The Arizona Jewish Post highlights the pair of B'nai B'rith low income senior housing properties in Tucson, focusing on the quality of life enjoyed by its residents, as well as its visionaries, Holocaust survivors Gerd and Inge Strauss.
B'nai B'rith is the largest national Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly in the United States. Our Senior Housing Network in the U.S. consists of 42 buildings in 26 communities, encompassing more than 4,000 apartment units and serving more than 8,000 people.
Read more about these properties and their residents, below:
Many Tucsonans are surprised to learn that the Jewish community sponsors not one but two nationally recognized independent housing communities for low and very low income seniors: B’nai B’rith Covenant House of Tucson and the Gerd & Inge Strauss Manor on Pantano.
Covenant House resident Carolyne Vogel feels gratitude and relief for the Covenant House. “For years, I worked all the time and didn’t have any close neighbors,” she says. “Now I have two really good friends here. At Covenant House, it’s very relaxing. I feel safe here.” A four-year resident, she feels so secure that her basic needs are met, she’s liberated to focus on her hobbies.
Liz Kanter Groskind, president of the Strauss Manor board, echoes the sentiments of her counterparts at Covenant House. “We get handwritten thank you notes from the residents all the time,” says Groskind. “They truly appreciate all the extras. We simply believe that those who have the least should live somewhere dignified, beautiful and safe. We’re not going to let you merely subsist.”
Although both facilities house residents from diverse backgrounds, the numerous Jewish residents, including several Holocaust survivors, appreciate the Jewish touches that the boards provide, from menorot in the spacious and elegantly decorated lobbies, to Jewish library materials, to brisket and latkes during Chanukah and more.
Both properties were the vision and work of longtime Tucsonan Gerd Strauss, who died in 2009.
Holocaust survivors Gerd and Inge Strauss, childhood sweethearts from Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1947 and relocated to Tucson in 1986. Strauss brought both properties to fruition in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and B’nai B’rith International, the largest national Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly in the United States.
After building the 119-unit Covenant House in 1995, he went on to establish the 80-unit Strauss on Pantano facility that bears his name, which opened in 2006. Residents spend 30 percent of their income on rent; the rest is subsidized by HUD. Going into his 90s, Strauss was planning a third property in Sahuarita, which never materialized.
Tucson was lucky to benefit from the timing of Strauss’ vision and energy. “Section 202 program funding [HUD capital advances and operational subsidies] doesn’t exist anymore. It is difficult to recreate the types of programs our communities enjoy,” Olshan laments. B’nai B’rith continues to support the Tucson properties by providing technical and professional training to their supervisory boards and management and employment company, Biltmore Properties.
The Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB) held its third annual "Shot in the Dark Golf & Dinner Classic" on Friday, May 1, 2015 at the Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, Md.
The event's purpose was to demonstrate an appreciation for vision loss and how it can be overcome. B'nai B'rith International, a long-time supporter of CLB was a proud financial sponsor of the event and had leadership in attendance at the classic.
National blind golf champions Bruce Hooper and Phil Blackwell ran the golf clinic for CLB clients to learn the fundamentals of golf including chipping and putting.
This year a Casino Night was added to the event. Local sports media personalities Steve Buckhantz and Andy Pollin were the emcees for the evening, and the golf tournament kicked off after sundown.
Watch the event highlight video, below:
Students at Seton Hall University helped residents at two senior living communities dig out their cars after recent snowstorms.
The volunteer effort came through SOS—South Orange Seniors—who reached out to the Seton Hall University Division of Volunteer Efforts to shovel out cars at South Orange B’nai B’rith Federation House on South Orange Avenue and Village Apartments of the Jewish Federation on Vose Avenue.
Eight students showed up with shovels in hand on Saturday, Jan. 31 and on Tuesday, Feb. 3 to clear snow from residents’ cars in the communities’ parking lots.
The students enjoyed some warm-up time afterwards with grateful seniors over hot chocolate and cookies. The Seton Hall University volunteers were Jack Yang, Daniel Chemey, Sahil Trivedi, Alyssa Morrissey, Jenna Copperwhite, Marissa Hutton, Veronica Beck and Amanda Cavanagh.
B'nai B'rith Victoria, a territorial affiliate of B'nai B'rith Australia, is in the running for a prestigious municipal service award in the city of Glen Eira, according to Australian-New Zealand Jewish publication J-Wire.
The Victoria community service efforts focus on the health of the community, social justice, tolerance, human rights and anti-discrimination. Read more about the award and service efforts, below:
B’nai B’rith Victoria has been selected as one of two finalists in the Glen Eira Community Group of the Year Award 2015.
B’nai B’rith Victoria has over 500 volunteer members within its organisation – with the majority living in City of Glen Eira.
Several hundred members are active, committed, and work together to bring about a diverse range of interests, projects and activities. Projects not only engage citizens within the City of Glen Eira but also citizens from other local government areas.
Faye Dubrowin, President of B’nai B’rith Victoria said: "B'nai B’rith is thrilled and delighted. I never cease to be amazed at the commitment and determination of B’nai B’rith volunteers/members of all ages and are the strength and backbone of the organisation.
"As a finalist for this Award, recognition is given to their wonderful work and the very many great projects they provide to the community."
Mariaschin: The first distinguishing factor is that B’nai B’rith is the oldest of the Jewish organizations – we’re now into our 172nd year. We’re also an international organization made up of members in nearly 50 countries around the world.
We concentrate on three main areas: One is pro-Israel advocacy and fighting global anti-Semitism. We've had credentials at the United Nations since 1947, and we spend a good deal of our time there fighting bias against Israel.
The second area is senior housing and advocacy. The Jewish community has probably the largest proportion of senior citizens of any ethnic group in this country, so for more than 40 years now we have been sponsoring affordable housing for seniors in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development – we have more than 40 properties around the United States. We’re also involved in senior advocacy – issues like Social Security, Medicare, etc.
The third area is disaster relief. We help victims of hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis – all kinds of natural disasters around the world.
You were recently involved in fighting HarperCollins after a Catholic news website reported that the publisher had omitted Israel in atlases it was selling in the Middle East. What’s your take on the story?
This is only the latest in a long series of these kinds of omissions. We’ve seen it particularly with airlines omitting Israel on route maps, for example. But HarperCollins’s omission was especially egregious because it is a major general and educational publisher. You know, if we’re going to talk about peace and a peace process, it’s not only for diplomats – it’s for everybody. When a major publisher leaves Israel off a map, what kind of message does that send to schoolchildren in the Arab world?
This incident ended well for a change.
Yes, HarperCollins decided to call the atlases back and pulp the rest, as they say. Hopefully it will serve as a lesson for others because this was just a microcosm of the larger issue of the delegitimization of Israel. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a speech at the United Nations; it can be a decision made in an editorial office somewhere to say, “Look, we don’t want to offend our readers so we think we’ll just leave Israel off.” Hopefully the firestorm around this story will send a message to others that a) it’s unacceptable and b) there are people out there watching who will raise the red flag when they do this kind of thing.
What kind of work does B’nai B’rith do at the UN?
We were actually present in 1945 when the UN was founded in San Francisco, and we received our first credentials as an NGO in 1947.
What has happened over the last 25 years, unfortunately, is that much of our UN activity relates to the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. We feel very strongly about trying to keep the UN honest on this issue. So, for example, in March every year we go for a week to Geneva where the UN Human Rights Council is based and meet with ambassadors. We’re also in Paris at UNESCO.
Low-income seniors living at B'nai B'rith's Homecrest House in Silver Spring, Md. will benefit from a new grant designed to provide the elderly with part time jobs to build their resumes and maintain independence.
The grant, from Senior Service America to The Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington, is good for $768,784 and will fund programs for more than 40 nonprofits and government agencies.
Read more about the grant, courtesy of an article in Gazette.net:
The money will be used to help provide older workers in Montgomery and Frederick counties with temporary part-time jobs to help them expand their resumes.
The grant will fund a program that has been operating for 40 years, said David Gamse, CEO of the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington.
Older people face longer periods of unemployment, and age discrimination is “alive and well and living in Montgomery and Frederick counties,” he said.
To be eligible, participants must be at least 55 years old and earn less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
The program has a long waiting list, with about 300 people for the 30 to 60 new slots that open up each year, said Rivka Yerushalmi, director of senior employment services for the council.
The average wait is a few years, she said, but there are priorities for people such as veterans, people with disabilities, those who are 75 years of age or older, and people who have received eviction notices, she said.
Many of the people in the program may have poor language skills or don’t know how to communicate effectively in the modern workplace, but many are well-educated and speak multiple languages, Gamse said.
Everyone in the program is trying very hard to get off government support programs and wants to be independent, he said.
Between 2006 and 2012, the program moved 118 participants into unsubsidized full- and part-time jobs.
“The bottom line here is that we want these folks out of the program and into regular jobs,” Gamse said.
B'nai B'rith Housing unveiled plans for a new subsidized senior living facility at a town meeting in Andover, Mass.
The proposal was for 133 units to be installed in two phases, with construction beginning in early 2015, pending approval.
For more information, read an excerpt of the article that appeared in Andover Eagle-Tribune.
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.
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