$15 million settlement boosts aid to aging survivors

Rose Ozdoba survived the Warsaw Ghetto and five concentration camps. Now she'd like to go for a walk or watch TV in her Palo Alto home.

Local survivors like Ozdoba are able to live semi-independently in their own residences, thanks, in part, to home care services provided by the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children's Services and other local Jewish agencies. Now, nearly $100,000 from a $15 million Holocaust-era insurance settlement will be finding its way to those agencies to help keep survivors home.

"It goes to pay for nurses and home care workers. It goes toward providing support for survivors, and that includes case management, counseling, home care, helping to pay rent, medication, or helping file restitution claims. We also deliver food, kosher food, to survivors every day," explains Anita Friedman, the executive director of the S.F.-based JFCS.

"It's a very small amount of money. But we're very grateful because we need the money."

The S.F.-based JFCS will receive roughly $75,000 to aid needy survivors. JFCS of the East Bay is allotted nearly $13,000 and Jewish Family Service of Silicon Valley will receive around $10,000.

All told, $2.4 million of the $15 million settlement will be distributed in the United States. Of the money sent to the United States, about half will be used to aid New York-area survivors, and $210,600 will aid those in the Los Angeles region.

Ozdoba's daughter, Uriela Ben-Yaacov, said the caregivers who treat her mother every day have been "a very huge help," increasing both Ozdoba's quality of life and her own.

While Ozdoba is chatting, exercising or out for a walk in the park with caregivers, Ben-Yaacov has the time to go to work or study Korean traditional healing arts, which she utilizes to help her 86-year-old mother.

"The care itself is subsidized, which is a huge help. It's unbelievable how the costs can hike up. I tried to look at assisted-living situations, but it would just be impossible given the needs she has," said Ben-Yaacov, whose mother resides in a cottage behind her home.

"The caregiver means a huge deal, by the way. And they have all been really wonderful people."

The additional funding is coming at just the right time, according to Friedman.

The S.F.-based JFCS already budgets more than $1 million for the needs of aging Holocaust survivors, and Friedman describes the demands of that population sector as "peaking." She anticipates survivors' needs will continue to spike for another seven years until an inevitable decline.

"The needs of survivors are peaking now in this country and the world because of aging," she said.

"Now is the time when we need the money most. In seven years, we won't need the money."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.