JFNA: Person-Centered Trauma-Informed Care for Holocaust Survivors

The challenge

More than 100,000 Holocaust survivors live in the United States today. Many are aged 85 and older and suffer from poverty, social isolation, and other serious health conditions stemming from their trauma. The Jewish Federation of North America’s Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care was founded through an unprecedented federal grant from the US Administration for Community Living and other private funds to support Holocaust survivors. OATS was invited to propose a “Person-Centered Trauma-Informed (PCTI) program that would use technology to support Holocaust suvivors with careful consideration of the outcomes that are most likely to improve the quality of life for Survivors.

The strategy

OATS would use its expertise to design, create, and pilot a scalable, PCTI-informed technology program in which Holocaust survivors learn to use an iPad to connect to participate in the digitized world of resources and information, social communication, education, and engaging activities that could be meaningful to them at this stage in their lives.

The solution

After extensive training in PCTI practices, interviews with partner organizations that serve Holocaust Survivors, and survivors themselves, OATS created an innovative curriculum combining in-person class sessions, specially-designed course books, and access to resources via an online learning platform. The program is divided into three phases that move participants through acquiring foundational tech skills, building on those skills to connect with their classmates, families, and friends over digital platforms according to their own preferences, and, finally, using the iPad for a creative expression project. The program spans the course of six months, and participants meet twice a week. When transportation proved a challenge, OATS was able to partner with a local ride-share company, Via, to provide free transportation to many of the participants who needed it to attend class sessions. Participant survey results confirmed that regular in-class meetings and using technology to connect to others resulted in decreased feelings of isolation and an increase in feeling more connected to society. Participants also reported “meeting new friends,” “getting out of the house,” and “discovering a new world” as the most important benefits of the program. The dual goal of delivering a pilot program and ensuring that other organizations serving Survivors, including Russian-speaking survivors, are able to offer the program and supported with materials to build their capacity in both technology training and best practices for working with survivors of trauma, would allow the expansion of PCTI services for older adults and contribute to the advancement of the Center’s main goal.