Holocaust survivors shared their stories over a recent dinner with alumni who had traveled on Federation’s Israel360 trips.
Samantha Milner, co-chair of Federation’s Israel360 alumni group along with Jonathan Alexander, had a personal interest in hosting a recently sold-out program where Holocaust survivors enjoyed dinner with young professionals and shared their stories.
“My grandfather, David Weinstein, was a survivor of five camps, yet he never really spoke in great detail about his incarceration there,” said Milner, who explained that almost all of her personal knowledge about the Holocaust came from text books, movies and documentaries.
Milner said her grandfather ultimately broke his silence after agreeing to participate in the Shoah Project. She recalled the experience of watching and listening to her grandfather’s video testimony as both “cathartic and enlightening.” “It was a rare opportunity to delve into one of the most horrific, yet historic eras of the 20th-century,” she added.
Milner approached Federation’s Renaissance Group director Sarah Bernstein Solomon with the idea of offering an evening program pairing Holocaust survivors with Israel360 alumni to honor her grandfather’s memory and to ensure that these stories are kept alive for present and future generations.
Alexander shares Milner’s commitment to ensuring that the eyewitness, personal accounts of those who survived the darkest chapter in modern Jewish history do not die with them. “As their numbers dwindle, it is all the more important to hear and share the stories of those who remain,” he said, emphasizing that the “emotion and anecdotes that these men and women relay to us help to fortify our resolve to make certain that history will not repeat itself and that we are truly able to say, ‘Never Again,’ ” he stated.
Dr. Henri Parens, a child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who fled from a French concentration camp when he was a child and traveled to America with 49 other refugee children to permanent asylum, shared his personal story of “Healing from the Holocaust” — the topic of his keynote presentation to the group.
Parens was joined by fellow survivors: Erica Herz Van Adelsberg, Lilly Drukker, Anne Fox, Marius Gherovici, Daniel Goldsmith, Ernie Gross, Ruth Hartz, Michael Herskovitz, Arnold Van Der Horst, Manya Perel, Alex Redner and Frieda Tabak.
Both Milner and Alexander described their experiences on Israel360, a unique 10 day Israel travel program for emerging Jewish leaders ages 27 to 35 as “amazing” and “life-transforming.”
The program, which is sponsored by Federation’s Renaissance Group and funded by Federation’s Center for Israel and Overseas, strengthens participants’ connections to their Jewish heritage and to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community.
For more information about Israel360, call Sarah Bernstein Solomon at 215-832-0894 or email: [email protected].