The city of Sandy Springs has granted Am Yisrael Chai $4,000 to support the group’s annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day event in January.
The grant, one of 12 totaling $50,000 given to nonprofit groups through the city’s Serving Sandy Springs program, was approved by the City Council on Sept. 15. The money will partially pay for Am Yisrael Chai’s “Courage and Compassion: A Lucky Child Survives Auschwitz” on Jan. 24.
Thomas Buergenthal, born in Czechoslovakia in 1934, will be the featured speaker at the event. He was one of the youngest survivors of Auschwitz, whose liberation Jan. 27, 1945, is marked by International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Buergenthal was evacuated from Auschwitz on a death march before the advancing Soviet troops arrived and was liberated at Sachsenhausen in April 1945.
Both courage and compassion helped him survive, said Andrea Videlefsky, who leads Am Yisrael Chai, and he has shown both traits in his career as a human rights lawyer and law professor.
The annual Am Yisrael Chai event always begins with the lighting of a memorial candle by Holocaust survivors in the Atlanta area. Buergenthal’s fellow Auschwitz survivors will be a particular focus at the 2016 event, Videlefsky said.
An Auschwitz-related exhibit also will be part of the event, as will a signing of Buergenthal’s memoir, “A Lucky Child.”
The grant is the second consecutive annual award for the event from Sandy Springs, which has been the home of the Holocaust commemoration since it began at Congregation Beth Tefillah in 2008, Videlefsky said. “I’m incredibly appreciative of the support of the city.”
Am Yisrael Chai received $3,250 for the 2015 event. The increased city grant will help the event move from Atlanta Jewish Academy to the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North Hotel to accommodate the growing crowd. The 900 people who attended in January were more than AJA could handle.
The $4,000 grant does not cover all the expenses of the event, which is free to attend. Am Yisrael Chai depends on sponsors, whose gifts also get them daffodils planted in their names as part of Am Yisrael Chai’s Daffodil Project.
Through that program, Am Yisrael Chai has worked since 2010 to plant 1.5 million daffodils worldwide to remember the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust. More than 187,000 daffodil bulbs have been planted in such countries as Israel, Poland, Canada and the Czech Republic, as well as many U.S. states. The annual Daffodil Dash at the Marcus Jewish Community Center supports the effort.
Videlefsky said her group has planted 100,000 daffodils in downtown Atlanta alone and plans to add 55,000 this year.
The next major Am Yisrael Chai event in Sandy Springs will be a daffodil planting, rain or shine, at Hammond Park at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15. Organizer Mike Weinroth said he expects at least 600 people to attend. Mayor Rusty Paul will speak at the planting, the first Daffodil Project event since Sandy Springs’ first mayor, Holocaust survivor Eva Galambos, a past Am Yisrael Chai speaker, died in the spring.