Yom HaShoah: Survivors Through the Generations

Eva Kaitman

With ever-increasing levels of antisemitism in the United States and around the world, it is even more crucial that the stories of Holocaust survivors are heard and heeded by the younger generation. Although Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 18 has now passed, the horrors and atrocities of this genocide must remain in the forefront of people’s memories.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is committed to ensuring that survivors, both locally and internationally, receive the support and services to age with dignity and share their experiences. This year, the Jewish Federation allocated $305,000 to organizations that provide Holocaust survivors with food, rent money and other basic necessities. Last year, 45,497 Holocaust survivors worldwide were served through organizations and programs supported by the Jewish Federation.

“We are sadly approaching a reality where there will not be any survivors left to share their first-hand stories,” said Jason Holtzman, director of the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, who is a third-generation survivor himself. “It is imperative that we figure out the most effective and impactful ways to educate future generations.”

First- and second-generation survivors in the community share how the Jewish Federation has helped them tell their stories and why their lived experiences must be preserved as a way for history not to repeat itself.

“From day number one, the Jewish Federation helped us when nobody else did. Through JFCS, [a grantee of the Jewish Federation], we were given a social worker and rent money for the first year we were in our apartment. They even helped me go to school to study English. I don’t know where we’d be without the Jewish Federation.”

  • Eva Khaitman, first-generation survivor who fled Odessa by boat with her mother

“It’s extremely important we don’t forget the Holocaust. The rise of antisemitism and prejudices can’t be tolerated. The only thing that separates myself from all those who perished is a little over 70 years. I’m just lucky to have been born in another decade and time.”

Ronnie Breslow. Jewish Exponent archives

“Whenever there’s a story of a Jewish person suffering in one way or another, I feel it’s my story. It’s always important to support the Jewish community at all times, good and bad. We have to stand together. I think we Jews will always survive – we have many times – but at what cost?”

  • Ronnie Breslow, first-generation survivor who escaped Germany on the infamous S.S. St. Louis at eight-years-old

Photo credit: Jewish Exponent

“There is no better person to tell the stories than an eyewitness to the past. I was there and I experienced in my own way the events of the Holocaust. I’m very grateful to the Jewish Federation for all the work done in support of helping survivors and the aid given to Israel.”

Photo Credit: PhillyBurbs.com

“As we see a concerning rise in antisemitism, it is extremely important for people to recognize the conditions that allowed the Holocaust to happen so that they can do everything in their power to prevent it from happening again. I am aware of the many meaningful programs that the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia offers for Holocaust education. That is why I am a supporter.”

  • Ruth Hartz, first-generation survivor who was hidden in a French town

“As the child of a Holocaust survivor, I understand, implicitly, that I must work to better the lives of Jews. I am extraordinarily proud to oversee the allocation of the Jewish Federation’s unrestricted dollars to benefit organizations and individuals for whom every dollar makes an impact. My volunteer work is in direct response to my father’s experiences in the Holocaust.”

  • Holly Nelson, second-generation survivor who serves as the chair of the Jewish Federation’s Planning and Resourcing Committee
Holly Nelson’s family. Courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia

“I am committed to ensuring that we never forget those who perished in the Holocaust, that we remember those who survived the unspeakable and unimaginable, and that we teach the lessons of the Holocaust.”

  • Batame Hertzbach, second-generation survivor who serves on multiple Holocaust education and remembrance committees of the Jewish Federation’s JCRC


  1. What about second, third and etc generations? They are still marking the day.. I mean they are suffering, even though they were never around for it right? Do they get compensation too? I mean anyone affected by the Nazi’s got money.. you didn’t even have to be in Germany to get compensated. Right? And honestly, how could one ever prove otherwise? Am I right?


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