On Sunday morning, June 25, 40 Holocaust survivors came together in the main conference room at Jewish Family Services of Southern Arizona (JFCS) for a special brunch celebrating….them! The survivors, joined by their families, enjoyed a day of food, music and dancing. A full bagel and lox brunch was provided while Tucson’s premiere klezmer ensemble – Klezmerkaba – performed.
A Holocaust Survivor Day was envisioned in 2020 by Professor Michael Berenbaum of American Jewish University and Jonathan Ornstein of the JCC in Krakow, Poland. Their goal was to provide our Holocaust survivors with “a day of joy; a day of celebration…not a day to share with condemnation of the Nazis, but a day to celebrate the lives they built in response to the Holocaust. To celebrate what they have given and continue to give us.”
In partnership with JPSA of Southern Arizona, a grant was awarded to JFCS by the Seed the Dream Foundation to make this special celebration a reality. As the ten members of Klezmerkaba played, participants sang and danced and shared in the excitement and nostalgia felt by the wonderful klezmer music. The survivors relished in the celebration, sharing how profoundly honored they felt and how much fun they had. There was even a 92nd birthday celebration for Wolfgang Helpap, a Holocaust survivor from Berlin! In addition to an incredible afternoon, each survivor received a gift card and a plant decorated with a butterfly to celebrate and honor the lives they have created, and how they have touched our lives.
The staff of the JFCS Holocaust Services Department were equally honored to be able to provide this day, and to engage with so many Jewish values, among them, Kavod (honor and respect), Yedidut (friendship), and Gimilut Hasadim (acts of loving kindness). We were able to actively show kindness and gratitude with this program, described perfectly by Berenbaum and Ornstein as “a day for them and for us”.