A note to our agencies regarding COVID-19

With endless appreciation…

Dear Colleague,

“You know, we’ve seen much worse.”

When I recently contacted a Holocaust survivor, checking in by phone, he calmly and resolutely told me, “You know, we’ve seen much worse.” “Of course,” I acknowledged, “but still, please don’t go out, and make sure you have a sufficient supply of medicine, just in case of shortages.” He responded, “God saved me once and He will do it again, but of course I can help a little too. I’m not going out this week.”

The Claims Conference community – staff and lay leaders, as well as our extended family of agencies, comprised of social workers, care managers, home care workers, and on and on – is one of excellence, and of thoughtfulness. At all times, but especially when times are particularly challenging, as they are now such excellence and understanding matters. We value the commitment of the 300 agencies we partner with around the world in helping Holocaust survivors – and others – live a life of dignity. And, we very much appreciate how such work poses enormous challenges even under the best of circumstances – all the more so these days.

Over 150,000 Holocaust survivors, living in over 40 countries, have put their faith and wellbeing in our hands. And it is well-placed; for together we persist, relentlessly, to do whatever is necessary to support those who suffered so much in the past, but today are so vulnerable. Thus, in the midst of heightened levels of anxiety and concern about our own families and colleagues, we thank all of you, profoundly, for your deep devotion and endless efforts to help Holocaust survivors.

Further, at the same time, we acknowledge the strength and tenacity of the survivors, who continue to inspire us all. The coming months undoubtedly will be difficult, but I am certain that, in time, working together, this too will be overcome. Circumstances have been changing rapidly, so we will likely circulate further updates as events warrant. For now, we want to share the following thoughts:

Please continue to stay in touch with us
Be sure your Program Officer is aware of the challenges your agency is facing, how you are managing to continue to provide services and what assistance or accommodations you may need from us. In response, we will do our best to address your concerns. If you have any best practices to share with others, please let us know so that we can circulate them by email among our partner agencies and post on our Yammer site. This is the time for our network of agencies to support each other as much as possible and we are here to facilitate that communication.

Volatile Financial Markets
Drastic drops in financial markets around the world DO NOT affect the Claims Conference funding, as we are well insulated. As a result, payments will continue and our grant commitments made for 2020 are secure.

If you have cash flow issues, again, please discuss it with your Program Officer.

Reporting and Spending
Of course, spending may be substantially different than previously expected. For instance, some survivors may need more aid to have groceries delivered, while others may want to cut back home care hours to limit outsiders in their homes. Moreover, some may be impacted by a reduction in available healthy home care workers to provide services, etc. Our commitment is to be as flexible as possible, but you must reach out to us as soon as possible regarding any potential changes. We likely will need to seek modifications from funding sources, especially from the German government. The more we know – and the earlier – the better we can try to help you.

If you are having difficulty with submitting reporting on time because staff are working from home and are not able to access all their files, also let your Program Officer know. We again will be flexible and try to accommodate.

Claims Conference Audits
As I am sure has been the case for you, many of our plans have been disrupted. For example, we have halted all audits. They will eventually be re-scheduled, but please bear with us as we recalibrate. In addition, if there are changes in your service delivery methods that may impact the auditability of the services, consult your Program Officer. We are working closely with our audit team to develop alternative methodologies that will be acceptable and ask for patience as we work with you to provide the most effective response.

The Claims Conference has long been committed to a flexible workplace. We have the operational infrastructure for the organization to work virtually. Most staff of the New York office – for at least the next days – will work remotely, but you shouldn’t even notice a difference. The same phone numbers and email system will operate and, further, Diamond and Fluxx are operating as normal.

We understand that we are in unprecedented times and deeply appreciate your unprecedented efforts. As we navigate this together, you can count on us to be as flexible as possible and to listen to you. Please continue to be in touch with us.

Every one of us has been inspired by a Holocaust survivor. Now, as we dig deeper than ever before, may we merit the blessings bestowed on us by having the privilege of working with Holocaust survivors. Together, we will get through this.

Best wishes,

Greg Schneider
Executive Vice President