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After Months of Pandemic Isolation, 150 Holocaust Survivors Gather in Celebration at New York Concert

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Holocaust survivors at a concert honoring them organized by the Nachas Health and Family Network. Photo: Nachas Health and Family Network

Around 150 New York-based Holocaust survivors attended on Monday afternoon a concert that honored their lives and drew attention to the struggles they faced during the coronavirus pandemic.

The concert featured a performance by popular Orthodox Jewish singer Yaakov Shwekey and was held at the Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School. It was organized by the Nachas Health and Family Network, which helps the thousands of Holocaust survivors that live in the New York area, in coordination with The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The event marked the first large gathering for New York Holocaust survivors since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Rizy Horowitz, senior coordinator at the Nachas Health and Family Network, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

Holocaust survivors gathered at Nachas’ office in Borough Park, NY, and yellow school buses took them to the concert hall where they were given lunch before the start of the concert, which was also attended by students of the Jewish high school as well as youths with disabilities from The Special Children Center.

Horowitz said the event was organized to help celebrate the lives of Holocaust survivors, who have felt relatively isolated and lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“I had some survivors telling me that they feel like they’re back in the ghetto in Germany, in Europe, because of the pandemic,” Horowitz explained. She said about Monday’s event: “It was magnificent. The survivors felt that that they were important and they still count.”

Shwekey, who performed many classic Hebrew songs at the concert, told The Algemeiner, “It’s extremely important to honor our past heroes and let them know how much we care for them. [This was] one of the most important events of my lifetime!”

“One of the great rabbis once said, ‘don’t come to me for a blessing, go to those with the numbers on their arm and ask them to bless you!'” he added. “No language [is] better than music! My mom was born in the displaced persons camp, so it was also personal to me.”

Holocaust survivors sat front row at the event and, as shown in videos posted on social media, many went on stage to briefly talk about their experiences in the Holocaust, call for an end to antisemitism and dance to various tunes during the concert.

“It’s the unfortunate reality that some time from now, we’re not going to have these Holocaust survivors to tell their story, so it’s so crucial an critical for us to be with them, to get their stories and cherish them,” said 17-year-old Michael Oved, who recently graduated from Yeshiva of Flatbush, to the Associated Press.

Oved said the lesson others can learn from the Holocaust, “is to keep going. These people have suffered through hell and back, yet they’re here standing. And during the pandemic, they were just as strong as they ever were. So their message to us should be: Always, always persevere and never give up.”

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