When Holocaust survivor Lee Lichtman surveyed the room of people sitting at tables enjoying the JCC of the Greater Five Towns’ model Seder at the Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach, she was reminded of good and bad recollections of Passovers past.
“I have good memories and bad ones; one Seder night was the last one before we departed,” said Lichtman, born in 1930, being kind about her family being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. “It was very sad, beyond description,” she added.
Liberated around Passover in 1945, Lichtman, a Valley Stream resident for 56 years, who now lives in Lawrence and is part of the JCC’s Chaverim group for Holocaust survivors, was one of many who took part in the March 27 event, which included members of the JCC’s Traumatic Brain Injury, Alzheimer’s and LIFE (adults with disabilities) support groups.
This year’s annual event was presided over by newly installed Jewish Center Rabbi Ari Perl and included the musical entertainment of one-man band Hondo Abramowitz, who played during the singing of Israel’s anthem “Hatikvah” and the Passover song “Dayenu” and the Meshuggah Daddies, a barbershop quartet. In addition, the portraits of survivors taken by George Bogart as part of his Miracles of Life exhibit was on the display. The photographs will also be shown at Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 28.
Cathy Byrne, the JCC’s assistant executive director for adults and special needs, said that the model Seder is a “beautiful way” for people who don’t attend a Seder or have family to celebrate Passover with to commemorate the holiday. “Our Holocaust survivors just embrace the traditional holiday celebrations and there is a need for socialization and coming together for all in general,” Byrne said. “There is a strength and resiliency in the room and the spirit is felt by all.”
Rachel Gleitman, a Lawrence resident for the past 20 years and one of the survivors highlighted in the 2004 documentary “Paper Clips” was a native of Czechoslovakia who came to the U.S. in 1949. She visits schools and tells her story. “I teach them what I can about the Holocaust and that it shouldn’t happen to our people or any other people again,” Gleitman said.