Jewish Family Service has been named administrator for Holocaust Claims Conference for providing compassionate care to Holocaust survivors.

By Judy Greenwald

Photography courtesy of JFS

In keeping with its dedication to provide compassionate, personalized services to help thousands in the Jewish community and its vitally important role in assisting Holocaust survivors, Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit (JFS) has been named Midwest Administrator for the Holocaust Claims Conference.

Since 1951, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference) has been providing care for Jewish Holocaust victims through negotiating with the German government for millions of dollars in payments to victims, promoting Holocaust education, documentation and research, and funding social services that aid communities in looking after elderly survivors.

JFS CEO Perry Ohren noted JFS has been working with the Claims Conference for decades, and with Holocaust survivors for more than 70 years, and this partnership is crucial to the work JFS undertakes: helping survivors to age with dignity and respect.

“The Claims Conference’s purpose is to be the worldwide centralized entity that helps us help survivors locally,” said Ohren, who’s served as CEO since 2011. “This happens at JFS through the provision and facilitation of services for survivors as well as helping them access restitution.”

Perry Ohren

According to Ohren, the Conference decided the way it was helping survivors who weren’t close to places like JFS wasn’t effective, so a handful of providers across the country were asked to take on a region.

“Helping survivors both in Michigan and in a multi-state area is sacred work, so, of course we agreed to partner in this endeavor,” Ohren said.

“JFS Detroit is one of four hubs responsible for multi-state coverage,” he continued. “Our designated area includes 15 states: Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

“We’re currently working on starting services for a survivor in Petoskey and are working with Flint and Ann Arbor to qualify their communities’ survivors for services. Also, services are being provided to the last-known Holocaust survivor in Iowa.”

The aid JFS offers includes facilitating non-skilled homecare services such as personal care, cleaning and grocery shopping. Survivors are directed to New York-based agency Blue Card Inc. for emergency financial assistance.

There’s much involved in handling the duties as the Midwest Claims Conference administrator, Ohren explained.

“Administrative responsibilities include receiving referrals from agencies and individual prospective clients, completing paperwork to qualify prospective survivors for services, collecting supporting documentation, identifying, screening and training potential homecare service providers, training social workers at various referring agencies, obtaining monthly documentation for services, paying service providers and obtaining reimbursement from the Claims Conference,” he said.

Yet Ohren and everyone at JFS understand how necessary this work is — and how critical this program is to help victims of Nazi terror.

“There’s nothing more important in all we do than helping Holocaust survivors,” he concluded. “We at JFS are mindful of values such as tzedakah and tikkun olam, creating justice and working to make the world right and whole, and the concept of chessed, compassion and caring for others. We’re honored to provide these services because if we see each person as created in the image of God, we can see humanity and dignity in all people.”

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