Susan Harris, CEO of The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset, was invited by the National Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS) to speak at the White House on June 13,2014 as part of a small summit formed by the organization.
The overall summit addressed White House Senior Staff members on current topics, initiatives and programs related to seniors and, in some cases, specific to Jewish seniors in the United States.
With the Treaty Room of the West Wing of the White House as her backdrop, Harris detailed the Wilf Campus’ programs and services for Holocaust survivors and their families.
Currently, eight Holocaust survivors are proud to call the Wilf Campus their home.
“I was honored that we were chosen to speak,” she said. “AJAS said they were impressed with our Holocaust programs and services.”
“I shared the story of taking two of our Holocaust survivors who live on our campus to Israel with us in 2012,” she said. “I also met and spoke with The Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services, an initiative of Vice President Joseph Biden.”
Recognizing the importance of sustaining and sharing the stories of Holocaust survivors, Harris added, “We are obligated to carry on in response to the next generations who are deeply affected by the atrocities their families bore witness to. Wilf Campus has a deep commitment to assist our population of survivors to age in comfort and with dignity, and to ensure the supports are there for later generations.”
“I hope that the stories and information shared by the CEOs from the Jewish Senior Communities across the nation will help to encourage the federal funding and support needed to continue in the quickly growing field of aging,” she said.
Other panelists were invited to speak on topics such as the “Affordable Care Act and Health Care Reform Initiatives,” “The Medicare Observation Stay Issue for Hospitalized Elders,” “Center for Connected Care at the Nationally Renowned Cleveland Clinic Health Care System and Programs for Retired Military Elders at Vinson Hall, McLean, VA,” “Elder Care Abuse Initiative and Successes,” “HUD Initiatives within AJAS Communities,” and “Technological Innovations in Elder Care.”
“There are a number of different topics and initiatives that the White House is interested in and all of the people who spoke are the cream of the crop with programs that stand out in this country,” she said.
“I am so happy to have been asked to be a part of this very important conversation on the national stage in our nation’s Capital,” she added. “It was most definitely a pinnacle of my 30+ year career in Aging Services.”
“Being a part of the summit drives me to want to do more because there is so much work to be done in this area. We all understand that this issue goes generations deep beyond what starts with the survivor. It impacts so many generations and it makes me more committed to address that issue going forward.”
“We must carry on the torch for the survivors and tell their stories for future generations,” she said. “I also hope to be able to continue some of these conversations moving forward that can only benefit the work we are doing here on the Wilf Campus.”