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December 09, 2020

Lighting One Candle Provides Light for a Long Time: Pro Bono for Holocaust Survivors

By: Monica A. Fennell, Pro Bono Manager, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

As my family prepares to celebrate Chanukah, the pro bono work that we do for Holocaust survivors has been on my mind. One volunteer has had a quiet dedication to helping this population for years. Sometimes it seems you’re only lighting one candle but it can provide light for an unexpectedly long time.

Tibor Klopfer has been educating Hoosier schoolchildren about the Holocaust for decades and in the past few years has used his legal skills to help Holocaust survivors with their end-of-life planning needs. Klopfer, an insurance attorney at Faegre Drinker, teaches audiences of all ages about the atrocities that his Hungarian Jewish family suffered during the Holocaust. Both of his parents are Holocaust survivors. He was recognized for this important work with an Indianapolis Public Schools “Inspiring Alumni Award” in October.

One-third of Holocaust survivors in the United States live at or below the poverty level. To help this population, over a decade ago Bet Tzedek legal services in Los Angeles created a Holocaust Survivors Justice Network that assisted survivors seeking German reparations for work performed in Nazi ghettos. The organization received an ABA Pro Bono Publico Award for this work in 2011. Faegre Drinker lawyers and paralegals have worked with the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis and Bet Tzedek to help with Holocaust survivor reparations issues, more recently in relation to eligibility for public benefits and services.

Through that partnership with Bet Tzedek, they identified pro bono wills and advance healthcare directives as an important need for Holocaust survivors and other low-income seniors. So the firm created a pro bono wills clinic at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Indianapolis, geared toward working with Holocaust survivors, and trainings included trauma-informed care and best practices when working with translators.

As an outgrowth of those clinics, the JCC began referring Holocaust survivors and other low-income seniors throughout the year. Klopfer found his pro bono niche and became the go-to volunteer, helping many Holocaust survivors gain some peace of mind by drafting pro bono wills and advance healthcare directives.

I hope you can find your own way to celebrate the Season of Lights!