Tuesday, January 27, 2015

70 Years Later, A History and Remembrance

Today is the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. As a way to connect my readers with information about Auschwitz and its liberation, I have created the attached PDF fact sheet. Please take a moment to look over it and feel free to share it with friends and family. I have embedded a picture here:

and you can find a link to the PDF you can download here (which has built in resource links).

On a day like today, I would like to take a moment to remember those who we lost during the Holocaust, as well as those as well as the triumph of the human spirit that emerged in the wake of one of the world’s greatest tragedies. I try to remember the survivors and their plight, both before and after the war, when I am working to improve their lives. This is the reason all of the AmeriCorps VISTAs are dedicating a year of service, to make a difference in the lives of those that survived. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Seeing the Impact of Service

Welcome back everybody! A lot has been happening here at JFS. I have begun work on an additional part of the Survivor needs assessment. I have been working on our 2G outreach effort. I have created a new survey, a flyer for advertising the town hall meeting, and a letter explaining who I am and what the needs assessment is for so when children of survivors receive the survey they aren’t wondering what is going on. Meanwhile, I have also made a lot of progress on the first ever Metro-Detroit Survivor Newsletter. The idea is that this will be a bi-annual newsletter that will keep the survivor community informed about JFS services, as well as changes to indemnification as well as new funds.

I taught myself InDesign software because that is what our PR department uses and will allow them to take over the newsletter after my year of service is complete. Once I had learned the software, I created the template for the newsletter as well as all of the content for it. I have been fortunate enough to receive feedback and support from both my supervisors and the PR department, which has helped me fine-tune the newsletter. I am hoping that within the next month I will have the newsletter completely done and we can send it to the printer, develop the digital e-blast version, and send it out to our entire mailing list. Hopefully this will get the word out into the community about the services JFS offers, as well as keep survivors up to date on the latest changes to indemnification, including several new funds that quite a few in the community may be eligible for.

I am very excited to report that so far my outreach efforts have been successful. I had to file my quarterly report to the federal government and was able to report that because of my outreach, we have taken in at least 40 new clients, which has led JFS to expand a part time (Russian speaking) position into a full time position, and they have posted an additional bi-lingual care manager.  It is exciting to get to see that what seems like small things when you are in the daily minutia of planning, development, and implementation is actually having an impact in my own community.
Beyond the newsletter, I have started a new phase of my time here at JFS. I have begun the lengthy process of developing a multi-tiered Holocaust history education program for the staff at JFS. There is a need at JFS to educate all of the staff about the history of the Holocaust, and for those that work with survivors to receive a more in-depth education on not just general history of the Holocaust, but specifics about countries, camps, and important events that survivors may have lived through and may still affect their daily lives. I’m very excited that I get to use what I learned during my Master’s Degree to help educate other people that understand the importance of Holocaust education. I am also looking into expanding this curriculum once it is developed to become a community education event for social workers and other human services groups so they too can learn about what their clients might have lived through, in order to provide more compassionate and understanding service to an aging Survivor population.

I also had the opportunity to give a talk at my co-worker’s church on Sunday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The social justice group has a yearly event to commemorate MLK. I was asked to talk about myself, my education and trip to Rwanda, and something related to MLK. I decided to talk about the connections between the Holocaust, Jewish community, and the Civil Rights movement. I spoke about my history, my education and Rwanda trip (along with a little history of the genocide there), and then talked about this seldom acknowledged connection between the Jewish community and the Civil Rights Movement. Overall I think it went really well, and I was so honored to be invited to talk and have such a great response from the audience. 

I am very excited about the new steps I am taking and absolutely love the work I get to do. It is nice to see things come together and the impact it has on the community.