Holocaust Survivors Go Back in Time to Enjoy Their Stolen Youth
Survivors Kick Up Their Heels at Third Annual Yellow Rose Senior Prom
The Yellow Rose Project recently held its 3rd Senior Prom: An Intergenerational Celebration of Life at Toronto’s Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue.
The initiative was created to give Holocaust survivors, many of whom never had the chance to enjoy a senior prom of their own, let alone their youth, that experience, albeit some six decades after the fact.
The dance floor was alive with the footsteps of Holocaust survivors who danced alongside 100 young adults and devoted volunteers, who did everything in their power to ensure they were having the time of their lives.
“I know what the word freedom means, but I never knew what it felt like, and tonight, I know…we never imagined us Holocaust survivors would live this long and be able to celebrate like this,” gushed Jenny Eisenstein, a survivor who made it through the horrors of the Holocaust with her sister Regina.
“I am so impressed by how organized the young people were and that they would do this for us,” shares Sally Rosen, another survivor who attended prom. “It’s so nice to know the young people love us!”
As you can imagine, making this event a reality requires a tremendous amount of work – and cooperation. Seeing this special evening to fruition took some five months to plan, and relied on everything from Holocaust survivor outreach via Baycrest, Bernard Betel, Circle of Care, March of the Living and UJA Federation’s Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, to organizing transportation for over 100 Holocaust survivors -which would not have been possible without the dedication of Ranit Beck, the transportation coordinator, to sponsorship, catering, entertainment and all of the events logistics which would not have been possible without Sara Lefton (Co-Chair) and the rest of the committee.
And why a prom? Did they even have proms in Europe? Some say yes, others question it. However, the important part about the prom is that young people today can relate to it. A prom is a rite of passage today’s youth look forward to—a time where opportunity is boundless—free to ask what do I wear to prom? What university should I accept? Do I go to Israel for a year? What law school do I want to go to? And we should be and are thankful for these choices.
For survivors, they wondered how, if at all, they would survive the atrocities of the Holocaust, never mind what a future would look like. “I was in Auschwitz when I was 16,” shares Nate Leipciger, Holocaust survivor and was also this year’s Prom King. “We had no future, but with young adults, we have a future,” he adds.
The sight of 300 jubilant Holocaust survivors wearing their best suits and dresses adorned with yellow rose boutonnières, dancing and connecting with young people was a sight for sore eyes. Sixty-plus years ago, survivors wore yellow stars as a tactic of severe degradation.
The Yellow Rose Project does whatever it can to ensure the stories and testimonials of survivors are passed on through our programs including friendly visiting and friendly calling as well as the Unbroken Telephone—an initiative whereby Holocaust survivors are matched with 4-5 young adults to share and teach their stories so that when survivors are no longer here, their stories will be retold.
Franka Kon, the inspiration for the yellow rose projects name, recently shared that “we can go a little easier now knowing what The Yellow Rose Project will accomplish—and there is work to do!”
The Senior Prom: An Intergenerational Celebration of Life would not have been possible without its Lead Sponsor, aka Prom King and Prom King, Howard Sokolowski and Senator Linda Frum, as well as our Benefactor, aka Prince and Princess, Honey and Barry Sherman. These individuals understood the significance and beauty of bringing 300+ Holocaust survivors together with young adults in the community. For so many reasons, the community has a lot to thank these individuals for.