On November 27th, Helping Hand Global Forum hosted a joyful celebration of life, unity, and reconciliation at the Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem.
Organized by an Asia-Pacific group – led by Albert Tan, Jenny Chaw, Charles Chaw, and pastors Daniel Song and Tan Gek – the event began at the entrance of the hotel, where two hundred survivors from The Jerusalem Society for Holocaust Survivors were welcomed with cheers, waving flags, and dancing. Also in attendance were special guests Ze’ev Elkin (Minister of Current Affairs and Housing and Construction), Silvia Sanford and Pastor Sandra Osorio (friends from America), and representatives from Jerusalem, Holon, Ashdod, Sderot, and Haifa.
Soaked in a hue of gold from the lights and decorations, the atmosphere in the event hall was rich with warmth and glee as attendees settled at their tables before Andre Gasiorowski (Chairman of Helping Hand Global Forum) opened the ceremony. Sharing his excitement to have the members of the Asia-Pacific group back in Israel after more than three years, Andre exclaimed, “We love you, our dear guests from Singapore! You are the greatest friends of Israel and Holocaust survivors. Your unconditional love is just amazing for us. You come and want to serve.”
Inviting their leaders to speak, Andre Gasiorowski passed the microphone to Albert Tan, the Non-Executive Chairman of Asia-Pacific. In 2010, Albert contacted Andre about organizing an event for the survivors, establishing a relationship that has grown through the years. Coming to the stage, Albert Tan thanked Andre for his “helping hand” before addressing the survivors of the Holocaust. “Today, we expected to see old people walk in, but you came dancing in! You are the reason for us conducting this event. We are very happy to see you after so many years. We love you very, very much!”
Recently named Chairman of the Asia-Pacific organization, Charles Chaw expressed his delight for being back in Jerusalem after first visiting the Holy Land in 2019 for the annual FinTech conference. In his speech, Charles Chaw explained the impact the trip had on his life, including the history of the Jewish settlements in Shanghai, which protected tens of thousands of European Jews from the Holocaust. He professed, “This has strengthened my purpose, goal, and aspiration to let more Chinese people — or even the whole of Asia Pacific — know the events of the Holocaust. I hope that this message we learn from the past is a reminder that human civilization, peace, and global prosperity depend on each other. So, today, we pray for Israel’s people, harmony, and prosperity.”
In her speech, Jenny Chaw, Charles’ sister, expressed her happiness and joy to be able to love and serve the survivors for more than twelve years. “I love you!” She shouted into the microphone.
Humbled to be among the survivors, Pastor Daniel Song expressed his love for Israel and God’s people. “We are hosting this lunch to stand and honor the victims of the Holocaust. We love the Jewish people because Israel is the root of our Christian faith. Israel is a miracle of God. [While] all the other nations are created by the hands of man, Israel is a nation created by the hand of God. [It’s] a nation blessed by God.”
Before playing a video highlighting Helping Hand Global Forum’s relationship with Asia-Pacific, Bozena Gasiorowski (Co-Founder of Helping Hand Coalition) thanked the group for creating a “beautiful ambience of love.” She remarked, “Your love for this Land is outstanding! Thank you for choosing Israel as your holiday destination. I’m so happy to celebrate with you here in Jerusalem, creating a friendship between the nations with the survivors at the center. I promise you one thing; this event will not be forgotten.”
Three years ago, The Jerusalem Society for Holocaust Survivors was founded by Yakov Liberman with twelve members. Today, more than 1,200 survivors are part of the ever-growing organization. In his speech, Yakov stated, “[Though] the average age of our organization is eighty-seven years old, we will be dancing with you today because your energy and support give us strength. I am very thankful to everyone who organized this event and that you invited, remembered, and loved us. God gave you a big heart to do good things, and those blessings will come back to you. We survived the Holocaust with God’s help, and today God sent you into our lives for you to make [our] last years more joyful. Thank you very much, dear friends. We will always be with you.”
When the last speaker had left the stage, attendees were invited to the lunch buffet to enjoy a variety of salads, meats, pasta, and desserts. As the guests ate, they got to know one another, filling the hall with life and cheer.
Coming to Israel with her family, Siok Pheng Low told us that being in Israel was like touching base. After visiting Germany many years ago, she explained, “I saw the concentration camps and [can] connect then to now. What [the survivors] went through was really tough, so I salute them. They’re so resilient, forward-looking, and hopeful. It’s something I think I can learn from them.”
Adding to Siok Phang’s statement, Tan Gek, Pastor Daniel Song’s wife, said, “[The survivors] will to live is so strong, and that should be the way. Some of us have this understanding that we’re just going to live to a certain age, and that’s it, but I don’t see [the survivors] thinking that way. They’re just happy and excited to be seeing people.”
When asked what it is about the survivors of the Holocaust that makes her want to serve and love them, Suan Ting told the story of visiting a small museum in the north of Israel and discovering that the company she works for was responsible for supplying the gas for the gas chambers. She explained, “It really shook me up. So, I asked God the reason, and from then on, I felt convicted and wanted to bless the Holocaust survivors. That’s kept me going from now.”
With empty plates and full stomachs, the ceremony continued with a significant appearance from Ze’ev Elkin, the Minster of Current Affairs and Housing and Construction. During his speech, Ze’ev Elkin stated, “The support of the people who survived the Holocaust, for me, is one of the most important things to do here in Israel. Your activities are very important, and I’m sure I can thank you on behalf of the Israeli government. I feel that there is something symbolic for you to organize this event, specifically in Jerusalem. These people were in the most difficult war we as humankind have seen in the last century, and it’s thanks to their victory we have our Jewish state and Jerusalem as our capital!”
In appreciation for Helping Hand Global Forum’s work with the survivors, Ze’ev presented Andre with a replica of an ancient seal dating back 2,700 years! Ze’ev explained, “[This] was a personal seal of one of my predecessors in the position of the Minister of Jerusalem, found near the Western Wall, near the Temple Mount. To be a minister forever is impossible in politics, but this city, Jerusalem, will be forever, and a friend forever I will be.”
No event is complete without music and dancing, so surprising the survivors with their talents, the Asia-Pacific group rehearsed songs and choreographed dance numbers to perform for them. Dressed in a stunning red sequined dress, Felicia Ong graced the stage to sing “La Vie en Rose” and “Bésame Mucho.” With a soulful, smooth voice, Felicia transported the audience to an ancient opera house with her beautiful performance!
Bringing Singaporean culture to Israel, the rest of the group did a flash mob-like dance, which the survivors loved! Wanting to join in, the survivors and guests were invited to the front to dance along to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You.”
It was a party no one wanted to end! Filled with energy and excitement, Yakov Liberman announced that his group had prepared their own performance. Taking the stage, the choir led the room through well-known Ukrainian and Russian folk songs as a beautiful declaration of love to the Singaporeans for their care.
To close the event, an award ceremony was held to honor the leaders of Asia-Pacific for their concern and empathy toward the survivors of the Holocaust. Presenting the awards on behalf of Helping Hand Global Forum and his organization, Yakov Liberman proclaimed, “We cannot give you expensive presents today, but these thank you letters are from the bottom of our hearts as a reminder that those who survived the Holocaust were here with you today.”
Recognized for his work, Charles Chaw was nominated as an Ambassador of Helping Hand Global Forum for Asia Pacific. Jenny Chaw, and Albert Tan were also nominated as International Board Members of Helping Hand Global Forum.
Enunciating the impact of this moment, Andre Gasiorowski ended by stating, “You were awarded by Holocaust Survivors representing the 180,000 survivors living in Israel today.”
Helping Hand Global Forum is honored to do this work in Israel, blessing the survivors and building bridges between Israel and the nations. We look forward to these events each year and hope for more in the near future! Thank you to Albert Tan, Jenny Chaw and Charles Chaw, and your group from Asia-Pacific for your serving hearts; Yakov Liberman and your organization for your joy for life; Ze’ev Elkin and the other municipality representatives for standing with us in this work; and to the Helping Hand team who hosted and coordinated this event.