A few moments passed before the group could hear Zelda speak. She was on mute and had to click the microphone button to be heard.
“I’m pretty new to this Zoom stuff,” she admitted before sharing her story. The 12 other guests didn’t mind. They were comfortably in their homes, sharing their experiences, as part of “Coffee, Zoom and Schmooze.”
“I wanted to create a digital coffee shop, where the survivors could stay connected,” said Roneet Edrich, director of Federation’s March of the Living. “Each month a different theme is explored and discussed, but the narrative always leads to memory and testimony.”
These rich, invigorating conversations are funded by a generous grant from the Jewish Women’s Foundation and organized by the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, as part of its From March to Miriam programming.
Your generosity keeps Holocaust survivors connected, sharing and remembering
During the pandemic, when gathering became difficult, the Federation’s team began organizing ways for the special audience to chat, laugh, and even share tomato soup recipes. At this particular “Coffee, Zoom and Schmooze,” the conversation starters were “what is your favorite memory of Israel?” and “what is your favorite Israeli food?”
For his Israel memory, Eric recalled his father listening by the radio, as the votes that would make Israel a state were tallied. He would later move from New York to Israel with his wife, and three small children, in order to populate the state, so it would retain its status. They lived in the Sinai for 10 years.
“Although it was a hard transition, it remains one of my fondest memories,” he said. “As difficult as it was, it is still home.”
If they are not connecting online, survivors and youth connect safely in person. The Federation organizes challah drop-offs and gift deliveries from young people and their family to the survivors – generating as many as four generations of friendship.
With each Holocaust program, the legacy grows
The survivors bring that same realism and recall to their conversations with local students, as part of the March of the Living. As of the end of April, your support of these programs has enabled more than 7,300 students to hear stories from survivors via Zoom. Eric, an 84-year-old survivor, has spoken to more than 3,000 students online.
“Although it is very difficult to speak about the Shoah, I do it because we need witnesses,” he said. “We need to avoid another Shoah.”
As Elie Wiesel wrote, “When you listen to a witness, you become a witness,” and each interaction with a Holocaust survivor has left an indelible impression:
Sammy, an18-year-old March of the Living student, said, “I hope you can all take comfort in the fact that we as students get it. We know how important we are as a generation in order to make sure that something as atrocious as the Holocaust never happens again. The power and virtue of every story I’ve ever heard never fails to impact me. I will make sure to tell my children the stories that I have heard. I will make sure to educate my peers and spread awareness when hatefulness takes place around me. I will make sure to never ever forget the Holocaust.”