Jewish Disability Advocacy Day 2015 was a busy day for B'nai B'rith International's Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, who addressed members of Congress as well as leadership from the Jewish, medical and senior communities in Washington, D.C.
Goldberg focused her remarks on maintaining and increasing funding for Social Security Disability Insurance, a topic currently being debated in Congress. Her comments were featured in an article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Read excerpts from that article below, along with featured social media postings from that day:
Many Americans are still feeling the effects of the economic recession that began in 2008. Even with the decline in unemployment rates and the recovery of the stock market, one segment that was hardest hit may never fully recover: senior citizens.
The Baltimore Jewish Times published an article on the Jewish senior citizen community in Baltimore, and how 27 percent are living below 200 percent of the poverty line.
B'nai B'rith is the largest national Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly in the United States with 42 buildings in 27 communities.
Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president, and Rachel Goldberg, director of aging policy at B’nai B’rith International, were reached for comment in the article, excerpts of which can be found below:
Today, said Rachel Goldberg, director of aging policy at B’nai B’rith International, shrinking pensions and retirement accounts are contributing to a greater need than ever before.
“People retire and are often living at a much lower standard than they did before,” said Goldberg, “so even in communities where you think of the people you know as being comfortable, there’s a real question as to how comfortable they’re going to be when it becomes time to retire, whether it’s because you want to or because physically, you have to.”
B’nai B’rith officials, who have been reaching out to Jews in need for more than 170 years, say stereotypes have hurt their organization in the past.
Part of their work involves helping ensure Jewish seniors have a home to live in, something that has become increasingly difficult for many elderly citizens across the United States, as the cost of living has skyrocketed alongside an increasing life expectancy. With a fixed income and little to no access to additional sources of funds, many seniors turn to B’nai B’rith for their affordable senior apartments.
“Obviously there are a lot of images of Jews in media as ostentatiously wealthy and all these ideas about running the entertainment industry and what not,” said B’nai B’rith’s Goldberg. “Those stereotypes about what Jews are and what Jews have still really do exist, and it affects not only public perception and anti-Semitism, but it makes it a little bit more difficult for low-income older adults who are Jewish to reach out for the services they need because people internalize those kinds of things. It’s one reason, in this community, that people are a little uncomfortable asking for help.”
Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president at B’nai B’rith, can recall one not-so-distant memory of a town in southern Florida denying the organization’s zoning request to build affordable senior housing there because, town officials and community members said, “there’s no poverty in the Jewish community here.”
A nearby town got wind of what happened and offered land for the units, but the experience was a wake-up call, said Olshan.
by Ron Kampeas
For Jewish and pro-Israel groups, the congressional year is ending with an odd reversal: the prospect, however fragile, of bipartisan comity on budget issues coupled with a rare partisan disagreement on Middle Eastern policy.
The groups that deal with social welfare and justice issues are heartened, albeit warily, by the end-of-year budget forged by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), his Senate counterpart.
Meanwhile, pronounced differences are emerging in the bipartisan coalition that over the last decade has shaped the tough sanctions that helped compel Iran to join talks aimed at ensuring it does not obtain a nuclear weapon.
Democrats are heeding White House pleas to lay low while the talks get underway, while Republicans are eager to advance legislation that would influence any final deal.
“Looking back at the year, to sum it up, it’s been a really bad year that just avoided getting a lot worse,” said Rachel Goldberg, director of aging policy at B’nai B’rith International, which operates 42 homes for the elderly across the United States...more.
by Ron Kampeas
Meals on Wheels may disappear, Iran sanctions are at risk and yoga is filling in the gaps.
This is what the federal government shutdown looks like in Jewish Washington.
While national Jewish organizations are sorting through the essential services that the impasse may cut, regional Jewish service providers in the Washington area are dealing with the tens of thousands of furloughed workers in their midst.
“At the federal level, the multi-family housing offices are skeletal,” said Rachel Goldberg, the director of aging policy at B’nai B’rith International, which runs a network of homes for the elderly across the country. “There’s no one for us to talk to if you need an answer to a question.”
Some programs were in good shape for the short run, Goldberg said, because they had received funding just before Oct. 1, technically the first day of the new fiscal year. But cuts would soon be felt in Meals on Wheels and home health aids...more.
by Gil Shefler
A pregnant Darfuri woman at a refugee camp in Chad, a Latino senior citizen living below the poverty line in the Bronx and an elderly Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union living in Boston.
They may not know it, but these individuals are all beneficiaries of programs run by Jewish organizations with public money.
Susan Rack, the director of Covenant House, a B'nai B'rith-run home in Boston for the elderly, has a staff of 10 nurses and maintenance workers caring for more than 300 tenants, mostly Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Although the home is in relatively good financial standing thanks to a recently awarded $3 million grant, the current cutbacks might force Rack to reduce salary costs.
"Do we do it by cutting everybody's hours or by cutting one person?" she said. "I'm not sure."
B'nai B'rith runs 38 such homes across the United States, and their directors are likely to face similar dilemmas if federal spending on the elderly is cut.
"If the sequester were to go into effect in two months from now, that could affect our ability to serve residents we already have as well as bring new residents," said Rachel Goldberg, B'nai B'rith's director of aging policy.
In the buildup to the March 1 deadline, B'nai B'rith, the Jewish Federations of North America and many other Jewish groups are lobbying lawmakers in a bid to blunt reductions. In those efforts, Goldberg said, they have found friends and foes on both sides of the aisle.
"At this point, parties themselves have pretty interesting patterns within their caucuses," she said. "We've seen within the Republican Party there were disagreements. We've walked into Democratic offices and found less friendliness than expected and the other way around."
When approaching politicians, Goldberg says, the most important thing to stress is that "spending cuts do not fall disproportionately on low-income citizens and elderly-spending programs...more.
by Ron Kampeas
Jewish groups that care for the elderly were looking forward to the election — not because they favored a candidate or a party — they just wanted it to be over. They want Washington’s fractious establishment to get back to figuring out how best to fund programs the groups say are essential.
Between Nov. 6 and Jan. 1, Congress and the Obama administration are set to head off “sequestration,” when massive across-the-board cuts go into effect with the new year...Rachel Goldberg, who directs aging policy for B’nai B’rith International, outlined a number of sources of funding for elderly care that would be subject to the across-the-board 8.5 percent cuts.
Cuts to housing payments administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she said, could within a year see homes for the elderly close units. “People could be evicted,” she said.
by Ron Kampeas
Jewish groups that care for the elderly are looking forward to the election, and not because they favor a candidate or a party -- they want Washington’s fractious establishment to get back to figuring out how best to fund programs the groups say are essential.
Between the Nov. 6 election date and Jan. 1, Congress and the Obama administration – whether lame duck or reelected – are set to head off “sequestration,” when massive across-the-board cuts go into effect with the new year...Rachel Goldberg, who directs aging policy for B’nai B’rith International, outlined a number of sources of funding for elderly care that would be subject to the across-the-board 8.5 percent cuts.
Cuts to housing payments administered by the Housing and Urban Development department, she said, could within a year see homes for the elderly close units. “People could be evicted,” she said...more.
Anointing Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney attached a name and face to his fiscal policy.
Jewish Republicans, including the House majority leader, say they are thrilled with Wisconsin's Ryan emerging as the ticket’s fresh face, hailing the lawmaker as a thoughtful and creative budget guru bent on taming out-of-control federal spending.
...Jewish community officials say that privatizing entitlement programs is more likely to drive up costs for individuals than it is to keep overall costs down.
“A competition approach is not appropriate for people who are higher risk,” said Rachel Goldberg, the director of senior advocacy for B’nai B’rith International. Ryan’s plan, she said, would lure younger and healthier Medicare-eligible Americans into cheaper plans, which in turn would drive up costs for older and less healthy citizens...read more.
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