This week, things were a little different for our Shalom House. Due to unforeseen circumstances, today’s event was moved to Alyosha and Jody Ryabinov’s house. Graciously, they hosted twenty Holocaust survivors from “The Survivors of Nazism” based in Hadera, led by the lovely Zenia Dereviani. Nevertheless, though things didn’t work out the way we had planned, the afternoon was a great success, and everyone had a wonderful time!
Welcoming the survivors with hugs and kisses, everyone adjourned inside for a time of entertainment, testimonies, and conversations that will stay in our hearts for a long time. The Ryabinov’s home was decorated beautifully with a long table with enough seats for everyone to sit, and food preparations that would win first place in a competition. Set on the hills of Zichron Yakov with a breathtaking view as a backdrop, Alyosha and Bozena Gasiorowski opened the event and thanked the survivors for coming.
Before the music began, there was a time of testimony shared by Jody and a German couple, Hinrich and Elke Kaasmann, with Alyosha translating. Jody told a humorous story about how they got their grand piano up three flights of stairs when they first moved to Israel. From the moment they’d placed the piano in their living room, they held concerts for neighbors and anyone who wished to come and listen to Alyosha. Becoming emotional, Jody gave the survivors a welcome of her own, exclaimed how she wakes up every morning thanking God for the opportunity to live in Israel, the land of miracles, and also have the chance to accommodate for the group that was present.
When Hinrich and Elke Kaasmann spoke, emotions were heightened. Coming from Germany and children of Nazi officers, the Kaasmann’s were a testament to how many Germans feel about what their ancestors did to the Jewish people during World War II. They claimed that they will always stand with the Jews and fight against anti-Semitism! Finishing, the Kassamann’s bowed to the survivors saying that it was a fulfillment of the Scripture that claims that, “The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you…”
Every eye was transfixed when Alyosha and David Forman began to play. Sprouting feelings of hope, joy, and love, the music touched people’s hearts. To commemorate the moment, the guests took videos and pictures, wanting to hold onto the memories being made.
Tending only to play his own compositions, Alyosha broke protocol when he played Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor Lento con gran espressione. It is a song that brought light into the darkness, during the War, also saving the life of Władysław Szpilman when he played the piece for a German officer
Joining in with the music, Jody led vocals on a couple of Hebrew and English songs, getting everyone clapping and singing along. Elke also participated in the small concert with her wooden recorder. No matter how many times you listen to Alyosha’s rhapsody of Hava Nagilla, you will never tire of the song’s melodies or the group’s reaction to the famous tune. It was an enjoyable time of music and song.
Lunch was served in a colorful array, prepared by our volunteers Jola and Lilia, with coffee and tea at the end. Chatter filled the Ryabinov’s house as friendships formed, and memories were made. One survivor gifted me (Hannah) with a vibrant bracelet that I will cherish forever.
In a blink of an eye, three o’clock rolled around, and the bus arrived to pick up this delightful group of survivors. No one wanted to leave, but with one final hug and kiss, they loaded onto the bus to return to their lives. Thankfully we have the pictures to keep this day in our minds for a long time.
A massive thank you to Alyosha and Jody Ryabinov for opening their home for today’s event. To Hinrich and Elke Kaasmann, thank you for blessing us with your life story and your smiles. To The Survivors of Nazism and their leader Zenia Dereviani, we want you to know that we appreciate you and thoroughly enjoyed your company today! Of course, a thank you to David Forman for hypnotizing us with his violin. Lastly, our HHC team — Bozena, Jola, and Lilia — what would we do without you? Thank you to everyone who worked hard to make today happen, it was better than we could’ve imagined. Our plans don’t always go the way we think, but today proved that when plans fail, there is usually something better waiting around the corner! As the saying goes, “Where one door closes, another one opens.”