Club Nissim Celebrates a Milestone

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 7:00 am

by Greg Schneider

I want to wish a hearty “Mazel Tov” to Club Nissim, a Claims Conference-funded program of the Boro Park YM-YWHA in Brooklyn, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.  Four days a week, some 1,200 survivors attend crafts, trips, and meals through Club Nissim, which held a celebratory luncheon on Sept. 18 that included 200 survivors who regularly attend its programming. Attendees heard moving stories from survivors who rely on Club Nissim for social and learning opportunities, and also received a copy of “Living History: The Photo Album,” a collection of family photos from Europe preserved by Club Nissim’s members.

“The people sitting here in this room not only survived but came to America and helped establish Boro Park into the thriving community it is today,” said Ellie Kastel, the Y’s executive director, as she began the program.

Following up on Ellie’s theme, the Claims Conference’s Arie Bucheister praised the strength of Holocaust survivors who after the war came to America, a place where they did not know the language or customs, and had no money. “And they built their lives,” he said. “They created a place to protect their children, creating fertile ground for their children to do whatever they wanted to do. That’s what you’ve done and that’s what Club Nissim is about.”

Club Nissim provides "endless
opportunities for growth,"
says Bronia Brandman.
For Bronia Brandman, the quality shiurim and other lectures at Club Nissim grab her attention early on in the morning. Bronia explained to the celebrants how afternoon crafts and activities, including trips around New York to museums and shows, keep her active throughout the week.  She can indulge her inner artist, take a college-level class, or go back to being in kindergarten and have a slumber party, she said. In January, Bronia won a gold medal in dancing during Club Nissim’s Bubbie Olympics and also served as a cheerleader. “Depending on which day of the week it is I am regaled with endless opportunities for growth,” she said. “I am learning life lessons from my wise peers who participate in lively discussions supervised by a clinical psychologist dispensing advice about life, little and big problems, and conflicts.”

A native of Jaworzno, Poland, Bronia came to the United States in 1946 and worked in the New York public school system for many years. She lives with her husband in Boro Park and has one child and two grandchildren.

“Seeing the survivors’ faces shine upon talking about Club Nissim, and the knowledge that the Claims Conference is partially the reason for that joy, fills my heart with warmth and pride,” said program officer Julianna Peretz, who also attended the celebration. “The success of the program is certainly credited to the mutual respect between the program director, Simonne Hirshhorn, and the survivors, and of course the leadership of the Boro Park Y.”

Simonne earned high praise from Club Nissim’s regulars, who said Simonne’s innovative programming keep them coming back. Helen Juravel was born in Poland in 1920 but came to Germany as a baby and grew up in Berlin. She escaped Germany in 1940 and came to the United States in 1941 with the man she married as a refugee in Shanghai. She now lives alone and comes to Club Nissim for programs such as the Bubbie Olympics, in which she was a cheerleader.  “Simonne is the soul of Club Nissim,” Helen said. “We are so lucky to have her. Her ideas keep people happy. “

With Rosh HaShanah fast approaching, it warms my heart to hear that programs like Club Nissim are providing opportunities like these for our treasured survivors and brightening their days. These types of programs are integral to our mission to help survivors age with dignity, and we are proud to sponsor Club Nissim.

Kol HaKavod to Club Nissim on 10 years of touching survivors’ lives and my best wishes for an even better 5772.