Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Passover dinner gives Holocaust survivors a chance to connect

ST. PETERSBURG — Helen Kahan arrived in Auschwitz on her 20th birthday. Her mother, little brother and sister were sent directly to the gas chamber. Over the next several months, she and one of her sisters were booted from work camp to work camp. They survived only by escaping during a death march in the spring of 1945.

"We could see on the side of the streets the dead corpses," said Kahan, 85.

Sixty-plus years later, Kahan and other Holocaust survivors from throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough get together once or twice a year for events sponsored by Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services. Mostly they chat, show off family pictures and celebrate the holidays. Tuesday, more than 60 of them gathered at Congregation B'nai Israel in St. Petersburg for an early Passover meal.

"It's a happiness that we're alive and we are here," said Kahan, who lives in Seminole and spends much of her time volunteering in the Jewish community. "Even when we get together, very little do we talk about the Holocaust."

Their experience binds them, said Maya Lazarus, a facilitator for Holocaust survivor support groups. Some escaped the Soviet Union as it was invaded by the Nazis. Many were in concentration and work camps like Kahan. Almost all lost family at the hands of the Nazis.

But it also isolates them.

"It helps them to be with their own kind to give them support," Lazarus said.

Passover, which is actually celebrated in three weeks, commemorates the Israelites' deliverance from slavery and exodus from Egypt.

Coming together for Passover is especially comforting for the Holocaust survivors, Lazarus said. Many remember hiding because Hitler often escalated killings on Passover and other holidays, she said.

Though many relish this annual event, Gulf Coast program director Joe Lallanilla said it may be the last year that the nonprofit will be able to sponsor it.

"Donations are way, way, way down," Lallanilla said.

It costs about $2,500 to provide the meal, transportation and goody bags, with grape juice, unleavened bread and macaroons. Gulf Coast resources must go first to core services, he said.

For some, the Passover get-together is an opportunity to see and meet those who went through similar experiences as the numbers of survivors dwindle.

"There aren't many of us left, you know," said Hans Krieger, 86, of Dunedin, a survivor who later joined the U.S. Army and liberated a concentration camp.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Fast Facts

To learn more

Call Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services at (727) 479-1800 or visit www.gcjfs.org.

Passover dinner gives Holocaust survivors a chance to connect 03/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Column: Trump beat Bush, Rubio but has become an 'establishment sellout'

    Blogs

    NYT’s Ross Douthat's Sunday column: Donald Trump, Establishment Sellout

  2. Haitians get a reprieve from Trump administration

    Blogs

    Haitians living in Florida, and the rest of the country, will be allowed to stay an additional six months, federal officials have decided.

  3. Veteran big game hunter dies after elephant, felled by gunfire, collapses on him

    Wildlife

    Theunis Botha led his first guided hunting safari through South Africa's grasslands in 1989. A college student at the time, he used the money he received to help put himself through school.

    Big game hunter Theunis Botha, shown here with elephant tusks, was killed during a hunt in west Zimbabwe.
  4. Hey, somebody really ought to write about this Aaron Judge guy

    Blogs

    He can catch, too.

    It's no tall tale.

    Aaron Judge, The Amazing Colossal Man, has come and gone, but not before he stunned the Rays with a diving, game-saving catch in the sixth inning of Yankees 3-2 win Sunday at Tropicana Field. The 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge robbed Evan Longoria of an RBI double and helped …

    Aaron Judge stunned the Rays with a diving, game-saving catch in the sixth inning of Yankees 3-2 win Sunday at Tropicana Field.
  5. Review: Don't miss Israel Horovitz's 'Gloucester Blue' at Jobsite Theater

    Stage

    TAMPA — Sometimes a show comes along that does everything. It engages the senses on every level, tells a story that feels real, and keeps you guessing to the end.

    Ned Averill-Snell (left) plays Latham and Landon Green is Stumpy in Jobsite Theater's Gloucester Blue. Photo by Pritchard Photography.