Last year, sophomore students Noa Kadoori, Yonatan Ben-Haim, and Adam Blum organized a planting of daffodil bulbs on the campus of Riverwood High School in Sandy Springs. In seventh grade, they had taken part in the Daffodil Dash held annually at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody, which was their introduction to Am Yisrael Chai, i.e., the Daffodil Project. They were also part of a Teen Leadership Committee (TLC) that was sponsored by the Daffodil Project.
Their planting last year drew about 40 people, primarily students and a few parents. They were determined that this year’s event would be bigger and more meaningful. To that end, they began making specific plans and expanded their group to include more input from students and staff at Riverwood. The date of Thursday, Oct. 19, was selected and approved by the school administration for the planting. Approximately 100 individuals arrived — among them were the principal, teachers, two assistant principals, Jewish and non-Jewish students, National Honor Society members, a few cheerleaders, and parents.
Ilse Eichner Reiner, a local Holocaust survivor from the former Republic of Czechoslovakia, was guest speaker. She arrived with her daughter, Elaine, and granddaughter, Rachel. As she opened her remarks, a slight drizzle began, which added to the solemnity of the occasion.
Ilse’s life as a child changed after the Nazis marched into her town. Ultimately, she was by herself in a children’s home in Prague and then sent to a “children’s camp” in Theresienstadt, Terezin. She was among a group of 15,000 children. Of these 15,000 children, Ilse Eichner was one of 132 children to survive. Later, she was moved to Auschwitz, the largest and most infamous killing center in Poland.
Upon arriving at Auschwitz, it would be decided who would live and who would be immediately exterminated. Fortunately, Ilse’s life was spared so she could be used for forced labor.
Fast forward and today Ilse Reiner is a 93-year-old survivor who always has a smile on her face and occupies her time working in her garden and painting. Many in the audience had never heard a Holocaust survivor speak.
One student in attendance said, “At first, I didn’t even know what I was getting into. I was simply tagging along with my sister, but once I heard the Holocaust survivor talk and I learned about her struggle for survival in the camp, I was mesmerized.”
Another student stated, “This event was really impactful, especially because my non-Jewish friends came to the daffodil planting to learn and show their respect.”
At the Riverwood High School event, Reiner was asked to plant the first of the 500 bulbs. Everyone then got to work digging holes and planting the remaining bulbs. As the daffodils emerge in the spring, it will be a visual reminder that the children whose lives were lost in the Holocaust will not be forgotten.