Sunday, April 05, 2020

Schoke JFS volunteer Risa Goldblum; Schoke JFS JFNA Holocaust survivor grant program director Marina Sapir; Holocaust survivor Rosa Lilke.

Two Holocaust survivors singing along to “A Yiddishe Mama,” Yvegenia Kantorovich (seated) and Esther Shklover (standing).

In recognition of the increasing needs of an aging population of Holocaust survivors, The Jewish Federation of North America Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care awarded a substantial grant to Connecticut’s Schoke Jewish Family Service to help the organization advance person-centered, trauma-informed (PCTI) supportive services for Holocaust survivors in Fairfield County. Named “Anachnu”/“We Are Together So You Are Not Alone,” the new Holocaust survivor care program held its inaugural event on March 29 at Chabad in Stamford, with a musical concert of Jewish songs. Participating in the concert, children from Gan Yeladim preschool entertained more than 42 Holocaust survivors. Marina Sapir, who speaks Russian as well as English, was hired as the new director and will be coordinating the program in the Stamford area.

Having worked closely with seniors in the Stamford area for many years as a volunteer overseeing the area’s food pantry, Sapir is committed to finding survivors who live in the area and meeting their various needs. A concerted effort was made to locate Holocaust survivors residing in Fairfield County. Local synagogues and rabbis, as well as the presidents of the United Jewish Federation and the JCC, met to learn about the program. Flyers were posted in subsidized buildings occupied by many seniors from the Former Soviet Union (FSU), Facebook announcements were made and the program was publicized in Stamford synagogues’ weekly bulletins.

Sapir, who delivers speaking engagements throughout Fairfield County on topics such as Russian immigration to Fairfield Country and the Holocaust survivor experience within the Russian resettled Fairfield County population, also worked with the Stamford senior population through her volunteer role with Lina DayCare. In her role as director of “Anachnu,” Sapir relies on a committed group of volunteers. Sapir told The Jewish Link, “We have a group of volunteers from our community who knew about our program from different sources—personal connections, the JFS database, Facebook posts and synagogue newsletters. They were all happy to help with our efforts.” Sapir also works closely with Rebekah Kanefsky, director of case management at Schoke JFS since 2014.

As part of the grant, Schoke JFS will develop, implement and evaluate innovative programs in PCTI care, including house visits and socialization groups with the hopes of reducing isolation among this vulnerable population. Staff training sessions will be included and create a learning opportunity for the community, sharing best practices in the field of trauma work. In addition to social events, “Anachnu” will also offer Russian audio-books and special listening devices to those with vision or health problems, a database of volunteers who can provide translation during doctor’s appointments, non-emergency medical transportation services, programs such as “Friendly Visits” or “Betsy Buddies of Chabad,” and the newly-created Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy program, “From the Past to the Present,” where survivors will be interviewed by students.

A full calendar of social events has been scheduled for the next several months, including attending a ballet performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse; a Yom Hashoah program, including a viewing of the short movie “Shoes;” Cafe Europe with lunch and photo exhibits; picnics with live music, and a painting session with Pinto Pallet.

For additional information or to participate in “Achanu,” please contact Rebekah Kanefsky, director of case management, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,  or Marina Sapir, program director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also call 201-921-4161. RussianlLanguage services are available to participants if required.

 By Yvette Finkelstein


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