Atlanta Gathers for Holocaust Survivor Day

Atlanta Gathers for Holocaust Survivor Day

This year’s gathering celebrated freedom, strength, and resilience.

Susan, with her mother, Ruth, a Holocaust survivor.
Susan, with her mother, Ruth, a Holocaust survivor.

On June 5, Holocaust survivors, their families, volunteers, and guests gathered to enjoy a day of celebration and commemoration. Approximately 150 people, including 55 survivors and their family members, gathered on Holocaust Survivor Day for lunch and entertainment at City Springs. Holocaust Survivor Day, designated as June 4, is celebrated any day that week, and was created to honor survivors and celebrate their strength and resilience.

Jonathan Ornstein, CEO of the JCC of Krakow, and Holocaust scholar Rabbi Michael Berenbaum called for the creation of Holocaust Survivor Day in 2020. This was the fourth annual Holocaust Survivor Day, with events and celebrations happening nationally and globally.

The Atlanta event was hosted by the Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF) of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, in partnership with Holocaust Support Services of Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS). Holocaust Survivor Day was graciously sponsored by Seed the Dream Foundation, Jewish HomeLife, Sue and Gary Saban, and Cherie and Gary Aviv.

Cherie Aviv (right) and Sophia, a Holocaust survivor

“This event is so special to me and to the survivors,” said Cherie Aviv, founder and chair of HSSF at Federation. “It brings our community together in such a meaningful way.”

The enthusiasm in the air was palpable – survivors and guests entering the space immediately felt the celebration in the air. A survivor noted, “The room, table decorations, flowers and entertainment filled the space with joy, and the warmth we felt from all the guests, staff and volunteers was truly magical. “

Aviv emceed the event, with speakers John Paulson, mayor pro tempore of the City of Sandy Springs, Eric Robbins, CEO/President of Jewish Federation, Terri Bonoff, CEO of JF&CS, and a video appearance by Jonathan Ornstein, CEO of the JCC of Krakow.

Paulson gave warm welcoming remarks and commented that it was an honor to host this day for survivors at the City Springs venue.

Robbins, in his remarks, discussed both the past and the future: “A few months ago, we were in this City Springs space after Oct. 7. We came together as a community. You the survivors, are a testament that it is resilience and strength that keeps the Jewish people strong with hope for the future.”

Bonoff added, “We at JF&CS are especially proud of our long-term and continued commitment to care for survivors not only in Atlanta but in the Southeast region. Our JF&CS team, led by Amy Neuman, works tirelessly to address the needs of survivors. We are honored to work with HSSF and be here today to celebrate you.”

Ornstein spoke to the group by video. His words resonated with all: “There are many other days to commemorate the Holocaust of which survivors take place. Those days are primarily witnesses to tragedy. The real magic of survivors is what they were able to do after the war, that after seeing the horrors of humanity, somehow, they were able to love, build families, build businesses, and build new lives. We thought Holocaust survivors deserve a day of their own. Not a day to share with the Nazis, but a day that we celebrate and honor you for all that you’ve given and all that you continue to give the Jewish world.”

As an additional surprise for guests, Aviv and the JCC of Krakow engaged local volunteers in each community to create special heartfelt notes to share with respective survivors in each of their communities connecting across continents.

Ola in Krakow wrote, “My name is Ola and I’ve worked at the Jewish Community Center in Krakow for the past several years. Our JCC exists because of the strength and courage survivors have shown throughout their lives. I want to thank you for everything, and for inspiring all of us each day. Wishing you in Atlanta the most meaningful Holocaust Survivor Day!”

Eric Robbins, CEO/President of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, pictured with Helen, a Holocaust survivor who recently celebrated her 100th birthday.

Cathy and Morris, together, wrote, “Greetings from Atlanta, Georgia. We are thrilled that our communities have connected, last year by Zoom and this year these notes. Holocaust survivors have a special place in our hearts as you represent spirit and resiliency for all of us. Thanks for continuing to share your stories of hope with everyone.”

Everyone in the room was moved by the uplifting comments by the speakers and the notes. It was clear that survivors deserve a day of their own celebrated with music and entertainment.

Natalie DeLancey, executive director of City Springs Theatre, arranged for singers Nick Walker Jones and Leigh Ellen Jones, and pianist Judy Cole, to perform. They sang a variety of songs from the golden age of musical theater, including songs from “Oklahoma,” “Camelot,” “My Fair Lady,” and more. Many sang along and danced in their seats.

One survivor shared, “Our gratitude of the celebration created a most unforgettable atmosphere that filled the hearts of all present.”

There was a special round of applause for survivor Helen for her 100th birthday, and congratulations to Ben and Ruth on their 58th wedding anniversary.

Emily Yehezkel, granddaughter of a survivor, said, “It was an honor to gather with so many survivors, their families, and community members to honor the lives of our local survivors. The joyous atmosphere was contagious.”

Volunteer Carol Sherwinter relayed, “I had the wonderful opportunity to greet survivors as they came to the event. Each one arrived with a big smile, and awe at seeing the lovely room created just for them. The warmth emanated from every corner.”

A family member shared, “This was the first time my father attended any social event for survivors with JF&CS or HSSF, and it was wonderful—uplifting, entertaining, and joyful. We felt very loved and adored, and we look forward to more programs.”

The HSSF, convened by Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, was created to work with primary partners JF&CS and Jewish HomeLife. JF&CS is a social service agency that works directly to provide care for survivors with funds from the Claims Conference. Yet these funds are not able to meet all the needs of survivors.

HSSF, through support from generous supporters, helps make up for the shortfall in funding from the Claims Conference, and to help survivors with needs such as homecare, prescription assistance, dental care, emergency financial assistance, home-delivered meals, food assistance, adult day care, residential care and more.

In 2023, HSSF funds helped 166 Holocaust survivors in Georgia and provided 419 touchpoints across all service areas (with duplicates).

To learn more about the Holocaust Survivor Support Fund or to donate, to help support survivors in need in their final years, please visit

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