Art has the power to transfer meaning from the hands of the painter into the heart of the beholder. On July 11th, Helping Hand Coalition opened its headquarters to an exhibition of artwork from all over the world. Welcoming back the Artists for Holocaust Survivors, led by Jörn Lange, and twenty-six survivors from Rishon LeZion, led by Evgenia Tzofim, it was an afternoon of impacting moments and heartfelt connection.
Hosted by Andre and Bozena Gasiorowski (Co-founders of Helping Hand Coalition) and organized by Alexander and Cecilia Dietze (Founders of Back to Zion), the Shalom House began with an introduction from the team. A special welcome was also extended to Norbert and Ivanka Palimąka, Founders of the ESPA Foundation. When asked to share a few words, Norbert expressed his greetings from Poland, “Every time we see such a beautiful group, it’s a pleasure for us, so we’re happy to be with you.”
Grateful to be invited back to Caesarea, Evgenia was emotional as she expressed her group’s appreciation and gave Andre and Bozena a large bouquet of flowers with a blessing — “May this house always smell sweet.” — along with a beautiful hand-crafted picture made by one of the survivors.
Inviting Alexander Dietze to share how he began working with Helping Hand Coalition, Andre translated while Alexander explained the moment his eyes were opened and his heart changed forever. Ten years ago, Alexander’s grandfather came to him with a “special” gift. Never speaking of his part in World War II before that day, Alexander was struck speechless as his grandfather handed him the medallions he’d been awarded for his service as a Wehrmacht (German soldier). Holding these weighted medals, Alexander realized that the Holocaust was not just a part of history but his family. Desperate to bring healing for what his grandfather had done, Alexander moved his family to Israel and partnered with Helping Hand Coalition to bring reconciliation between Germans and survivors. Alexander said, “Even standing here with Andre, a Pole, it’s healing — enemies of the past are now friends.”
“The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you…” ~ Isaiah 60:14
After taking a tour of Auschwitz and leaving heavier than he’d anticipated, Jörn Lange came to Israel with a heart to serve the survivors and bring beauty into their lives. For more than seven years, he has collaborated with artists from all over the world, calling themselves Artists for Holocaust Survivors, to create canvases inspired by heaven and gift them to the survivors in Israel. All they ask is that the survivors choose the artwork that speaks to their hearts the most.
Introducing Rod and Marianne Billitt, two artists joining him on this trip, Jörn explained, “As a German and a couple from Great Britain, we have come to serve you, and we hope with these paintings that we will be able to bring some of that beauty back to you.”
Displaying pieces painted by nine artists, the survivors were invited to browse the exhibit and choose the image that captured their hearts. When the paintings were distributed, a few survivors shared why they’d chosen those pieces.
Excitedly holding up her picture — called “New Life” by Marianne — Evgenia explained that every day for more than fifty years, she had seen the image each time she looked through a microscope. Marianne was blown away by this because she had no idea that she had painted an actual cell! She said, “God knows us all by name, and all we have to do is listen in faith and believe that the right person will receive the right painting. From heart to heart.”
Before lunch, Alexander and Cecilia performed a melody of Israeli songs, which got the survivors clapping and singing along. Then, Bozena surprised a survivor with a cake for her birthday.
Catered by Orly, lunch consisted of rice, meatballs, and a salad. Deliciously reviving, the survivors enjoyed the food in the living room, expressing their thanks to Luke and Sarah Gasiorowski and the rest of the team.
Helping Hand Coalition wishes to extend its gratitude to the Artists for Holocaust Survivors, Evgenia and her group, the Dietze family, the Palimąkas, and everyone who participated in the day’s event. The Shalom House Project is about more than giving the survivors of the Holocaust a special day; it’s about forming bonds and welcoming people into our lives and hearts. Serving them is the greatest gift, and it’s a joy to see them each week!