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Posted Friday, October 2, 1998

Great News for Holocaust Survivors in California



Tuesday, September 29, 1998

SACRAMENTO --Governor Pete Wilson has signed legislation appropriating $2.5 million from the FY 1998-99 Budget to establish a children's Holocaust exhibition and teaching center at the Simon Wiesenthal Center - Museum of Tolerance.

AB 2217 by Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles) specifies that the $2.5 million appropriation provided to the California Arts Council is to be allocated to the Simon Wiesenthal Center to pay for the costs of the new facility. It also requires the Center, which will own and operate the facility, to match the appropriation.

"Since opening five years ago, over two million people have experienced the powerful exhibits that promote understanding of the Holocaust, at The Simon Wiesenthal Center - Museum of Tolerance," Wilson said. "This legislation will enable the children of the 21st century to learn the terrible truths of the 20th century."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The center fosters tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action.

Currently, California provides funding enabling more than 7,000 law enforcement officials and thousands of other professionals to participate in the Center's "Tools for Tolerance" program.


Applauds Commissioner Quackenbush for Leadership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, September 29, 1998

SACRAMENTO --With leaders of the Jewish community standing beside him, Governor Pete Wilson today signed two bills "assuring that some measure of justice is done for as many survivors of the Holocaust, and as soon as possible."

"On this day, Yom Kippur Eve, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, I'm proud to sign two important bills to help right at least some small measure of the tragic evil of the Holocaust," Wilson said. "Of course, nothing can atone for the magnitude and depravity of the Holocaust. The millions of lives lost, the families ripped apart and destroyed, the villages, towns, and cities razed - these are indelible facts of history which can and must be remembered and mourned.

"But something can be done for the survivors and their families. Well-deserved attention has been brought to bear in recent years to the economic losses suffered by survivors of the Holocaust - losses arising from thievery and pillage, and also from the deliberate refusal by banks and insurers to honor just claims."

SB 1530 by Senator Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) appropriates $4 million to the California Department of Insurance to assist Holocaust survivors in collecting on legitimate claims that some insurers have been unwilling to pay. The funding allows the Department to maintain a Holocaust policy information registry, to onsite teams to search the archives of insurers, and to conduct investigations into unpaid claims.

Under this bill, any insurer that continues in its refusal to pay on the valid claim of a Holocaust survivor will face the loss of its license to do business in California.

  The bill also requires that a bi-annual report to the Legislature be made to report on progress in investigating and recovering Holocaust insurance claims.

SB 1530 will provide funding for investigators who will ensure that the Department has the best information to assist in securing this deserved redress for Holocaust victims," Wilson said.

"I want to thank Governor Wilson for signing SB 1530, and the prominent Jewish leaders for joining us at this ceremony," said Insurance Commissioner Quackenbush. "We know how important this bill is in giving my Department the resources we need to identify potential beneficiaries, and the leverage to take action against recalcitrant insurers who foot-drag or balk in settling the claims of Holocaust survivors and heirs."

SB 1397 by Senator Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga) allows a gross income exemption for amounts received by Holocaust survivors, or their heirs or beneficiaries, as a result of a settlement of claims for any "recovered asset."

Under the terms of this bill, survivors compensated for the loss of their bank deposits, insurance proceeds, artwork or other assets will not have to pay state income taxes on the value of those assets, or on the interest earned.

"Imagine fighting a long, hard struggle to recoup what is rightfully yours, to reclaim what has been stolen from you or your family - imagine finally winning that struggle and regaining some lost piece of property or sum of money, and then being presented with a burdensome tax bill," Wilson said. "That is indeed an Orwellian absurdity."

The Governor was joined at the bill-signing ceremony by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Bill Lowenberg, first co-chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Commission; Ozzie Goren, chairman of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Holocaust Museum; California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush; and Senators Jim Brulte and Tom Hayden.

Michael Barenbaum, director of the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation was unable to attend the event, but is a supporter of the legislation.

These bills will go into effect on January 1, 1999.

Our opinion
  IT IS HIGH time that this monstrous injustice was rectified and we are glad to see that California taxpayers are willingly foregoing their own rights in this selfless manner, for which they no doubt voted.

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