Miracle of Miracles: A Sukkot Story
by Halina Rosenkranz
On a beautiful fall day, Holocaust Survivors from all over Westchester came together to celebrate the festive holiday of Sukkot. While being escorted to their seats, a 96-year woman, a survivor of five concentration camps stopped me and asked, “Are there any Survivors here from Lodz?” I was so happy to respond, “Yes. I will bring her over to your table once everyone is seated.” Staying true to my word, I brought 93-year-old Esther over to meet Fay. As the two women gazed at each other, suddenly Esther, with a look of astonishment and disbelief said, “Oh my G-d. I know you. You had a sister named Lola.” The ladies embraced, and Fay, with tearful appreciation said, “Look, she remembers my sister.” The Lodz Ghetto was liquidated in 1944 and this meeting was 78 years in the making.
This miracle occurred on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, at a luncheon coordinated by Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) and sponsored by the Claims Conference (Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany) and UJA-Federation of NY. Amidst the lovely setting of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, there was rejoicing in the air with an avalanche of hugs, warm greetings, endless conversation, and laughter, as nearly 70 Holocaust Survivors made their way to their tables to enjoy a kosher lunch.
No one could imagine that beneath these smiling faces lie the dark and painful memories of the Shoah, of families that were murdered and forever grieved by the Survivors. For this reason, Survivors gravitate toward each other often forming familial bonds. The Holocaust is the bloodline that links them. Nothing reflected this kinship better than the miraculous emotional reunion between Esther and Fay who were teenagers when last imprisoned in the ghetto and were later deported to several concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Bergen-Belson. Because of the extensive losses suffered by Survivors, these shared Holocaust experiences created a powerful connection which was intensified when they bore witness to the existence of murdered family members, such as Esther remembering Fay’s sister. There is an obligation among Survivors to always remember and be the voice for those who have no formal resting place where their existence could be acknowledged and memorialized.
Sukkot is a joyful holiday, a festival of thanksgiving for harvest and bounty, as well as a tribute and remembrance of a time from slavery to freedom. What better time to celebrate with Holocaust Survivors who provide nourishment for our souls and force us to remember that there is a heavy price for complacency to civic unrest and injustice?
These words of gratitude and commitment to provide continued support to Survivors were presented by Allison Danzig, WJCS Coordinator of Holocaust Services, Seth Diamond, Chief Executive Officer of WJCS, New York State Senator Shelley Mayer, and Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference. Each speaker reaffirmed their commitment to provide comfort and assistance to Holocaust Survivors through the hardships of old age. Additionally, it is the responsibility of all who were present on this beautiful fall day to remember the victims, bear witness to the Survivors, and to educate future generations about the perils of inaction against prejudice and hate.
Halina Rosenkranz is Case Manager/Group Facilitator of Holocaust Programs at Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS). To learn more about these and other programs at WJCS, please go to www.wjcs.com.