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Philadelphia-Area Holocaust Survivors, Family Members Honored at Elkins Park Gathering

By John McDevitt, KYW Newsradio

Holocaust Survivor Day

More than 100 Holocaust survivors and their families and friends attended a celebration in Elkins Park. Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

More than 100 Holocaust survivors and their families and friends attended the celebration at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. The purpose was to honor those who overcame the unimaginable and to celebrate their resilience, strength and hope.

“One of the things that people don’t know is that who a Holocaust survivor is has changed over the years,” said Paula Goldstein, president and CEO of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia, the primary social service provider to more than 400 holocaust survivors in the region.

“It used to be if you survived a Nazi concentration camp you were considered a Holocaust survivor, but over the course of six or seven years, that definition has expanded,” Goldstein said. “If you fled your home in fear of Nazi persecution, you are now considered a Holocaust survivor — and because of that, probably about 65% of the survivors we are serving now are from the former Soviet Union.”

Holocaust Survivor Day

Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

Sarah Solomon is the chief development officer at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, one of the organizers of the event.

“I think it’s really important that, certainly at the Jewish Federation, and I think in our Jewish community, we have done programs like this for decades because it is so important that the world knows the story, and has an accurate account of what happened so it  never happens again.”

Although pre-recorded videos of survivors telling their stories were offered , organizers didn’t want any of the survivors interviewed by the media

Out of respect, organizers didn’t want members of the media to speak with survivors as they enjoyed their kosher lunch, music and conversation with each other.

Chuck Feldman is the president of the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center. He works with survivors in outreach programs. The survivors go to schools and share their life stories with school children.

“The message is a simple one, and that is to talk about what happened and talk about the consequences of hatred.”