Over the last few months the United States has unfortunately been devastated by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. These deadly hurricanes have left parts of our country severely damaged, and caused wreckage that will likely take months if not years to repair. We are pleased that our sponsored properties in Deerfield Beach, Fla., Houston and Pasadena, Texas were spared from the worst the storms had to offer. As the recovery efforts in Texas and Florida continue, we reached out to our staff in those buildings to find out how they were able to mitigate the storm’s awful impact on the residents of their buildings.
Below you will find the manager/administrator’s thoughts regarding preparation before the hurricane, and how that work translated to the residents being as comfortable as possible during the storm.
-B'nai B'rith Center for Senior Services Team
By Phyllis Davis the Management Agent (BHC Property Management, LLC) for Pasadena Interfaith Manor and Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers (Houston) in Texas
Pasadena Interfaith Manor (175 units) and Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers (302 units) are both
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidized Section 202 apartment properties that house low-income elderly and mobility impaired residents. These properties are located in Houston and Pasadena, Texas and, as everyone now knows, were in the path of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane.
Most emergencies cannot be anticipated but some areas of the country are more prone to hurricanes and one of those areas is certainly this South Houston/Pasadena Gulf area. The City of Houston has difficulties with managing water in a normal rain storm; therefore, we know in a confident certainty that water will be our main problem when faced with a hurricane.
Preparation for any disaster is a continuous training subject with our staff and residents; therefore, each year as we enter the hurricane season, a Hurricane Preparedness meeting is held with the residents. All residents are given a reminder list of supplies they need to have on-hand during this period; such as, making sure they keep their prescriptions filled, enough food to last them several days in case they can’t get out to the grocery store and their emergency supply bag that has a flashlight and other essentials.
In the case of Hurricane Harvey, staff began visiting each resident three days before the hurricane was to reach land to find out if they were leaving the property. If they were leaving the property, we had a form that we filled out indicating where they were going and contact numbers where they could be reached. During Hurricane Harvey we had several households/apartments that were leaving to go with family. In the situation of Hurricane Harvey it was not a mandatory evacuation and many residents stayed.
These properties have two generators that power one elevator, emergency lighting and electricity on the first floor where residents with oxygen can have power and people can charge mobile devices.
At Pasadena Interfaith Manor, the manager knew what to do and was very responsible; fortunately we did not have any flooding or significant damage within the building. Goldberg Towers has two project monitors who live on-site for after hour emergencies and the manager also stayed on-site during Hurricane Harvey as it stalled over the Houston area. Our staff is excellent, they know what to do and they did it. At both buildings we credit training on a regular ongoing basis along with planning as being our success in times of emergencies. Overall, being responsible stewards of housing in general, prepares us the best we can in the event we have an emergency and weather that has many unexpected variables.
After the hurricane our residents expressed their gratitude for the great work of our staff:
From the bottom of my heart I would like to express my gratitude to our manager Angie. I'm sure that I'm not only speaking for myself, but also for all our residents. During the harrowing and dangerous days of Hurricane Harvey, Angie was with us at Goldberg Towers every day and night. She worked tirelessly together with other staff—Andretta, Jason and Marcy, always keeping calm, supporting us physically and emotionally. May God bless her! Many thanks to other Goldberg Towers staff as well.
With sincere gratitude and love,
Sofiya Konstantinovskaya, resident of Goldberg Towers
We, the residents of Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers, would like to express our enormous gratitude to Angie Futch, the real hostess of our big home. All the days during the hurricane, she stayed in house, providing help to the more vulnerable tenants. She organized the work of the staff on duty with perfection and her stay inspired confidence for our well-being. We really want her to be recognized in the city and also by her superiors. We wish her health and prosperity.
With respect and appreciation,
Liliya & Yuriy Chertkov
Ivetta Karash, residents of Goldberg Towers
By James Lynch Administrator (SPM Property Management) for B’nai B’rith Apartments in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
At B’nai B’rith Apartments in Deerfield Beach, Fla. we have a hurricane preparedness plan. Every year in June we always have our Annual Resident Emergency Disaster Preparedness Meeting— where I have a speaker from our local senior center come speak to our residents along with my service coordinators and myself. At the meeting we hand out tons of literature in several languages. I also make sure that our Disaster Preparedness Manual is hand delivered to every resident on June 1 every year. During the hurricane months there is always literature posted on the boards and reminders of how to prepare in case there is a hurricane approaching. I also make sure that all three buildings have all the hurricane supplies replenished every June. We check to make sure we have fresh batteries, check flashlights, water, first aid kits, coolers, rope, plywood, and gas cans are full with gas if needed.
If a Hurricane is approaching we send out notices to residents again with the five day plan, we also ask them to fill out a family Disaster Plan in case they decide to evacuate to let us know where they are after the storm.
During Hurricane Irma I had two maintenance staff members onsite 24/7 for two days, before, during and after the hurricane. One of my social workers and I were also available for our residents before and right after the storm. All three of our buildings do have generators and luckily we did not have to use them for Irma; and we do have an ice maker on generator in case people need ice. The tenant association council members and volunteers had coffee and food readily available for all the residents in our Community Room where many residents like to congregate during the storm so they are not alone. The first floor not only has hurricane impact windows but additional hurricane shutters around the entire room so they feel really safe there. It really is a group effort. We were very lucky this year and I believe very well prepared.
After the hurricane, resident Carole Ross said, “It wasn’t as if I wasn’t scared at times, especially with the tornado alerts, but I was in the best possible place thanks to the staff at B’nai B’rith.”
This past weekend, more than 30 brothers from Texas AEPi chapters travelled to Houston with one thing in mind: Tikkun Olam.
Eager to help families return to their daily lives, brothers logged 370 community service hours clearing debris, taking down rotted drywall and removing other hazardous material from two suburban Houston homes.
“We didn’t come down to Houston with vacation in mind. We came down here with Tikkun Olam in mind. That’s why we’re here. I did something; I helped repair the world,” said Amir Kessler (North Texas, 2017).
Many of the brothers who volunteered are from Houston and have family living in affected areas. Volunteers were hosted by ChristChurch, a local Presbyterian church, that served as a volunteer base.
This relief effort was organized by AEPi, B’nai B’rith International and NECHAMA, a Jewish disaster relief organization. B'nai B'rith is one of ten beneficiaries supported by AEPi’s Official Philanthropy Program, which is committed to Jewish causes and Tikkun Olam.
Watch the video below to see why the Texas AEPi brothers came together to help rebuild.
Medicare is our national health insurance program for individuals 65 and older and permanently disabled people under the age of 65. Created in 1965, Medicare has made health care for seniors significantly more affordable and given elderly people peace of mind regarding their medical expenses. Medicare can be broken up into Medicare Part A (hospital insurance, skilled nursing, home health services and hospice care) Part B (doctor’s visits, lab tests, surgeries, wheelchairs and walkers), Part C (private health insurance plans) and Part D (prescription drug coverage). Given how vital Medicare is for seniors, it’s important to analyze how legislative proposals in Congress can impact the health care program’s long-term financial viability.
Throughout the year, Congress has spent time trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through various health care proposals. One of the proposals, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), would have dissolved the .9 percent Hospital Insurance trust fund payroll tax. This tax is directly responsible for helping fund the Medicare Part A Trust Fund. Recently, the Medicare Board of Trustees reported that Medicare Part A will be able to pay 100 percent of its obligations until 2029. However, had the ACHA become law, revenue for Part A would have been reduced by $59 billion, and caused the trust fund to be less solvent.
When members of the House of Representatives voted for the AHCA, I often wonder how they could explain voting for a health care bill which makes Medicare more insolvent. Members of Congress are always talking about Medicare’s fiscal future, well, cutting off the program’s funding is a sure fire why to guarantee insolvency.
Furthermore, Congress’ attempts to repeal and replace the ACA, whether through the AHCA or the Graham-Cassidy bill, would have been severely damaging for older Americans (55 to 64). Some older adults could have found their private health insurance to be cost prohibitive. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that older Americans would have suffered greatly if the AHCA became law. For example, a 64-year-old making $26,500 a year would have seen an increase in premiums by an astronomical $14,400 in 2026. Furthermore, a 60-year-old earning $40,000 would receive a tax credit under the AHCA of $4,000 compared to $6,750 under the ACA to purchase insurance.
In addition, the recent proposals in Congress would have eliminated Medicaid expansion (ACA allows states to increase eligibility for people under 65 who were at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line) which could have left low-income older Americans without viable health care. Evidence demonstrates that Medicare eligible seniors with prior health insurance as older adults require less expensive health care than people who were uninsured before they enrolled in Medicare. Whether it’s the ACHA or Graham-Cassidy, had these bills become law, Medicare spending across the board (Part A, B, C and D), could have seen an unnecessary spike.
A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, entitled “Use of Health Services by Previously Uninsured Medicare Beneficiaries” found that uninsured persons between the ages of 50 to 64, were more likely to experience worsening health and die younger compared to persons of the same age who were otherwise uninsured. Consequently, once the uninsured population became Medicare eligible they required more expensive health care. The study found that the costlier care resulted from 23.4 percent doctor visits and 37 percent hospitalizations. In conclusion, the study stated, “These findings support the hypothesis that previously uninsured adults used health services more intensively and required costlier care as Medicare beneficiaries than they would have if previously insured.”
To further the point, the United States Government Accountability Office published a similar study that examined the impact of having continuous health insurance prior to joining Medicare entitled, “Continuous Insurance before Enrollment Associated with Better Health and Lower Program Spending.” This report found that people with continuous health insurance coverage for about six years prior to being Medicare eligible were more likely to be healthier for their first six years on Medicare as compared to their insured counterparts. Financially during the first year on Medicare, people with prior continuous coverage had about $2,300, or 35 percent less in predicted spending than the previously uninsured population.
Overall, Medicare helps 57 million people in America gain access to health care, with half of its recipients having incomes of less than $24,150 a year. Recent health care proposals would have purposefully defunded Medicare and made health care less accessible for the majority of older Americans.
While reasonable people can disagree on health care fixes to the ACA, I hope Congress does not champion policies that put Medicare’s long term financial future into question.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Assistant Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. He holds a B.A. from American University in political science and a J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International he worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence for the Obama White House, practiced as an attorney at Covington and Burling, LLP, worked as an aide for New York City Council Member Tony Avella and interned for Congressman Gary Ackerman’s office. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.
Last week the Simja Torah, a Holocaust memorial in Montevideo, Uruguay, was vandalized with phrases taken from books and articles written by Holocaust deniers.
The city’s local government and the mayor immediately ordered the insulting anti-Semitic graffiti to be removed. Representatives of all political parties also condemned the fact that the memorial was vandalized.
Three days after, the memorial was vandalized again.
The political reaction increased. Not only did the mayor order the memorial to be cleaned again immediately, but the Human Rights Commission of the House invited the Jewish leadership to discuss how to confront this new wave of anti-Semitism in the country.
There are two clear points to be watched in this scenario.
The first is that there is no Nazi political party in the country, Nazi propaganda is punished by law, none of the political parties in Uruguay remain silent when there are anti-Semitic attacks and the government has never endorsed anti-Semitism. There is an anti-discrimination law and all of the governments have commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day every Jan. 27, and discrimination, xenophobia, racism in all forms are combated from political parties to academia.
Anti-Semitism is not new in Uruguay. We must remember that the country (politicians, academia and media) has always thought that anti-Semitic attacks were lone actions. Lone or not, a year and a half ago David Fremd, a well known Jewish businessman, was killed by a terrorist who said that he had received “a call from Allah.” This was an anti-Semitic hate crime. Six months ago, during basketball finals between Hebraica y Macabi and another team, there were “songs” against Hebraica during the finals; all sort of aggressions were made on social media; and the most popular radio entertainer in Uruguay (who is Jewish) was brutally insulted because he publicly said he liked Hebraica. During the Gaza war in 2014, Jews were assaulted, insulted and buildings were graffitied with swastikas in Montevideo and other cities.
Those who reject anti-Semitism should show the rejection with much more strength, and political parties must all speak out against it. We must know if all political parties allowed by the democratic system are on board that education is an essential tool to eradicate anti-Semitic hatred.
Academia must show the same. If academia blasts anti-Semitism, we want to see all academia together without exceptions against anti-Semitic attacks.
If the government, political parties and civil societies are together, anti-Semitism may have no future. But if anti-Semites watch that not everybody is on board, then the democratic coexistence is in danger.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.
Arguably the most readily identifiable and popular artist of the 20th century, Marc Chagall was a man of astounding versatility. Born in 1887 in Vitebsk, Russia, he grew up and gravitated to his chosen profession during an era that celebrated the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk—stage projects in which music, dance, drama, poetry and the visual arts harmoniously combined to present a more profound experience. One of his St. Petersburg teachers, Leon Bakst, was another Jewish master whose Art Nouveau sets and costumes for the Ballets Russes transformed the world of dance in the years before World War I. It would not be until after 1918, in Soviet Russia, that Bakst’s student would become involved with the Yiddish theatre, where he developed yet another aspect of his genius that would continue to flower until the end of his life.
This season, events on two continents have been inspired by Chagall’s biography and creative vision. Hailed as the winner of the annual Carol Tambor Foundation’s Best of Edinburgh Award at this year’s Fringe Festival in August is “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk,” written by Daniel Jamieson, a co-production staged by Cornwall’s experimental Kneehigh Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic.
Incorporating expressive movement and dance, as well as Ian Ross’ music and songs orchestrated for an onstage band, this multi-disciplined work depicts both the romance of Marc and Bella, the woman who became his muse and the subject of many of his masterpieces, and the cultural roots that sired the artist’s unique perception. Despite the poverty, bleakness and violence of the shetl, the horror of World War I, and finally, the turmoil and suffering caused by the Russian Revolution, the artist forged an alternate reality, a joyous fantasy that continues to affect the visual and performing arts. “Flying Lovers’” sets, costumes and cast enervate Chagall’s dream world while the cruelty of real life is always at hand. The play’s final scene depicts Chagall’s response to Bella’s death in 1944. Acclaimed by critics and audiences, “Flying Lovers” is touring the United Kingdom through the spring of 2018, and will open in New York, probably later next year.
On view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) until Jan. 7, 2018, is the first exhibit focusing on Chagall’s later stage works. Curated by Stephanie Barron, with an installation designed by LACMA’s artist-in-residence, an innovative opera director and set designer Yuval Sharon, “Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage” surveys the Russian master’s involvement with ballet and opera spanning the decades initiated by his arrival in New York from Nazi-occupied France, and continuing through 1967.
On display are films, studies and sketches, as well as the original costumes, sets and backdrops from four Chagall productions: “Aleko,” danced in 1942 by the company now known as the New York City Ballet; famed impresario Sol Hurok’s 1945 revival of Stravinsky’s “Firebird;” the 1956 Paris Opera staging of Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe” ballet, and the artist’s beloved treatment of “The Magic Flute” which debuted at the Met Opera during its first Lincoln Center season
Visitors will also be able to see Chagall’s paintings and drawings focusing on the subject of theatre, furthering enhancing their understanding of his creative process, and the significance of the performing arts within the context of his oeuvre.
Cheryl Kempler is an art and music specialist who works in the B'nai B'rith International Curatorial Office and writes about history and Jewish culture for B’nai B’rith Magazine. To view some of her additional content, Click Here
We could not have imagined that within just a few shorts weeks the world would endure the devastation of three major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin and multiple earthquakes across the region. These natural disasters have put an immense strain on international humanitarian relief efforts. The B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund has made appeals to support the recovery in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, and continues to monitor the urgent recovery needs in Puerto Rico and other areas facing dire situations. The B’nai B’rith Cuban Jewish Relief project is also closely following the evolving needs of the Jewish community in Cuba, where Hurricane Irma made landfall as a Category 5 storm on Friday, Sept. 8.
Hurricane Irma was the first Category 5 storm to make landfall in Cuba since 1932. B’nai B’rith International learned quickly from our partners on the ground that the damage was severe, and the impact devastating. Storm surge pushed about a third of a mile inland into low-lying neighborhoods and adjoining towns, and two of the synagogues in Havana took on water. Immediately, power, gas and water services were affected.
Although thousands of people were evacuated, innumerable buildings suffered partial or total damage. Medicines, foodstuffs and other basic necessities were difficult to locate or afford before Hurricane Irma, and the crisis in these realms continues to worsen, despite a coordinated international humanitarian response. A United Nations report says between 210,000 and 220,000 homes were severely damaged, agricultural crops and livestock hit hard and 14 municipalities from the northern coast of Villa Clara province east to Camagüey critically impacted.
While the flood waters have receded, the hardest hit provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus and Villa Clara—three of which maintain active Jewish communities—are still facing interruptions to electrical service nearly a month after the storm.
Compounding the devastation left in Irma’s wake are new travel regulations announced by the Trump administration and their chilling effect on travel by Americans. While much of the enterprises catering to tourists in and around the capital of Havana have been repaired, Cuba has seen a marked drop in U.S. visitors during what is traditionally recognized as the high season. Tourism being the largest factor in the Cuban economy, it is anticipated that these new regulations—particularly during this time of crisis—will stymie recovery efforts even further.
It will take a long time for Cuba to recover from this natural disaster. In an immediate response to the challenges on the ground, the Cuban Jewish Relief Project, in partnership with the Disaster Relief Fund, mobilized over 50,000 water purification tablets for distribution to those affected by water outages. We continue to coordinate with our partners on the ground to assess the damage and the long-term needs of the community.
If you would like to help the Cuban Jewish Relief Project and our recovery efforts, please consider a contribution and Donate Now
Sienna Girgenti is the Assistant Director for the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy and Director of the Cuban Jewish Relief Project at B'nai B'rith International. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
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