On August 23, 2023, the Holocaust Survivor Program* teams from Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) and Jewish Community Services (JCS) gathered at Temple Isaiah in Howard County, Maryland for a daylong retreat. JSSA serves survivors in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and JCS serves survivors located in the Baltimore metropolitan region. Rabbi Craig Axler, Senior Rabbi, Temple Isaiah, warmly welcomed the group by acknowledging the important and challenging work being done.
The last several years have been particularly challenging for Holocaust survivors in the National Capital Area and Baltimore Metropolitan Region as well as the professional staff who care for them. For many survivors, the COVID-19 pandemic resurfaced traumatic wartime experiences, from stay-at-home orders to food shortages and the overall sense of uncertainty in the world, which triggered memories of the struggle to survive. The increasing frailty of the survivors created a greater need for home care and placed more demands on care managers.
In the early days of the pandemic, Deborah Adler of the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) Holocaust Survivor Program and Beth Hecht of the Jewish Community Services (JCS) program began meeting for monthly collegial sharing and support. Later, they realized the benefit of bringing their respective teams together to discuss shared experiences, such as the challenges of managing large caseloads, the increasing acuity and needs of clients, and managing with limited resources. Bringing the teams together was a unique opportunity to join forces and share ideas and solutions for increasing effectiveness in supporting survivors. New connections were made, and participants gained different perspectives.
Eliana Posner, the Program Officer at the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) serving the Baltimore and Washington Region HSPs, traveled from New York, providing valuable information, and answering questions.
A highlight for the teams of care management staff was learning about a new model of care termed “Healing Centered Engagement,” developed by Shawn Ginwright, Professor of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University and presented to the group by Kiran Dixit, JSSA’s Director of Learning and Inclusion.
Adler and Hecht believe the day initiated a new level of collaboration. Said Hecht, “As Senior staff, we do our best to provide support and encouragement, but we recognize the benefit of sharing our common goals, values, challenges, and successes — we are better together.”
*Social services for Nazi victims are supported by grants from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.