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Concert warms hearts of aging Shoa survivors
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Concert warms hearts of aging Shoa survivors

Elizabeth students shed Hanukka’s light at JFS get-together

Survivor Anitta Fox talks with JEC fifth-grader Ava Weiss at the Cafe Europa Hanukka party. Photos by Elaine Durbach
Survivor Anitta Fox talks with JEC fifth-grader Ava Weiss at the Cafe Europa Hanukka party. Photos by Elaine Durbach

It was time for one last round of latkes and donuts, and a new round of connections between children and now aging Holocaust survivors.

On the last day of Hanukka, Dec. 9, fifth-grade students from the Jewish Educational Center’s Yeshiva came to Jewish Family Service headquarters in Elizabeth to sing to survivors at Cafe Europa. It’s an annual visit led by music teacher Chana Solomon.

Social worker JoAnn Cohen, who runs the once-a-month Cafe Europa gatherings at JFS, said the annual Hanukka concert is one of the favorite events of the 20 to 24 survivors who take part.

Some of the songs were in Hebrew, some in English, some solemn and some boisterous. When the singing was over and it was time for eating, the students introduced themselves and said where they live. The seniors did the same, with an added detail — where they came from, mentioning towns and countries laden with memories of a heavy history.

Enoch Trencher, who came from Poland and now lives in Union, was there with his wife, Shirley. He mentioned that he was 13 when his family was caught in a Nazi round-up. He never saw his parents or his siblings again.

“They called out that all those between 18 and 35 should go to one side,” he recalled. “I went with them.” No one noticed how young he was, and the move saved his life, though he would go through nine concentration camps before being liberated.

Anitta Fox, who lives in Hillside, escaped with her parents from Austria. She told the children a story of achievement — how her aunt went to Israel, and there bred and trained the dogs that would form the canine unit that helped the Israeli army win the 1948 War of Independence.

One of the students, Ava Weiss, chatted with her and was delighted when her teacher asked Fox if she would come to the school to talk at greater length with the students. “I’d love to do it,” Fox declared.

“It’s not an everyday experience when you get to speak with people who have gone through such things,” Ava said. “This was unbelievable.”

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