June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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JVS Home Assistant Department: Providing Companionship and Care to Aging Holocaust Survivors

“My mother is one of the world’s greatest characters,” chuckled Abe, when describing his mother, Toby, age 93.

“In the beginning she didn’t need an aide, but because her friends had aides and having an aide was a status symbol, she wanted an aide. She would say, ‘I’m very weak, I need an aide, all my friends have aides.’” Then the time came when the status symbol became a necessity.

What sets Toby apart from many others her age is that she is a Holocaust survivor. And the Jewish community takes care of its own. That is how she came to the attention of the Home Assistance Department at Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) of MetroWest NJ.

JVS currently delivers a wide array of personalized services on a nonsectarian basis to nearly 20,000 individuals each year, ranging from ages 14 to 100+. Founded in 1939, it was instrumental in helping Jews fleeing Europe during and after the Holocaust. Over the many years of its existence, the organization has remained true to its mission, “helping people help themselves,” as it continues to repair the world one person at a time.

An integral part of the many services JVS now provides is its Home Assistance Department. Created 12 years ago with a grant from Jewish Family Service (JFS) of MetroWest NJ, the department today specializes in companion care and assistance with activities of daily living. A certified home health agency, JVS services are provided by certified home health aides (CHAs). JVS also has a maintenance team on call whose senior safety team members perform more physical tasks such as repairs and installations throughout seniors’ homes. These services help families care for their ever-more-frail family members.

A small group of rapidly-aging Holocaust survivors is among JVS’s clients.

“Our staff and JVS as an agency feel honored and privileged to be able to help these clients. They are very special individuals,” said JVS CEO Addy Bonet.

After the director of nursing does her initial assessment, a care plan is created. JVS then assigns the caregiver with the appropriate skills to the particular survivor. “What separates us from a lot of other home care services is that we are very flexible in the number of service hours we can provide. Right now, safely aging in place and providing companionship are our top priorities,” said Bonet.

Like Bonet, Frances Ramirez, the Home Assistant Department’s program manager, is deeply affected by working with the Holocaust survivors. “You learn about the Holocaust growing up in school, but when you learn about their first-hand experiences, it brings a certain ‘realness’ to it. To provide them comfort in these later years in their lives is something I’m grateful for.”

“Great care is taken when matching CHAs with the Holocaust survivors,” continued Ramirez. Specialized training is given to familiarize CHAs with the unique needs of these clients. “A caregiver needs a ‘tough skin’ and great patience, as their client may display a variety of difficult behaviors. Selected caregivers also know their clients may ask for things a little above and beyond. JVS does its best in meeting those needs.”

Abe learned about the Home Assistant Department through JFS. “This service is a huge help to me,” he said. “If the services didn’t exist, I would have to hire someone and hope the aide is good. Sarah, my mother’s aide, is an excellent aide, a caring, loving person. My mother has had other aides who didn’t work out but we are very pleased with Sarah. She’s smart. My mother isn’t the easiest person, but Sarah doesn’t get flustered. And, she has a mother who is 90+, so she knows that happens when you get to that age.”

“JVS is a very professional organization and everything has worked out very well,” he concluded.

To learn more about JVS’s Home Assistance Department, visit jvsnj.org or call

By Sherry S. Kirschenbaum


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