New Holocaust Survivor Center May Face Closure in Future

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday attended the inauguration ceremony of the Center for Holocaust Survivors in Givatayim. But a senior activist for Holocaust survivors said he feared for the center's future because the Pensioners' Affairs Ministry, which was responsible for the project, was closing down.

"I am glad the government under my leadership did something for the survivors," Olmert said at the inauguration of the center, established to provide Holocaust survivors with information and counseling on obtaining financial assistance.

"Holocaust survivors are not young. Usually they're 75 years old. The problem was how to bring to their attention that they have rights and can still improve their quality of life. Now all those eligible for these rights will be able to receive information about them," he said.

The center was established by the Pensioners and Social Affairs ministries and Holocaust survivors groups, under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office.

"We hope the next government will take it on and develop it so that everyone understands how Holocaust survivors should be dealt with," said outgoing Pensioners' Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan at the ceremony.

"This is one of the most important steps ever taken for Holocaust survivors but now that the Pensioners' Affairs Ministry, which is responsible for the center's budget and operation, is closing, it's hard to know what the new government will decide about budgeting the center and who will be responsible for it," said Alexander Orli, deputy chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors.

"I am afraid the next government will forget us," he said.

The Pensioners' Affairs Ministry is closing down following the Pensioners Party's failure to pass the electoral threshold earlier this week.

Olmert said he was sorry the Pensioners Ministry was closing down and that Minister Rafi Eitan "was one of the most outstanding, intelligent and important ministers in every field. I hope the Prime Minister's Office and Social Affairs Ministry continue to [act for the benefit of Holocaust survivors]."

Holocaust survivors can contact the center at *9444, where counselors will answer their questions about financial assistance. On Sunday the center will launch a public campaign in Hebrew and Russian under the slogan "Making a Social and Historical Step" to encourage survivors' families to verify if they are entitled to additional rights.