Nearly 15 years ago, the World Center proposed a resolution to the 2003 B’nai B’rith International Board of Governors meeting that convened in Baltimore calling on the organization to honor Jewish Holocaust rescuers. The resolution that past read “BE IT RESOLVED THAT B’nai B’rith International authorizes the B’nai B’rith World Center to engage in identifying and honoring Jews who performed extraordinary actions to save other Jews during the Holocaust, and asks that they further define the scope of any involvement and activity by B’nai B’rith International.”
Over the years since that resolution, the search for Jewish Holocaust-era rescuers has become a major area of activity for the World Center and a personal passion.
In order to properly honor those heroes, the World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust—of which the World Center is a founding member—launched their joint “Jewish Rescuers Citation,” through which some 170 Jewish heroes have been recognized for their courageous actions rescuing Jews across Europe during the Holocaust.
One of the modus operandi of the citation is that it must be presented to the rescuer him or herself or, in the case that the rescuer is no longer alive, to a relative.
Sometimes, this condition is difficult to meet, particularly in the case of some of the more obscure rescue efforts.
One such effort is the case of Dr. Asaf Atchildi, a medical doctor born into the Jadir community of Samarkand—a religious community of Jewish origin, originally forced into accepting the Muslim faith for the sake of appearance. Atchildi found himself in Paris during the German occupation, attending to the Juguts—Jews of Bukharian origin in France. With the assistance of Georgian expatriate politicians living in France, an Iranian diplomat and other players, Dr. Atchildi succeeded in building a web of contacts and relationships among the German and French bureaucracy that ensured the survival of the Jugut community and other non-Jugut Jews who were surreptitiously added to the list of Juguts. Atchildi, who, at his wife’s urging never registered as being Jewish, was in constant danger of being found out and deported.
Our committee had no doubt that the now deceased doctor deserved the Jewish Rescuers Citation but we were unable to find a relative to receive it. We knew from testimony he gave to Yad Vashem that while in Paris he had two daughters. We could not find either in Israel or in Paris. I then resorted to the radio program “Search Bureau for Missing Relatives,” anchored by Izzy Mann, a B’nai B’rith World Center Journalism Award winner, who immediately promised to broadcast Atchildi’s fascinating story to garner information from the public at large and also to set loose his bevy of volunteer researchers to find Atchildi or his close kin. Izzy was able to find some significant leads to distant relatives in Israel and within three weeks these led to a breakthrough: we found Dr. Atchildi’s one surviving daughter, Dora Aftergood (90), at the Jewish age home in Vancouver and her son David in Calgary. B’nai B’rith Canada has agreed to stage a major event to present the citation posthumously to Dr. Atchild—closing the circle opened 70 years earlier when he ensured the survival of over 300 Bukharian and other Jews in occupied France.
The World Center remains committed to this important project that helps discredit the mistaken notion that Jews did nothing to rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust and that the notion of Jewish solidarity was nowhere to be found during those terrible times.
B'nai B'rith International volunteer Jason Jangsner recently traveled to Japan with the B'nai B'rith Young Leadership Network as a part of the Kakehashi Project. The project is a program created by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is designed to promote positive relations between the country of Japan and young people around the globe.
Langsner shared his experiences in a blog post for GatherDC. You can scroll down to read it, or click the button below to read it on GatherDC.org.
Although still, a bit jet lagged from a 12+ hour flight, I wanted to share my recent experience as a participant in a young Jewish American delegation to Japan.
For over five years I have been involved in B’nai B’rith International and its Young Leadership Network (BBYLN). B’nai B’rith is an organization that advocates for Global Jewry and human rights. I was recently invited with 11 other Jewish leaders from around the U.S. to be a part of the second #BBYLNinJPN cohort for the KAKEHASHI Project – a program of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – that aims to build bridges for the future and create deeper mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the U.S.
KAKEHASHI will bring 5,100 people to Japan this year. I was honored to be one of them. Fellow Jewish leaders from Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New York, and South Florida joined me on this trip. We visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kobe from March 5-12, 2017, and learned a great deal about the history, economy, culture, and policy priorities of Japan. We were a part of the second delegation of BBYLN volunteers to be invited to Japan on KAKEHASHI.
After departing from Tokyo’s Narita Airport, the delegation and our Japanese guides started the week off at an authentic Japanese dinner – where we were instructed to take our shoes off and sit on pillows in front of our plated dinners. Our feast included miso soup, sashimi, chicken yakitori, pickled vegetables, and more.
As Jewish Americans representing B’nai B’rith International—the Jewish community’s oldest humanitarian and human rights advocacy organization— the program focused on the Jewish Community in Japan.The Japanese Jewish community is made up of about 1,000 people.The community includes American, European, and Israeli ex-pats who now live/work in Japan; as-well-as a very small percentage of native Japanese who identify as Jewish. We were invited to Shabbat services and dinner with members of the Jewish Community Center of Tokyo which is made up of 100 families. While on our trip we met the Chabad Rabbi and visited his synagogue in Kobe, and some members of our delegation joined the Tokyo Chabad community for a megillah reading on Purim.
We met with the number two ranking diplomat in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the former Japanese Ambassador to Israel, and the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Japan. We learned that Jewry in Japan pre-existed WWII, but it was small. The city of Kobe, which had a small but vibrant Jewish community before the war. In the early-1940s, Japan helped to save the lives of thousands of Jews from Poland and Lithuania by offering them temporary travel visas. A Japanese Diplomat who served as Vice-Consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania, Chiune Siguhara, from that time is named one of the Righteous of the Gentiles in Yad Vashem for this act of humanity in writing over 2,100 visas and saving 6,000 lives. Each visa authorized a Jewish family to leave Eastern Europe and travel to Japan temporarily. We visited Japan’s Holocaust Education Center in Fukuyama and were serenaded by Israeli songs, in Hebrew, by local members of the Fukuyama community.
And yes, we did make it to a Team Israel baseball game in the Tokyo Dome where we joined in the chorus of Hatikivah before the game – a memory that none of us will soon forget!
Beyond the exposure to the Japanese Jewish community and the important triangular ties between the U.S.-Japan-Israel, we also learned a great deal about Japanese history and culture. We spoke with a survivor of Hiroshima and visited the site where the atomic bomb was dropped, met with the CEO of a Japanese company, had dinner with young Japanese entrepreneurs, visited numerous historic sites, toured a Sake brewery, and some of us – who weren’t allergic – visited a cat café during our free time.
Medicaid is a cooperative, means-tested health care program that currently provides health care coverage to 6.9 million people who are aged 65 or older. It was created in 1965 to deliver medical care to various low-income populations such as people 65 and older, children, adults and people with chronic disabling conditions. Because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states have the option to expand Medicaid eligibility for people under the age of 65 with income up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).
Presently, Medicaid funding comes from the federal and state governments, with the federal government obligated to pay a pre-determined share of a state’s Medicaid costs. The federal government’s pre-determined share varies by state, however averages 57 percent. Under the current Medicaid matching structure, federal funding fluctuates in concert with the health care needs of the individual states. The current policy furthers Medicaid’s central goal by giving beneficiaries the security of a health care safety net.
Low-income seniors have greatly benefited from the Medicaid program. For example, since Medicaid states sometimes fills coverage gaps on dental, vision and hearing services Medicare does not cover, seniors are able to receive care they could not cover on their own. In addition, low-income seniors are aided in the cost sharing and out of pocket costs in their Medicare coverage. Many seniors depend on Medicaid to cover the cost-sharing in Medicare—without this coverage they would not be able to afford co-payments and would skip needed care.
In addition, Medicaid helps seniors with long-term services and supports (LTSS) by providing funding for such senior health care services like nursing facilities. In 2015, the median nursing facility annual cost was $91,250, which exceeds what most elderly people and their families can afford. Because Medicare financing for LTSS is limited, Medicaid has been a critical to rounding out funding so low-income seniors can receive the appropriate long-term health care services.
Recently, Congress had seriously considered the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as legislation to repeal and replace the ACA. While Congress was unable to pass the AHCA it is important to examine how this proposed legislation would have impacted Medicaid. Specifically, Congress was deliberating on whether to change Medicaid to a per capita cap financing structure between the federal government and the states. Under a per capita cap, federal spending on the Medicaid program would have been capped on a per-beneficiary basis. While the AHCA exempted Medicaid aid for low-income Medicare beneficiaries from the per capita cap proposal, changing any portion of the Medicaid funding to a per capita cap proposal would have added an additional layer of pressure to state budgets, and put the health care and financial security of millions of older adults at risk. For instance, a per capita cap proposal could have drastically decreased the amount of federal financing available for states to pay for nursing facilities.
From 2015 to 2035, the number of low-income older adults is expected to rise from 15 million to 27 million people. Proposals that cap the federal government’s financial responsibility will put an increasing amount of Medicaid beneficiaries at risk when they need more care as they age. State Medicaid programs operating under a fixed federal contribution could face the daunting choice of finding billions of additional dollars in their own budgets or being forced to offer even more limited health care access to their most vulnerable low-income seniors.
I’m sure you are beginning to become familiar with the ways in which HUD assistance houses over 10 million individuals. This, of course, is carried out via public housing (rental housing for over 1 million low-income families, the elderly, and those with disabilities), multifamily subsidized housing (which includes Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, the Congregate Housing Services Program, and Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program) and housing vouchers (Section 8 project-based or tenant-based rent vouchers for low-income individuals, families, the elderly and the disabled). In addition, properties are often financed or assisted financially through the FHA insurance loan programs and low-income housing tax credits.
Five HUD programs provide affordable rental housing that is designated for low-income senior households. Section 202 provides housing exclusively for older adults and people with disabilities, while four other HUD programs provide housing for all age groups but have devoted the property to housing senior residents. These include Section 236 and Section 221 (d)(3) programs, public housing and project-based Section 8 programs dedicated primarily for use by senior households. After the Section 202 program, project-based Section 8 housing provides the most housing dedicated specifically to elderly households.
As you become more familiar with how HUD works to combat poverty for individuals and families all over our country using a modest portion of the federal budget, I want to bring your attention to the estimated 2 million seniors, most often low-income single women in their mid-70s to early-80s, who are housed through HUD subsidies or call HUD-assisted facilities home. HUD, a department that long ago began prioritizing the well-being of our most vulnerable seniors, has wavered in recent years on its commitment to take care of the oldest among our nation’s poor. I have the privilege of working directly with residents and staff of our 38 low-income supportive senior housing facilities, housing about 8,000 seniors across the country. Working with these buildings has transformed my understanding of what HUD-supportive housing is, and of who lives there. One thing has become particularly clear: We must include seniors in all of our conversations about publicly-funded housing.
I was disappointed that your remarks to the Senate Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee did not include comments about affordable housing for seniors. However, I was pleased to read you indicated in your written responses to Sen. Sherrod Brown that the Section 202 program is “an important tool” for senior housing and that you will lobby President Trump for the inclusion of this vital program as part of a comprehensive infrastructure package. Across the spectrum of publicly-assisted housing, seniors are everywhere. Not only are they served by senior-specific programs, but they are a significant part of the population in every other category of HUD’s portfolio. Frankly, I am worried that within your focus on eliminating “government dependence,” you do not account that many people who benefit from HUD are retirees and disabled people whose incomes will never really improve, and whose need for housing assistance cannot be dismissed. Many of your statements spoke to the desire to get people off of public assistance and to move them towards gainful employment through a “development of innate talent” and “work requirements.” While economic success and independence are laudable goals to facilitate for the working poor, they are not realistic for fixed income older adults.
Many seniors living now in HUD assisted housing—who are in your terms “dependent” on it—have worked their entire lives and are still only able to afford housing by combining meager Social Security benefits with assistance from your department. While many of these individuals live in senior-specific facilities, about a third of households that make up public housing are senior-led homes or include a family member who is a senior. I believe it is important to remember that work should not be the sole focus when we discuss assisting those experiencing poverty. If we forget about the special needs required by millions of seniors who are now unable to work, we have committed a great injustice. I, and many senior housing advocates, believe the focus should instead be placed upon addressing the root causes of the shortage in affordable housing. We believe that accessing affordable housing is prevented by systematic issues including, but not limited to, predatory mortgage lending, a stagnant and unrepresentative COLA used for Social Security and astronomical price surges in many areas where seniors hoped to “age in place” due to gentrifying neighborhoods.
I am encouraged to know that you will be able to apply a health perspective on housing, because good health outcomes are incompatible with unstable or inappropriate housing. Further, housing can be a platform for prevention and early health intervention services. I look forward to the integration of your medical knowledge into your approach to HUD programs and hope that you will ensure “aging in place” and preventative care are tenets of your leading this department. Research tells us that ensuring the well-being of an aging person while they are healthy or maintaining a chronic condition prevents hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent at the end of that individual’s life. We know that these end-of-life prices surges can occur through Medicaid funded nursing home care or through receiving emergency medical services. We also know that this can be prevented when folks are able to “age in place” with comfort and dignity. More so, those in the supportive housing industry know that co-location of services and housing is crucial to maintaining one’s health as they age. Affordable, supportive housing not only allows people access to “healthy” aging, but helps people avoid injuries and unnecessary nursing home placements.
I think it’s only fair that a society be judged on the way it takes care of its oldest members. While we experience a growing population of seniors who are currently 75 years of age and older, the senior population, those aged 65 and over, is projected to double by the year 2030, from 35 million to 71.5 million. In 2010, more than 44,000 people aged 65 and over were homeless. In many ways, I am saddened our country has not done a better job of creating and preserving housing for older adults. However, I hope that I can appeal to you, as a man of faith, that we lift up and support our older neighbors who face significant financial barriers, and deserve a warm place to call home!
While I hope you will take my concerns to heart, I would love nothing more than for you to visit any of the 38 senior housing facilities my organization, B’nai B’rith International, sponsors across the United States from Maryland to California. We hope that a visit from you to any of our thriving communities would serve as a fact-gathering mission and support the good work that you will be leading!
Breana Clark, MSW
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