For more than ten years, Helping Hand Coalition has sponsored Shalom House events all over the country. From home-cooked meals to concerts with guests from around the world, the Shalom House Project is continually evolving, creating new ways to bring hope and joy into the survivors’ lives. On June 20th, in a community center in Or Akiva, a new type of Shalom House event was birthed. Invited to be part of the rehearsal, Bozena Gasiorowski and Rita Tager — representatives from Helping Hand Coalition — joined Beit Ham as they excitedly shared their vision of an event where elderly artists can showcase their work to an audience.
Welcoming everyone, Elena Zaslavsky — a representative from Or Akiva’s municipality — began by sharing her support for this new idea before asking Bozena to say a few words. In greeting, Bozena exclaimed, “Helping Hand Coalition is happy to reestablish our long connection with Beit Ham. Two weeks ago, we went to Sofea’s home for a Shalom House event and saw how much energy and creativity you all have. I am very pleased to be here and take part in the start of these new Shalom Houses.”
To demonstrate what these events will look like, three poets poured their souls into each word as they recited original pieces. Full of moving words, profound wisdom, and vulnerability, each poem gave the audience a glimpse into the writer’s childhood and current life. Clara, a child of war refugees, began with an explanation, “The theme of these events is from sadness to happiness. June 22nd, 1941, was when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. This is what stays in my blood, in my genes, and remains until today. However, I don’t want to look at the misery of what happened, but, rather, at the happiness I see when I look at your smiling faces.”
Alina, a survivor dressed in a lovely white rose top, continued Clara’s speech by saying, “The war took away our childhoods, but we are now living in our golden years. How? Because we came to our country. Our Israel. Our lovely Israel, who gave us this shelter to spend our older years.”
Sharing a part of her story, Mila, a survivor who made Aliyah nine years ago, added, “I remember the beginning of the war very well. I was only a small child; but, at 4am on June 22nd, my childhood was taken from me, replacing that innocence with stress, fear, and horribleness. Kiev is where all the bad things happened, but Israel is home. I don’t need anything else except my home, and I thank God for everything He has given me now that I am here.”
As Bozena and Rita listened to the poets, they were deeply moved by the memories shared and the gratitude expressed. Unable to put the beauty of each poem into words, they praised the artists for their work and conveyed their support for these new Shalom House events.
Thank you to Beit Ham and Elena Zaslavsky for inviting Helping Hand Coalition to be part of this new vision. The survivors are precious people with stories and wisdom to share, and these upcoming Shalom Houses will be a great place for them to touch people’s hearts.