Maintaining Independence & Dignity

Selfhelp provides a broad set of services to more than 25,000 elderly, frail, and vulnerable New Yorkers each year, while remaining the largest provider of comprehensive services to Holocaust survivors in North America. Selfhelp offers a complete network of home care and community-based services with the overarching goal of helping seniors live with dignity and independence and avoid institutionalization. Selfhelp was founded in 1936 to help those fleeing Nazi Germany maintain their independence and dignity as they struggled to forge new lives in America. Today, Selfhelp is one of the largest and most respected not-for-profit human service agencies in the New York metropolitan area, offering services throughout New York City and Long Island.


Selfhelp is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to maintaining the independence and dignity of seniors and at-risk populations through a spectrum of housing, home health care, and social services and will lead in applying new methods and technologies to address changing needs of its community. Selfhelp will continue to serve as the “last surviving relative” to its historic constituency, victims of Nazi persecution.

Among its program highlights, Selfhelp:


Selfhelp for German Refugees was founded on November 10, 1936, by a small group of German emigres who wanted to support immigrants who, like them, were arriving in New York City having fled Nazi-occupied Europe.


Our History


During WWII, Selfhelp focused on helping European refugees find work, housing, and community. Early job training programs caring for the elderly lead to the formation of Selfhelp’s Homemaker and Home Nursing programs, the precursors of our Home Care Aide Training.

Through the latter half of the 20th century, Selfhelp quickly expanded to provide affordable housing and home care services for older New Yorkers from all communities.



In 1964, Selfhelp built its first apartment building in Flushing, Queens, which housed 200 Holocaust survivors in the first state aided project to be built in New York by a non-profit organization with on-site social services. 

In 1969, after several name changes, our leadership landed on Selfhelp Community Services, Inc. to reflect the organization’s comprehensive network of community-based services. 

Programs were expanded to reach new Holocaust survivors in Washington Heights and Queens as well as Selfhelp’s first senior center in Queens. In the later years there would be additional offices serving survivors in Brooklyn, Nassau County, and the Bronx and 4 additional Selfhelp senior centers would open in Queens.



Our Holocaust survivor program significantly expanded, supporting Russian-Speaking Holocaust survivors, in Brooklyn.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic reached New York, largely affecting marginalized populations, including gay men, intravenous drug users, and Black and Latino Americans. Selfhelp’s expert home care services expanded to care for people with HIV/AIDS, supporting them through AIDS-related complications.

In 1983, Selfhelp became a member agency of UJA-Federation of New York, enabling us to undertake new and exciting program initiatives.

Selfhelp establishes Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), positioning us as a leader in human services. 

In 1993, The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany provided funding and over time, the Claims Conference became Selfhelp’s most significant funder of our Holocaust survivor program, making additional vital services possible.

In 1995, Selfhelp established a Certified Home Health Agency to provide a full spectrum of home care services to individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS.



In 2002, continuing our building boom of the 70s, 80s and 90s, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Apartments, our sixth residence, is opened in Flushing.

In 2003, Senior Source, a new private-pay geriatric care management program is initiated.

In 2005, aging services technology, including Computer Learning Centers, sensor technology, telehealth and brain fitness programs are introduced in our residences and among our home care clients.

In 2008, the Selfhelp Community Services Foundation is founded to raise, manage and steward philanthropic funds to support the work of Selfhelp Community Services. Toward this end, Project Legacy, an ambitious initiative is launched to secure funding for the last generation of Holocaust survivors. Selfhelp opens its second Brooklyn site in Kensington to provide much-needed services to the growing number of Holocaust survivors requesting assistance.

In 2009, Selfhelp publishes “Sixty-Five Years after Liberation: Holocaust Survivors in New York Today through 2025,” a demographic analysis of the existing population of Holocaust survivors in New York. The study projects the numbers and needs of survivors through the year 2025.

In 2010, Selfhelp launches its internationally acclaimed Virtual Senior Center in collaboration with Microsoft, the NYC Department for the Aging and the NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications. This transformational program now serves 275 seniors in six locations.

In 2011, Selfhelp commemorates its 75th year of service. Among the many events held was Selfhelp’s Fourth International Conference for Professionals Working with Holocaust Survivors.

In 2012, Selfhelp brings Witness Theater to New York, partnering with the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School. An innovative and emotional, full-year “journey” for Holocaust survivors and high school students, Witness Theater began in Israel by JDC-Eshel. Today five schools are participating with 11 performances and a live internet stream.

In 2013, in collaboration with UJA-Federation and the Defiant Requiem Foundation, Selfhelp participated in bringing The Defiant Requiem–Verdi at Terezín to Lincoln Center to raise funds and awareness for New York’s Holocaust survivors in need. So successful was this event, that an encore performance took place in March, 2015.

Selfhelp expands its affordable housing portfolio to Long Island through an affiliation with the Kimmel Housing Development Foundation. Two affordable housing developments, as well as three Selfhelp programs are housed at the Westbury site.

In 2014, Selfhelp opens its seventh affordable housing residence, featuring innovative aging services technology, a recreational green roof and an on-site health and wellness facility.

In 2015, unprecedented new funding from the NY City Council and the Federal Government is awarded to support the needs of Holocaust survivors. Selfhelp is a primary beneficiary.

Selfhelp’s Housing with Services model is internationally recognized. CEO Stuart C. Kaplan addresses the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging’s International Conference in Australia.

In 2016, Selfhelp marks its 80th year of service by opening its tenth affordable housing residence, hosting two professional conferences, and forming a Chinese Advisory Council to raise awareness of our programs serving Chinese elders. As the largest provider of comprehensive services to Holocaust survivors in North America, we remain true to our mission of serving as “the last surviving relative to our historic constituency.” Our broad spectrum of programs now serves 20,000 older adults throughout New York City and Nassau County.

In 2017, A year-long project, to collect clients’ stories of living in World War II’s Shanghai Ghetto, culminates in a remarkable evening where Holocaust survivors and Chinese clients come together. We complete a research study demonstrating that clients in affordable housing spend less time in the hospital than people of similar ages in the same zip codes. Armed with this and other evidence, we begin exploring relationships with healthcare partners, and obtain state funding to develop a new technology infrastructure that can demonstrate the impact of our services on client health.

In 2018, Selfhelp’s broad spectrum of programs now serves more than 25,000 older adults throughout New York City and Nassau County. Our eleventh affordable housing residence opens in Brooklyn. Five more new construction projects are in the pipeline, including two in collaboration with noted architect Daniel Liebeskind. The award-winning filmmaker Oren Rudavsky is completing a year-long documentary of Witness Theater. We receive state funding for a major expansion of our training program for home health aides.




Our History


Selfhelp cemented its role as a leader and expert thanks to innovative new programs, new affordable housing, and thought provoking published research.

In 2008, the Selfhelp Community Services Foundation was founded to raise, manage, and steward philanthropic funds to support the work of Selfhelp Community Services. Project Legacy, an ambitious initiative, was launched to secure funding for the last generation of Holocaust survivors.

In 2009, Selfhelp published “Sixty-Five Years after Liberation: Holocaust Survivors in New York Today through 2025,” a demographic analysis of the existing population of Holocaust survivors in New York.

In 2010, launched the Virtual Senior Center to provide live, interactive virtual classes to homebound older adults.

In 2012, brought Witness Theater to New York, offering an innovative year-long theater experience to Holocaust survivors and high school students. In later years Witness Theater: The Film, a documentary, would be produced by award-winning filmmaker Oren Rudavsky.

In 2013, in collaboration with UJA-Federation and the Defiant Requiem Foundation, Selfhelp participated in bringing The Defiant Requiem–Verdi at Terezín to Lincoln Center to raise funds and awareness for New York’s Holocaust survivors. An encore performance later took place in March 2015. 

Selfhelp expanded its affordable housing portfolio to Long Island through an affiliation with the Kimmel Housing Development Foundation. 

In 2016, Selfhelp marked its 80th year of service by opening its tenth affordable housing residence, hosting two professional conferences, and forming a Chinese Advisory Council to raise awareness of our programs serving the Chinese community. 

Selfhelp completed a research study showing the long-term effectiveness of SHASAM, Selfhelp’s Active Services for Aging Model that brings on-site social workers into affordable housing. 


Our History
Our History


Our 85 years of experience informs our work, ensuring that we’re providing the best services possible to our clients. Serving over 20,000 older and vulnerable New Yorkers, Selfhelp provides robust home and community-based services while remaining the largest provider of comprehensive services to Holocaust survivors in North America.