If you look closely, you will see three names: Alois Bergmann, born 1899, his wife, Beila, born in 1897, and their daughter Ruzena, born 1931. A couple that had one child later in their lives, during the Depression. The plaques then go on to say they were deported to Terezin in 1942 and then on to two other concentration camps. Their ultimate fate is unrecorded. Another silent, subtle memorial, much like the iron shoes on the banks of the Danube in
There is also a living tribute to the Czech Jewish community, in the form of HaGibor. In the residential section of
With funding from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) – which means each of us, through our gifts to the UJA Annual Campaign – the building was restored, expanded and adapted. It now houses a 62-unit home for Czech survivors of the Holocaust, a day center for survivors still living independently and a kindergarten. It is a remarkable space – the front of the building and the offices are imposing, spacious, grand – and the apartments attached to the main building look for the entire world as if they come from an Israeli kibbutz! There are all kinds of physical and occupational therapy rooms, an arts and crafts center (and a puppet theatre and art room for the kindergarten), a kosher dining room and beautiful gardens in the courtyard between the main building and the residences. Most amazing is the computer room, also funded by the JDC. The residents, who are in their 80s and 90s, use the computers to Skype with their friends and family around the world. As if to remind them of how much the world has changed, there is an old-fashioned typewriter in the room, and an old rotary phone.
After everything this group of people has endured, they have a home, where they are treated with respect and dignity, the Jewish values that light up the world. And you help make it possible!
Next week, I will introduce you to some very special people from HaGibor.