Since 1997, Sandy Budd has been directing national funds from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany to an ever-shrinking group of Holocaust survivors in Pittsburgh.
Budd, who is a geriatric social worker at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, experienced something a bit unusual in her support efforts this year: a little extra money.
With some surplus funding, Budd, who has worked with JF&CS for nearly two decades, decided Passover was the right time to show the city’s Holocaust survivors extra care, support and, of course, food.
Working with the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry and the Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation, JF&CS provided about 50 local Holocaust survivors with “all the matza, macaroons and gefilte fish” and other non-perishable Passover foods, said Budd. “The reaction’s been overwhelming. People were feeling so thankful and appreciative for receiving this.”
Survivors involved also received grocery gift cards to for any additional Passover foods they needed to make for a full seder and holiday week.
The whole Passover program is “executed very delicately,” said Kelly O’Brien, JF&CS’ public relations associate, as many of the local survivors are both proud and very private.
With a handful of other Jewish holidays involving food and ritual materials, Budd said the funds went to Passover preparation because, “It speaks to our people,” she said. “The whole idea of the Exodus, leaving the land where we were being enslaved. It’s one of the key holidays we have.”
“There’s a lot of preparation in the food alone that goes to celebrate Passover,” added O’Brien. “If we can help ease that hardship in getting ready, then we will.”
The money that JF&CS uses to aid local Holocaust survivors year round comes from annual grants from the Claims Conference. Edie Nevah, the Holocaust Center’s director, sat on the committee that decided how to allocate the extra funds.
“[Passover is] one of our major holidays. This gives survivors a sense of community and triumph of the courage of the human spirit,” said Nevah. “It’s very hopeful for them to be able to experience this very significant holiday that deals with the freedom of the Jews.”
Budd was “very nervous when first approached in 1997,” to handle the Claims Conference funds benefitting Holocaust survivors, she said. “I felt I wasn’t worthy; how could I possibly relate to people who’ve been through so much?”
Though extra money allowed for Passover supplies this year, to Budd, assisting Holocaust survivors is more than just smiles and matza.
“Whatever we can do, we absolutely have to do for these folks,” she said. “They’ve been through so much for us.”
(Justin Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)