JFSC 2022 Café Europa treated Calgary’s Holocaust Survivors to a very special afternoon

Dancing the Hora at JFSC's Cafe Europa 2022.

By Peta Glezerson

(AJNews) – Each year, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held on January 27, marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1945. It is an International Day that honours the memory of more than six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust, and pays tribute to the resilience of the survivors.

We’ve heard stories about Holocaust survivors reconnecting after many years; last year, the JFSC Claims Conference Team saw it happen.

Tivia David and Mircea Weiner were among the 120 guests at the October 2022 Café Europa luncheon for Holocaust survivors at the Carriage House in Calgary. After the meal, guests started socializing and dancing, and it was then that they recognized each other. Both from Bucharest, Romania, Tivia and Mircea had lived in in the same apartment building as children. After the war, they connected in Toronto for a time, but then lost touch. Both eventually ended up in Calgary. At the luncheon they recognized each other and were delighted to reconnect. Tivia thought that she had lost contact with Mircea forever!

JFSC hosted its second Café Europa luncheon this past October; the highly anticipated event brought Calgary Holocaust survivors together to socialize and enjoy food and music in the company of old friends and possibly, new friends. This event was an opportunity for Survivors to share, openly or silently, memories that they will never fully leave them – memories that they strive to forget, but at the same time make sure are passed down for future generations. These gatherings provide an immeasurable positive impact on their quality of life.

One hundred and twenty survivors attended the event, dressed in their best clothes with their hair styled. They were brought together because of their shared wartime experience and without having to say a word, it was clear they share a common bond. There was a warmth in the room that felt like the luxuriousness of a long sigh. Café Europa is the kind of event akin to a warm embrace.

Rabbi Ilana delivered blessings and a D’Var Torah, guests were treated to a delicious spread that befits a high tea party – a variety of dainty sandwiches, salad, and the ever-popular apple strudel dessert.

JFSC’s Claims Conference Team hosted Holocaust Survivors at Café Europa, October 2022.

During the meal, guests enjoyed live music, songs from the 40s and 50s, by Adam Brousseau and Claire Butler with Trio Clicquot, a classic jazz trio. After the meal, the guests took to the dance floor lost in the familiarity of the feelings that the music inspired. Couples swayed effortlessly to the songs of their youth and singles danced with friends and caregivers alike. To anyone on the outside, one would be hard pressed to know that this group of people had experienced such hardships during the war.

Certainly, the highlight of the event was when the band played Hava Nagila. The first few beats of the song lured everyone from their tables to the dance floor and they danced the Hora in a way that brought to life, the meaning of the song, ‘Let us Rejoice’, just as the song suggests. The joy in their hearts, the smiles on their faces, were enough to show how deep their appreciation was for this much anticipated event.

The pandemic was especially tough on Survivors, this gathering went a long way towards easing the isolation felt by so many, enabling them to come together with people who can relate to their pasts.

Café Europa is one of the programs for Holocaust survivors internationally, funded by Claims Conference, to come together, socialize and form community. The name, Café Europa, is after a Café founded by Holocaust survivor Hédi Fried in Stockholm, Sweden, where survivors would meet after the war to try and find family and friends.

JFSC’s Claims Conference team put on the event – Angela, Antonina, Natalia, Olena, Michaela, Greg, and Ekaterina. This kind and caring team works tirelessly for the well-being of their clients. They are loud advocates for their clients to be able to maintain their dignity and live independently in their homes for as long as they can.

Through Claims Conference funding, JFSC supports its clients and the Jewish community through the coordination of a variety of projects that include the publication of two books of stories of Holocaust survivors living in Calgary, “Voices of Resilience” and “Sharing Our Memories,” as well as hosting Café Europa. JFSC also administers two additional programs for Survivors Home Care and Emergency Financial Assistance – ensuring that clients live their lives with dignity and independence.

For more than 70 years, Claims Conference (the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany), a non-profit organization, has secured material compensation from the German government for Survivors around the world.

As per Tivia’s quote in the Here to Tell commemorative book, “Tomorrow is another day and (it) will be a better day.”

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