LAF. Call Jewish Family Service at 513-469-1188 for more information.
Cincinnati December 13, 2012
More than 60 participants attended the annual Hanukkah luncheon organized by the Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors. The Hanukkah party, which was at Adath Israel Congregation, was one of the many Friendship Club activities held throughout the year. Open to all Jewish Holocaust survivors, the entire program was in both English and Russian. The atmosphere was joyful as participants lit the Hanukkah candles, laughed with good friends, enjoyed a buffet lunch, and joined in a raffle to win one of many gifts. The Hanukkah party was made possible by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims, Inc.
Cincinnati November 9, 2012
“Today we are opening this memorial here on this wonderful American soil, thousands of miles away from the burial places of those who sacrificed their lives in the battles against Nazi Germany. We are both sad and proud of their short but brave lives. Thanks to them we can live our lives,” said Zygmund Keller, Holocaust Survivor and WWII veteran.
Keller was addressing an audience of 150 Friday, November 9, 2012 at the dedication of a permanent memorial to honor all Jews who lost their lives by the Nazi regime: Jewish soldiers, partisans, and innocent victims.
The memorial was initiated by Jewish Family Service and the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education and is located at the Mayerson JCC in Amberley. It is the first Holocaust memorial in Cincinnati to also honor the memory of Soviet Jewish soldiers and Jewish victims who died during WWII. The dedication occurred on the 74th anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), which was the first series of state-sanctioned organized attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany.
“This permanent installation not only commemorates the victims of the Holocaust but also the soldiers that fought to liberate Europe from the Nazis and in particular Soviet Jewry’s connection to WWII. The time is overdue for us to incorporate the experiences of Russian Jewry into the history of World War II. I hope this is the first step towards greater awareness and acknowledgement of these stories which were held captive by the Iron curtain for so long,” said Sarah Weiss, Executive Director of the Center for Holocaust and Humantiy Education.
The memorial’s inscription reads, “In memory of the 6 million Jewish men, women, and children who perished during WWII (1939-1945). In Memory of all those who gave their lives and contributed to the great victory and liberation of many nations. ‘No one is forgotten, Nothing is forgotten.’ Olga Bergholz.” Bergholz was a Soviet poet.
Special thanks is given to Schott Monuments for donating the stone for the memorial, and to the Mayerson JCC for providing the public location and facilitating the establishment of the marker.
The Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors wants to alert survivors of the following December 2011 deadlines:
Changes in the German Ghetto Pension and Ghetto Fund payments now allow eligible survivors to receive both types of payments. For survivors who have never filed an application for the Ghetto Fund one-time payment (2,000 Euros) the deadline for receipt of a new application at the office of the BADV authority in Bonn, Germany is December 31, 2011. For information on the criteria and how to apply: http://www.claimscon.org/index.asp?url=badv.
Project HEART is a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), funded by and in cooperation with the Government of Israel. It focuses on identifying individuals with
potential claims regarding the following types of private property:
(1) private property that was located in countries that were controlled by Nazi forces or Axis powers at any time during the Holocaust era;
(2) private property that belonged to Jewish persons as defined by Nazi/Axis racial laws;
(3) private property that was confiscated/looted/forcibly sold by Nazi forces or Axis powers during the Holocaust era.
Questionnaires can be downloaded or completed online at http://www.heartwebsite.org. Postmark deadline is December 1, 2011.
For assistance in obtaining or completing any of these applications, contact Gail Ziegler, LISW or Sophia Schnare, ARSP volunteer, at Jewish Family Service, 469-1188.
Jewish Family Service was awarded a $25,000 grant from The Bahmann Foundation to support a hearing service program for Jewish Holocaust survivors in the Greater Cincinnati area. The grant will provide them with hearing tests, interpretive services, assistive listening devices, and other adaptive technologies.
“We are very appreciative of The Bahmann Foundation’s continued support for this work,” says Gail Gepsman Ziegler, MSW, LISW, program director for the Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors. Jewish Family Service has worked with The Bahmann Foundation since 2004.
“Studies indicate that approximately 10% of age related hearing loss is misdiagnosed as early stage dementia,“ says Ziegler. “Addressing hearing loss can increase the quality of life by encouraging aging survivors to become more engaged with others thereby decreasing their depression and isolation.”
Because many of Jewish Family Service Holocaust survivor clients receiving assistive listening devices are Russian speaking, the grant will also provide medical interpretation for hearing tests, appointment scheduling, and home visits.
“The success of the hearing aid program is directly related to the follow up care that is provided,” says Ziegler. She often schedules routine follow up appointments with Dr. Tom Goldman at The Jewish Hospital. In coordination with Lorraine Croft, nurse liaison with The Bahmann Foundation, Ziegler visits with survivors to ensure proper hearing aid use.
“Meeting with clients in their home or in accessible locations, such as the Jewish Family Service offices, allows us to monitor and support clients as they learn to use this new technology,” says Ziegler.
Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors is a program of its Aging and Caregiver Services department, which receives funds administered by Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio. Social services for Nazi victims have been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Jewish Family Service also strengthens lives through Adoption, Emergency Financial Support, Family Life Education, and Jewish Family Service Food Pantry. In addition to grants and private donations, Jewish Family Service receives a portion of its support from Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
To help Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors plan for their future health care needs, Jewish Family Service Resettlement brought in attorney Edward G. Marks on August 25, 2011.
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CINCINNATI Jewish Family Service recently gave Iosif Vak, a Russian speaking Jewish Holocaust survivor who has congenital eye disease, a visual monitor that allows him to read and write once again. Vak, who is a resident at Cedar Village, is known in the Russian community for his scholarship and his Russian poetry, which this machine helps him to write.
Because the visual monitor enlarges the text of books and papers, it allows him to read current events as well as write his poetry. This helps him maintain his independence, an objective of the Jewish Family Service Aging and Caregiver Services program.
“With older adults, increased isolation can increase depression,” said Gail Ziegler, Jewish Family Service social worker. “The goal of these machines is to help keep older adults engaged with the world around them to decrease depression.”
Vak’s machine is the third Jewish Family Service has placed in the survivor community. He received instruction on its use from Lorraine Croft, a nurse liaison for the Bahmann Foundation that provided funding for this adaptive equipment.