JSSA’s most vulnerable Holocaust survivor clients will be the beneficiary of a new eye care program that is being established through the outstanding generosity of community donors under the leadership of Dr. Michael Berenhaus.
Eyeglass lenses will be fabricated through donated optical lab services, and donated frames will be fitted at no cost to the survivors in five pre-selected Maryland/Northern Virginia “eye care sites.” Medicaid and Medicare will cover the eye exam; the new eye care program will cover all other charges. Loss of vision is one of the most prevalent physical challenges facing the elderly. New eyeglass prescriptions – sometimes annually as vision declines – are among the most critically needed and costly services that JSSA offers to its survivor clients. We believe that this program is unique in the U.S., and can serve as a wonderful model for other communities providing social service assistance to Holocaust survivors.
The program concept was first discussed in a series of meetings involving community volunteers and donors Devorah and Emily Berman, Evan Kestenbaum, Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Ronald Halber, and JSSA’s VISTA/Americorps member Adrienne Ognibene. Mr. Halber took the lead in introducing Dr. Berenhaus, former president of the Maryland Optometric Association, to Ellen Blalock, JSSA’s Holocaust Survivor Program Coordinator. In just a few weeks of intensive research, outreach, and communication that transformed a great idea into an actual “user-friendly” program, the survivor eye care initiative was officially launched in mid-January.
“When this opportunity came up I knew instantly that this was the project I had been looking for. With the help of other volunteers eager to help in the eye care community and Ellen Blalock at JSSA, we were able to put this program into operation in just six weeks from the time that Ron Halber of JCRC approached me about it. Survivors have been through so much in their lives and I felt it was a privilege to be a part of bettering their lives even if in a small way.” – Dr. Michael Berenhaus
The first survivor client participants have started the process of getting their new eyeglasses – with many more to come. We are deeply grateful for the dedication, commitment, and generosity of all who contributed to creating this inspiring, caring mitzvah for JSSA’s very deserving Holocaust survivor clients.