May 26th was a shining day of hope and cheer as twenty survivors of the Holocaust from Netanya, led by Mila Kornich, arrived at Helping Hand Coalition’s Caesarea Headquarters. Buzzing with excitement and anticipation, the survivors entered the villa with smiles and praise as they recognized familiar faces. Also present was Jeff Shelton, President of Israel Care and Relief Effort and a partner of Helping Hand Coalition, with his team.
Welcoming everyone to the villa, Bozena Gasiorowski, Director of the Shalom House Project, opened by sharing her heart for the event and its goal to bring fun and joy into the survivors’ lives. Translated by Andre Gasiorowski, President of Helping Hand Coalition, the survivors clapped as the morning’s performers were invited to the front.
Sharing their gifts and talents in a concert performance that captivated the room, Eve Woodard — an American jazz guitarist, Claudia Gaz — a German pianist, and Chanina Gordon — an Israeli dancer, poured their hearts out for the survivors.
There is something so sweet and memorable about hearing a song for the first time. Whether you’re alone in your room or sitting in an audience, once the music begins, the rest of the world disappears as your senses hone in on the melody.
When Claudia sat behind the piano, reaching into the heavens to find the right piece to play, it was truly a delight to the ears. At the end of her performance, she said, “As Germans [my family] has always stood with the Jewish people, refusing to kneel to Hitler’s demands. I love Israel so much and am pleased you’re here as our guests today.”
Unifying the room in song, Eve performed Hine Ma Tov, a famous Jewish hymn inspired by Psalm 133:1. She remarked, “We’re grateful to be in unity.” Though conflict rages around the world, together, we can be united in love. Sitting among the survivors, we became one as Eve and Claudia played familiar, new, and nostalgic music.
Taking us into the desert with her incredible performance, Chanina danced for the survivors, making the whole room feel as though we were sitting among gypsies. Chanina’s movements were as fluid as water, and her performance, though wordless, was packed with power and meaning!
Including the survivors in the concert, instruments were distributed to create a new song. Eve led the way, counting the beats and giving instructions. It was wonderful to watch the survivors’ faces glow with glee as they focused on their tasks and played at the right moment.
Jeered by the activity, the survivors asked if they could also share their talents with the group. It was like God came down and kissed our ears as they put on a show. Getting everyone up to sing and dance, Ella gave a standing ovation performance before two other survivors recited poetry full of passion and a plea for peace.
At the concert’s end, Mila Kornich thanked Helping Hand Coalition for inviting her group back to Caesarea and presented Bozena and Andre with a bouquet of flowers. Jeff Shelton also shared a few words, encouraging the survivors that they are not forgotten and that churches regularly pray for them and the war in Ukraine. Jeff said, “You are our brothers and sisters, so we stand with you.”
Lunch, catered by Orly, was enjoyed on the patio, where attendees soaked in the glorious weather and enjoyed their beautiful surroundings.
Reenergized after filling their stomachs, the survivors turned the villa into a dance club while waiting for the bus to arrive. Waltzing around the room as Ella played the piano, the survivors’ display held an important message. Though their childhoods were stolen by war, their thirst for life has only increased in their old age. Not allowing the past or present evils to steal their joy, the survivors are determined to live the rest of their days in celebration. May we all learn to appreciate the small moments — they’re often the most impactful.
Helping Hand Coalition extends its gratitude to Mila Kornich and her group for attending the day’s Shalom House event, along with the performers, volunteers, and guests who joined in this great morning!
“See how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” ~ Psalm 133:1