Holocaust Survivors Are Honored in Borough Park

Monday, September 19, 2011 7:00 am

by Cynthia Magnus>

BOROUGH PARK — More than 250 guests celebrated the 10th anniversary of Club Nissim, a day program for Holocaust survivors, at a luncheon on Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Boro Park YM-YWHA. The gala honored the survivors and the role they continue to play in the Jewish community. Approximately 200 survivors attended, many of whom participate at the club daily.

Sara Seidman was among the Holocaust survivors honored at Club Nissim's tenth Anniversary luncheon at the Boro Park Y on Sunday, Sept. 18. The gala also marked the release of the club's fourth book of survivor memoirs and photos.
Photo by Cindy Magnus

Club Nissim currently has about 1,200 members and offers a Monday-through-Thursday program of shiurim (lectures on Jewish scriptures), health lectures, fitness and art classes, films, field trips, birthday parties, holidaycelebrations and an opportunity to socialize with peers. A kosher lunch is available daily.

Ellie Kastel, the executive director of the Boro Park Y, spoke of the inception of the club in fall 2001 with funds from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The program would develop under the management of program director Simonne Hirschhorn as a venue where survivors come together for intellectual, spiritual and physical activity.

Hirschhorn expressed her gratitude to the club members. “In almost every aspect of my life, there are so many things big and small that I have learned from you,” she said. The respect was mutual as members applauded Hirschhorn’s commitment to the program and its inspired offerings.

The other speakers included representatives from the two organizations that fund Club Nissim — the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the UJA Federation of New York — as well as the Y’s president, Rabbi Chaim Israel; survivor Bronia Brandman; and keynote speaker, Rabbi Nechemia Kahn of Flatbush.

Brandman, a survivor from Poland whose memoirs are recorded in three books published by Club Nissim, told the audience that she starts her day at the club with saying tehillim (psalms) followed by an exercise class. “Laughter is good for your health — but have you ever heard of laughter yoga?” she quipped about the club’s creative fitness offerings. Brandman also participated in the club’s “Bubbie Olympics” in January, when she served as a cheerleader and won a gold medal for dancing.

Rabbi Kahn, the son of two Holocaust survivors from Poland, is Kastel’s husband and a speaker at previous Club Nissim events. He told the audience, “We call them survivors, but what you really did is you came to America and you allowed yiddishkeit [Jewishness, often used in a religious sense] to flourish.” Kahn called the survivors Judaism’s “greatest generation.”

Sara Seidman, a survivor from Romania, attended the gala and was very moved by the day’s event, “To organize something like this you must be very talented and very industrious.” Seidman said the most important thing at the club for her is the shiurim, and also, “I believe for health reasons it’s important to exercise.”

Close friend and fellow survivor Judith Gottdiener has been a member since the club’s beginning and takes advantage of the fitness classes and shiurim. Gottdiener said, “The party was very nice,” but hopes that entry is better organized next time, referring to the massive crowd of eager guests at the entrance.

The gala also marked the publication of Club Nissim’s new book Living History — The Photo Album, Photographs from Europe 1876-1950, Preserved by Holocaust Survivors. The volume is the fourth of the Club Nissim series that documents the history and memoirs of its members. A remarkable text, it offers valuable photographs from the Old World and glimpses of the survivors as they began to rebuild their lives in the late 1940s. Each guest was given a copy, and the book is available for purchase at the Boro Park Y.

Sara Sussman said, “I never dreamed that I would have survived to this age. Thank G-d I have a nice family and good children, who got a good education.” A survivor from Poland, Sussman was freed from Dachau on April 29, 1945, by Americans, and was helped by Jewish organizations after she came here. “You have to make the best of this country,” said Sussman. “I love America.”

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