Holocaust Welfare Fund Leaves Hungarian Survivors in the Lurch

$1.75 milliion budget of Hungarian Holocaust survivors' fund for 2008 has been used up.

Clari Karni, 80, of Kibbutz Hama'apil, put a down payment on an expensive new pair of glasses a few days ago. She decided on the hefty purchase - some NIS 2,000 - as well as other medical expenditures, only because she knew she would receive a refund from the Hungarian Holocaust survivors' fund. The fund transfers $1.75 million annually to Hungarian survivors with a maximum monthly before-tax income of NIS 6,650.

But Karni and other survivors like her will not be getting any more help this year, because the fund's budget for 2008 has been used up. The fund has informed organizations that deal with survivors' rights that it will not process applications filed after this coming Monday.

"The large volume of applications to the Hungarian fund and the approved budget do not permit the fund to accept new applications until further notice," officials at Israel's Holocaust Survivors' Welfare Fund, under whose auspices the Hungarian survivor's fund operates, said on Thursday.

"When every shekel is needed and old age is knocking at the door, it's as if life is on hold," Karni indicates the importance of this financial aid. "This is the period when a person is approaching the end of his life, but still wants to preserve his dignity."

The fund was established after a U.S. court ruling that, starting in 2006 and for a period of five years, $1.75 million be allocated to Holocaust survivors from Hungary. The money is intended to help survivors with rent payments to prevent eviction, medical treatments, dental care, hearing aids, medications, glasses, a second medical opinion and more.

During its initial two years of operation, there were few applicants and the fund was able to meet their needs. In view of this, the maximum annual amount granted to applicants was increased from NIS 7,000 to NIS 12,000. But this year the number of monthly applications ballooned from 100 to 800, forcing the fund to decide this week not to process applications submitted after August 31. Karni and her fellow survivors have been left to cover outstanding expenses from their meager resources, and feel more than a little duped.