Some 10,000 destitute survivors have discovered recently that the NIS 1,500 ($400) stipend they receive from the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets each quarter has been cut by NIS 300 ($80). The recipients were never informed of the move, but had to learn about it from their bank account statements.
Over the past four years, the organization has been doling out a total annual allowance of NIS 6,000 ($1,600) to each impoverished survivor. The new cuts have reduced that sum to NIS 4,800 ($1,275).
Sarah, 82, who survived a stay at the Mogilev-Podolski Ghetto in Ukraine, is one of the many survivors who heavily depend on the organization's aid. Her meager stipend from the State amounts to NIS 2,600 ($690) each month.
"They never announced anything; we had to learn about from the bank account," her daughter, Isabella Kaplinsky, said of the cut. "I thought it was a mistake, but after looking into it I realized the sum was slashed for everyone. It's unfortunate they do whatever they want without notifying us. It was the least they could do. (The survivors) deserve respect. This kind of conduct is enraging."
The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets was established under law in 2007, and is committed to tracing property that belonged to those who have died in the Holocaust and returning it to their heirs. As per the law, funds derived from assets whose heirs cannot be found are allocated towards aiding survivors who reside in Israel. The aid the company provides includes drug subsidies, a NIS 200 ($50) food card and an allowance, which has now been cut.
"The individuals who receive these funds are the neediest," said Aviva Silberman, who heads the Aviv LeNitzolei HaShoah, a foundation that advocates for survivors' rights. "It's unacceptable that so many Holocaust survivors don’t receive the most basic welfare."
The company explained that the resources it can dedicate to survivors are limited, due to the fact that the funds it extracts first and foremost belong to the heirs of those who have died in the Shoah.
"Unfortunately, despite the fact that the company succeeded in considerably increasing the aid it provides to each survivor in recent years, we had no choice but to reduce the stipend a little this year in accordance with the funds that are at our disposal and our desire to help Holocaust survivors in the coming years.," the group said.
"We apologize for any grief that we have caused," it added.
A report released by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute ahead of this month's Holocaust Remembrance Day found that of the 200,000 survivors who reside in Israel, about a quarter are needy.