Commemorating Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – with Survivors in Netanya

On April 28th, Israel gathered as a nation to observe Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ceasing from all forms of entertainment, gyms, movie theaters, and restaurants were closed. At the same time, radio stations played solemn music, and tv networks only broadcasted Holocaust-related material during this day of mourning. At ten o’clock in the morning, a two-minute siren echoed throughout the country, bringing a halt to everyone’s day to stand in silence and remember. All over Israel, ceremonies were held to remember the six million Jews murdered and listen to survivors share their stories. 

Traveling to Netanya, representatives from Helping Hand Coalition attended an event hosted by the Club of Kiryat Nordau (though they call it “Our Home”), a group of forty survivors led by Rita Liberman. While most events Helping Hand Coalition attends strives to bring joy into the survivors’ lives, this afternoon was different and full of mixed emotions as the survivors thought about their pasts – their lost childhoods, perished family members – and lives today. Nevertheless, the presence of our representatives consoled the survivors, especially as they listened to Andre and Bozena Gasiorowski speak.

Introducing Andre Gasiorowski (President and Co-founder) and the work Helping Hand Coalition is doing in Israel, Rita Liberman opened the event before handing the microphone to Andre. Expressing his sorrow for all the survivors went through, Andre shared a glimpse into his family’s story during the war.

Reading two poems that expressed the tragedies of the war, Rita explained that we shouldn’t cry on this day but remember. With candles provided by Yad Vashem — displaying a name and the country of someone killed during the Holocaust — Rita invited attendees to light a candle in tribute before placing them on an exhibition table. It was impacting to see the candles clustered together, a minute presentation of the lives taken during this dark time.  

Bringing a glimmer of hope into the day, Andre described Helping Hand Coalition’s upcoming visit to the Vatican, where a memorial of the Holocaust will be displayed. Presenting Pope Francis with the first elements for the Vatican’s Holocaust museum, Andre is preparing to take the sculpture of two hands (Helping Hand Coalition’s logo) and the book that accounts for each soul stolen during the Holocaust. Andre also added that HHC would continue to directly support the survivors, along with partnering with KKL (Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel) to further our work. 

Bozena Gasiorowski (Co-founder) said, “Even though today’s commemoration is a sad occasion as we remember the lives of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, I am very happy that you survived. It’s a privilege for us and our children’s generation to be around you, listening to your stories, learning from your experiences, and preserving your memories. I also know that it works the other way around and that you appreciate seeing our care for you, comfort you, and simply love you in any way we can. So, may this mutual healing and restoration relationship continue bringing relief and new life to us in our beautiful country, Israel.”

Together, Andre, Bozena, and the other representatives from HHC gifted each of the survivors with beautiful flowers and chocolates to thank them for the invitation. 

Inspired by their show of kindness and honesty, the survivors also stood to share testimonies of their experiences, thoughts, and stories of the war. Listening to each of them describe what it was like to flee their homes, escape the grip of the Nazis, and come to Israel was eye-opening and moving. Each year, thousands of survivors pass away, but through hearing their accounts, their memories live on, so none of us forget the events of the Holocaust. It’s shocking to learn how many people do not know what the Holocaust is, but through memorials such as Yom HaShoah and articles like this one, we hope that people’s eyes will be opened to learn what happened and take part in preventing it from ever happening again! 

Thank you to Rita Liberman and your group at Kiryat Nordau for welcoming us to commemorate this difficut day with you and showing us around your club. Your home now feels like ours, and we are blessed to begin this relationship with you!