“You turn my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothe me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.” Psalm 30:11
On October 17th, 2019, at The Wedding Club in Jerusalem, a Sukkot event took place that was all about celebrating life, building bridges between Poland and Israel, and giving a group of Holocaust survivors a night they will never forget.
Joining forces with the Polish organization, Together Again (‘Znowu razem’), and Helping Hand Coalition hosted a banquet event that raised the roof and allowed 220 survivors to have an experience they missed as children growing up as refugees on the run from the Nazis. This is the fourth time Together Again has brought Polish people from different cities (such as Kalisz, Gliwice, Warszawa, Wroclaw) to Israel to join the Jewish people and Holocaust survivors in celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot, and HHC is so grateful for your partnerships each year.
As the buses arrived, the survivors were welcomed with a round of applause from the Polish guests. Warm smiles and greetings were shared as the survivors were escorted to their seats. Chatter filled the beautifully decorated event hall as everyone got to know one another, sharing pictures and stories about their lives. Within thirty minutes, a room of strangers had become a room of friends.
Andre and Bozena Gasiorowski, the founders of HHC, opened the event with a heartfelt welcome. People clapped and cheered as each group was asked to stand. Andre then asked Jurek and Malgorzata Rycharski, the founders of Together Again and also childhood friends of the Gasiorowskis, to share a few words about the event. They shared about the significance of the event and apologized for how Christians betrayed the survivors during the Holocaust; however, the afternoon was one of celebration, so Jurek said that the least they could do was dine and dance together!
“We are all here for only one reason: to tell you that you are precious to us and that we love you.” ~ Jurek Rycharski
Elena Zharovsky, from the municipality of Jerusalem, Jakov L. Jerus, leader of the survivor’s organization, Alexander Berman, Chairman of “Front of the Respect,” Vladimir Zernitzki, Chairman of “Jerusalem Society for Holocaust Survivors,” Avram Sharnopolski, President of “Front of the Respect,” and Mila Fleitman, leader of ‘Children of the War Foundation’ in Netanya, also shared words about their work with the survivors and how touched they were that Helping Hand Coalition and Together Again had organized this event.
The meal began with colorful dishes being served at each elegantly laid table. There was an assortment of salads, meat, rice, bread, and other delectable foods. Some of the Polish guests broke bread with the survivors and assisting in serving them each dish. Forks could be heard clinking on the plates as everyone enjoyed their meal, but it wasn’t until one of the tables broke out in song that the event shifted into another gear.
Sitting on one of the balconies, a survivor led his fellow table mates in singing Shalom Aleichem. When the room turned to listen to their mini-concert, the survivor stood and sang out to the whole room in an operatic voice. Brought to the front, Andre handed the man the microphone and asked the band to begin playing. This was the moment the party began.
The Holocaust survivors’ inner-child came out as the music played. Taking the young people by the hand, they led them to the front to dance. The survivors jived, jumped, swayed, and waltzed their way into the evening. It was a joy to watch the smiles light up their faces, and their feet give in to the pull of the music. Leonid Gutkovich did an incredible job of djing the event with an array of songs the survivors had grown up singing.
Nobody wanted our time together to end. With each new song, the survivors only wanted more. It was incredible to see them hold their own as their Polish partners swung them around the dance floor. Watching married couples dance together was also very touching. One couple never let go of each other’s hand, living proof that love is eternal and is possible after years of suffering and pain.
HHC would like to extend a massive thank you to all who were involved in making the event so memorable. The event would not have existed without the sponsorship of many Polish Evangelical Christians who donated money towards this event through Together Again. To Sebastien Petrone and his brother Frank, none of the survivors would’ve made it through the closed streets of Jerusalem had it not been for your excellent navigation skills! Our gratitude also goes out to the team that planned each detail; this event was a night to remember because of you!