Israeli Holocaust survivors irked by new government funding cut

JERUSALEM — While the government is negotiating with Switzerland to recover money taken from Jews in the Holocaust, it is simultaneously taking away money to help those who survived.

Recently, the two organizations that deal with Holocaust survivors, the National Israeli Center for Psychosocial Support for Survivors of the Holocaust and the Second Generation (AMCHA) and Keren Artzi, were informed by the Ministry of Finance that its budget allocation for this year was being cut back.

The Health Ministry, which also provides funds to the survivors' organizations, has also reduced funding to $29,760.

Danny Hanoch, a survivor of Auschwitz, Dachau and Mauthausen, is naturally upset. "We are not strong; we are not demonstrating; nobody is paying attention to us because we are not a power. I'm from the youngest [of survivors], and I'm already 65.

"This [budget cut] is unfair. What can we do? Only cry for a little bit and that's all. This is a sin and an ugly step by the government," he added.

The government's budgetary allocation to the 300,000 Holocaust survivors who live here has been decreasing steadily. In 1994, the Finance Ministry provided $1.19 million for the two organizations, of which AMCHA received $119,048; in 1996, it was cut to $446,400, with $44,642 going to AMCHA.

"It's obscene," said Jonathan Lemberger, director of AMCHA. "To cut it to zero, or very close to zero, is not only a further embarrassment, but also goes against all the pronouncements of Jewish leaders, from the prime minister on down, who are speaking about the return of Jewish assets, or Jewish property, or Jewish gold, and claiming that the needs of Holocaust survivors are at the forefront of their mind and should be addressed immediately, and should not wait for commissions and committees and investigations. It's a slap in the face to the survivors.

Motti Sherf, a spokesman for the Finance Ministry, blamed the cuts on Avraham Shohat, the previous finance minister under the Labor government.