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“I’m in the right place.”

July 9, 2024
Care Today / Holocaust Survivor Program

At JSSA, we are honored to serve thousands of patients and clients every year in their moments of need. Our supportive and compassionate caregivers and volunteers have a personal call to do this vital work. Their care today supports strength for tomorrow. Here is one of their stories.

When Sophia Presman came to JSSA in 2014, the waitlist for the agency’s Holocaust Survivor Program included more than 200 names.

To Sophia, that represented 200 individuals with stories of survival like those from her own family.

“I grew up listening to stories about how my parents survived,” Sophia said, whose parents and grandparents fled from Romania, as dozens of her relatives (including two uncles) vanished without a trace. “It’s just a miracle they survived.”

Today, Sophia is a care manager serving 45 of the more than 330 clients in JSSA’s Holocaust Survivor Program. She helps them navigate the healthcare system and access the services they need as they age.

JSSA has the unique privilege of providing comprehensive care to survivors of the Holocaust. JSSA offers a person-centered trauma-informed approach to care and provides a variety of services to enable these clients to continue living safely in their homes. In addition to care management, other services of the program include home care, homemaker assistance, financial assistance for medication and medical equipment, transportation to medical appointments, grocery gift cards, Meals on Wheels as well as opportunities for social engagement. Generous community partners also offer pro bono dental, vision, hearing, and advance planning assistance.

“It’s very gratifying work for me,” Sophia said. “I know I’m in the right place.”

Fluent in English, Romanian, and Russian, and a little French on the side, Sophia can confidently help her clients with language barriers. Most of JSSA’s Holocaust survivor clients are from the former Soviet Union.

She likes to think of herself as their biggest advocate – working to find solutions that best serve them. Free hearing aids, transportation assistance, and homecare services are most beneficial to her clients, she said.

“I give all of me,” she said. “Everything I do, I give my all.”

Serving others in need has been her lifelong mission. Sophia began her career in the former Soviet Union as a speech pathologist for hearing impaired individuals. She taught young kids in her community how to use their vocal cords.

When she moved to the United States in 1991, Sophia worked as a social worker for individuals experiencing homelessness in Connecticut. Then, after moving to Washington, D.C., served as the program coordinator and recreation therapist at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington.

“I love working at JSSA,” Sophia said. “Holocaust survivors really had nothing, and I like providing additional services. It’s not just about prolonging their lives but improving the quality.”

The Holocaust Survivor Program is made possible by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, as well as through generous contributions from the community. Gifts can be made directly to the Holocaust Survivor Program to ensure men and women who survived the Holocaust living in our community receive compassionate care to help them live with dignity and quality of life.

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