Of the more than 100,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors in the United States, nearly one-quarter are aged 85 or older, and one in four lives in poverty. Many live alone and are at risk for social isolation, depression, and other physical and mental health conditions stemming from periods of starvation, disease, and torture.
Jewish Family Service of the Greater Cincinnati area plays a vital role in responding to these challenges and stresses for the estimated 400-500 Holocaust survivors in the Cincinnati and Dayton communities by offering programs that promote dignity, strength, and empowerment.
One such program, Tablets and Technology: Alleviating Isolation in Holocaust Survivors, teaches Russian- and English-speaking Holocaust survivors, many of whom live at 200% of the poverty level or below, how to use a variety of tablet-based programs to stay connected to friends, family, and the world. The program was funded through a grant from The Jewish Federations of North America through the Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care, as well as additional funding from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and The HealthPath Foundation of Ohio. Jewish Family Service also partners with Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
“The care management team at Jewish Family Service helps Holocaust survivors in their homes and at our office by addressing challenges this population encounters as they grow older,” said Liz Vogel, CEO of Jewish Family Service. “Our tablet-based program, Tablets and Technology, combats feelings of isolation and depression by assisting survivors remain connected to their friends and family.”
This program ensures that survivors stay connected to loved ones, while also respecting their need for independence, by teaching them how to communicate and interact with the world electronically through email and video chats, including Skype and Facetime.
More than 40 survivors have successfully completed the Tablets and Technology program since its inaugural year in 2016, and even more will benefit with extended funding in 2018. Here are some examples of how a few participants* have benefited from the program:
Janice, 80, spends most of her time caring for her very ill husband and is therefore unable to visit with friends. The Jewish Family Service Tablets and Technology program has enabled her to now use an iPad to talk with her friends via Skype. She said “I really appreciate the opportunity to learn how to use the iPad considering the age of all the participants. This program gives me hope and the feeling that I still have a lot to learn and look forward to. All of my life is not behind me.”
Simon, 80, is a low-income Holocaust survivor whose relatives live in another country. While he did not originally have any technology devices in his home, he now says “I am very excited to be getting a tablet. When I learn how to use it, I can communicate with my relatives and friends, and read more information.”
Lawrence was a musician in the former Soviet Union and had never worked with an electronic device before entering the program. At first, he did not understand why he needed to learn about email and other iPad features. At one learning session about the web and YouTube, he asked to find someone singing classical Italian music. When he heard the singing, he started to sing along. Today, he is very happy that he has learned to use YouTube and can search for the music he loves.
Through the Jewish Family Service’s Tablets and Technology program, chronic conditions have been cared for, physical health and patients’ well-being have been improved, and in many cases, a sense of hope has been restored.
To learn more about the program and Jewish Family Service, visit or call (513) 469-1188.
*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.