Above: Blessing the candles are (from left) Suzy Tibor, Rochelle Greenblat, Lucy Carson, Emily Berlin and Regine Rosenfelder.

By Cherie Aviv

Local Holocaust survivors had asked for an event with young Jewish adults, and they got their wish Sept. 9.

The Weber School, Jewish Family & Career Services, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Holocaust Survivor Support Fund held an intergenerational Shabbat luncheon for Weber students and survivors.

Liana Slomka and Ari Slomka flank Barry Seidel.

Liana Slomka and Ari Slomka flank Barry Seidel.

“This luncheon event demonstrated the importance and value of bringing people of different generations together,” JF&CS CEO Rick Aranson said. “Despite fundamentally different upbringings, the older folks and younger ones were able to come together to find common ground, celebrate Shabbat and learn from one another.”

The survivor group was greeted by students from Weber’s “Process of Hate” class. Survivors and students then paired off and began their journey to learn more about each other.

“Meeting with the Holocaust survivors and talking to them about them — and not about the Holocaust — was incredibly special,” said Rachel Hayut, a senior at Weber. “I feel very grateful that I was able to be a part of this experience. The survivor I sat next to is such a remarkable woman, and I’m very happy I was able to connect with her. I’ll never forget her or that day.”

Molly Yoels and Hershel Greenblat attend the Shabbat luncheon at Weber.

Molly Yoels and Hershel Greenblat attend the Shabbat luncheon at Weber.

The luncheon began with welcoming words from leaders from JF&CS and Weber. Soon the room was filled with Shabbat and Yiddish songs led by Drew Cohen, Weber’s music program director, who played his guitar. The ensemble of voices of the two age groups became one voice of joy.

One survivor was so moved that he asked to sing a Yiddish song solo to the group.

After the music program, female students and survivors said the blessing over the candles, and male survivors and students recited blessings over the grape juice and challah.

“Being able to experience a Shabbat meal with Holocaust survivors was a memorable and extraordinary experience that I will always remember,” said Aaron Gordon, a junior. “The Holocaust survivor sitting next to me took such pride in his Judaism and especially his Yiddish songs. It warmed my heart when he got up to sing in front of the whole group.”

After lunch, students led the singing of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.”

“I think it was fantastic and such an honor meeting with such bright, friendly young adults who are Jewish,” survivor Hershel Greenblat said. “For a few hours it makes you feel young.”

“The entire program, coordinated by staff at JF&CS, Weber and HSSF, was simply amazing. I was pleased survivors and students were given this rare opportunity to connect and build relationships,” said Rabbi Edward Harwitz, Weber’s head of school.

JF&CS has identified more than 230 survivors in the community, said Amy Neuman, the program manager of Holocaust services at JF&CS. “For those who are able, being part of an active social group like this program is very important. The event was extra special because the survivors requested a program specifically with this age group.”

JF&CS provides programming, reparation assistance, case management and financial assistance to survivors. Jewish Home Life Communities provides residential care options (nursing home, assisted living and home care).

The HSSF initiative is a collaboration of six Jewish entities under the auspices of Federation. It was created a year ago to raise money to meet the needs of survivors in greater Atlanta.

“Creating this fund is indicative of what we do at Federation: caring for people in need and supporting local agencies through HSSF to provide services,” Federation President and CEO Eric Robbins said.

Cherie Aviv chairs the Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (JewishAtlanta.org/holocaustsurvivorsupportfund). To learn more about the fund, contact Susan Moray at 404-870-7690 or smoray@jewishatlanta.org.