Over the past two days, more than 80 Holocaust survivors have been vaccinated in their Brooklyn homes.

By the end of Friday, that number will be at least 90, UJA-Federation of New York Caring Department Planning Executive Briana Hilfer told BK Reader.

‘The family members of these survivors and their aids are feeling incredibly relieved,” she said.

UJA-Federation organizes vaccinations for homebound Holocaust survivors. Photo: Supplied.

Between April 21 and April 23, UJA-Federation of New York has vaccinated nearly 80 homebound Holocaust survivors and their aides against COVID-19 in Brooklyn in a partnership with SeniorCare Emergency Medical Services, Chevra Hatzalah and several UJA nonprofit partners.

The seniors were able to get their first dose of the Moderna vaccine in the comfort of their living rooms, in a program that follows up on UJA-Federations’s pop-up vaccine clinics, where more than 2,700 Holocaust survivors across New York City and Long Island have been vaccinated.

Hilfer said it was an honor to know she was part of a team saving people’s lives and allowing the seniors to regain their ability to see family and loved ones.

On Friday morning, 97-year-old Holocaust survivor Emil Schoen was able to receive his first vaccination at his home in Queens. Schoen, his son and a very committed volunteer had been trying nonstop to make an appointment to no avail.

But Thursday night, when UJA-Federation broke the news to Schoen and his son that he would be vaccinated Friday morning, “it was as thought I’d told him he’d just won the lottery,”  UJA-Federation of New York Deputy Chief Planning Officer Hindy Poupko said.

“There is appreciation, elation and relief,” she said. “We’re doing lifesaving work.”

UJA-Federation organizes vaccinations for homebound Holocaust survivors. Photo: Supplied.

Poupko, who is leading the effort to vaccinate Holocaust survivors, said UJA-Federation did not initially anticipate getting into vaccine work, but saw the need late last year.

She said the organization had funded more than 90 community based organizations with more than $500,000 worth of grants to increase vaccine education and access in communities experiencing higher levels of hesitancy. Those communities were often communities of color and orthodox communities, she said.

Over the past few months, UJA-Federation has also acted in an activist way, getting seniors to and from vaccination sites and connecting vulnerable populations with culturally relevant providers, she said. So far, the organization has helped 2,700 Holocaust survivors get a vaccine.

“Holocaust survivors need to be treated with care. It can be retriggering going to a mass vaccination site,” she said, adding they were also elderly and could be told “to hope in an Uber and get to the Javits Center.”

What was needed, she said, was a culturally competent approach where seniors were made to feel comfortable.

She said the survivors were incredibly moved and gratified by efforts being made for them, and had told volunteers “how they’d already been through so much in their lives, this past year was hell for a lot them.”

Hilfer and Poupko said UJA-Federation would continue with their vaccination efforts for homebound Holocaust survivors in Brooklyn for as long as it was needed, and it would expand it the program further into Queens next week.


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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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  1. Wonderful! Nazi Holocaust survivors have overcome so much, anything that can be done to make their lives easier should be done. They were able to form families, raise children and hold their grandchildren and contribute greatly helping others despite that evil Nazi regime.

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