Each week Helping Hand Coalition hosts a Shalom House event for the survivors of the Holocaust, joy is shared, life is celebrated, and hope is restored. November 15th’s event was no different as twenty survivors from Or Akiva and several international guests arrived at HHC’s headquarters for an event full of creativity, music, celebration, and art!
Welcoming everyone to the afternoon’s event, Andre Gasiorowski — Co-Founder and Chairman of Helping Hand Coalition — and Rita Tager — HHC’s International Project Manager — shared a summary and video of the work Helping Hand has been doing for more than ten years. Thrilled to meet new people and see many familiar faces, Andre invited attendees to share their stories.
The first to speak was Jakub Klepek, a twenty-four-year-old Polish native who came to Israel to embrace his recently discovered Jewish roots and study at Reichman University in Herzliya. Previously working with NATO in Turkey, Jakub is currently a Master’s student of Government and Conflict Resolution. During his speech, Jakub exclaimed, “It’s an honor and privilege to be here. I am sorry for the recent conflict with the Polish government and hope it resolves soon. I very much appreciate the Holocaust survivors and veterans who survived and fought in the war. Thank you, Andre, for having me today.”
Many years ago, a World War II veteran organization was founded in Or Akiva. Originally consisting of 90 veterans, the group’s leader, Simion Smini, shared that while only 3 veterans remain, after inviting the soldier’s wives into the group, they now have 100 members. Recently accepting Helping Hand’s invitation to join Global Forum, the group thanked Andre and presented a letter that stated their official move from their previous organization into Helping Hand Coalition – Global Forum.
Accompanied by a skilled guitarist, seven survivors gathered to the front to sing a traditional song from the Soviet Union about going forward and being positive. Following their song, each survivor shared a piece of literature or art.
Sophia, who will soon be eighty-six, recited an original poem that thanked God for her life, bringing her to Israel, happiness, trying new things, and having peace at the end of her life.
Dressed in a gorgeous lace top, adorned with red jewelry, Olga read from a book and elegantly recited short poems, which were also illustrated in photos and paintings.
Clara, who volunteers her time with the survivors, shared a prayer saying, “May God help us in our old age to find wisdom through hope and faith; and through compassion to achieve peace in the world.” She also gifted Luke and Sarah Gasiorowski — Executive Director & COO and Executive Administrative Officer — a hand-painted ceramic blessing for the business.
Wearing her heart on her sleeve, Goffman stood behind the microphone and sang several songs that moved the audience as they listened to each verse. Telling the tales of husbands bringing their wives a bouquet of lilies of the valley — a beloved flower in Russia — each spring, and of a war pilot reliving memories captured in an old photograph as he willed his wife not to forget him while he fought in the fire-lit sky for their freedom, the songs were beautifully performed and received a loud round of applause.
To close the event, Goffman finished with a song from a popular movie, and the guitarist bellowed a Hebrew song about Jerusalem and how our eyes are always gazing toward it.
With spirits high and a festive mood in the air, the survivors enjoyed a meal catered by Orly, which was heavily complimented, before retreating to the outdoor patio for hot beverages, dessert, and conversation.
Though Hanukkah is still a few days away, it is undeniable that every day is a miracle worth celebrating. Helping Hand Coalition would like to thank its sponsors, team, and guests after another incredible Shalom House event. This week, grocery vouchers, sponsored by Christen an der Seite Israels (Christians for Israel), were distributed locally. HHC looks forward to many more events where we not only give the survivors a memorable afternoon but form relationships that will remain in our hearts forever!