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JCCGCI volunteers spread faith and hope


 July 16,2024

Jccgci/ Connect2 VOLUNTEERS SPREAD FAITH AND HOPE  to our holocaust survivor members, by making beautiful tamborines for other volunteers   to deliver to the survivors that symbolize   redemption , blessing, and celebration in the near future ???? ???? ???? ???? 

Thank you “n’shei/ women’s  chabad mivtzoim” for the materials and tamborines , and a shout out to our young volunteers  Talia and tzipori!!


Names Not Numbers at HAFTR( Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns)


JCCGCI survivors Ruth Mermelstein, Jack Tavin, Claire Grunwald, and Eugene Halpert participated in Names Not Numbers at HAFTR

( Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns) middle school. Filming and screening were an amazing experience for both the Holocaust survivors and the students. 

Sharing from Holocaust Remembrance Week


 “Never Again Is NOW: The most relevant Holocaust Remembrance Week”

 In over a decade of helping to coordinate Yom Hashoa events, escorting survivors , and listening to testimonies , this year seems the most powerful, but also the most draining.  The juxtaposition to the October 7th Massacre in Israel and rising Anti-Semitism all over the world, to Yom Hashoa and Never Again is just too obvious of a parallel to anyone who chooses  not to close their eyes to it. I was glad to hear Speaker Mike Johnson share this thought too at the Holocaust Memorial and call it “moral clarity.”

Commuting with a survivor into Manhattan during rush hour for an event  for Holocaust Rememberance at the beautiful Safra Synagogue, Sally looked radiant but a little tired.  “It’s very emotional for me to re-live my story 3 times in two days,” she said. I tried to empathize, “Because it’s your PTSD from the past and also dealing with our present situation now,” I suggested. Sally Muschel, one of the strongest ladies I know gave me a sad smile and nodded in agreement.  She was also very worried about her granddaughter organizing a counter protest on campus to counter the anti-Israel protests.  “It’s your fault Sally, you taught her too well! She’s the leader just  like you” I joked. She didn’t laugh.

 Thank God the event at Safra Synagogue with Sally and Aron Krell was beyond captivating.

One congregant asked Aron how he managed to be the sole survivor of his entire family and extended family and live through some of the worst camps, including Lodz Ghetto, Birkenau, Saxen Hausen, and Mataussen and a six day death march. It was a moment of levity when he said, “ All I can say is I’m still here!” Everyone laughed. However,  questions quickly turned to these heroes, these survivors, to give the congregants strength and guidance in our current Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel climate.  The survivors kept their composure, put on even stronger voices and encouraged the crowd as they imparted solid advice.  It was like being in a town hall meeting, and the survivors were our leaders.

Sally encouraged us that Israel would have to be OK. They will defeat terrorism even if it is hard , and we need to continue to support our only Jewish state , as that is what the survivors built and didn’t have during the Holocaust to save them. Aron instructed us to “take threats seriously, and for each of us to urge police and government to get much more involved in taking down violent protests in schools and elsewhere.”

What kept me awake that night was not only the very intense stories of Sally and Aron during the Holocaust, but also just being in awe of how they were strong enough to stand there and deal with double traumas; the traumas of re-telling their pasts, and then standing there answering questions and providing support in”the now”  for worried Jews in the audience  dealing with modern day frightening  Anti-Semitism, which can cause re-traumitization for our Survivors.

 “Does this situation here in New York remind you of before the Holocaust in Europe?” one man asked Aron. “Actually, it’s more open Anti-Semitism then it was there even, so it may be worse,”Aron responded. “So we need to push for more support!  ” the survivor said in a proud strong voice, encouraging the crowd not to cower.

Similarly, the next day at Brooklyn College Hillel House , many Jewish  and some non Jewish students listened to the story of Jack Tavin  in a safe space . The students had also been harassed with anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic protests as of recently, and this gathering clearly gave them strength and purpose.  The  siren and moment of silence was very melancholy, not just because of the Holocaust memorial, but also the present times on campus. Brooklyn College was my Alma mater and I always felt 100 percent safe and  carefree on the campus.   Noticing the high security in this Jewish club house and the tension on campus was just plain sad to me as a sign of how much things changed and how differently these students have to grow up. The silver lining was that this great little Jewish fraternity was more important than ever as a safe haven.

Speaking with diverse non- Jewish audiences not only helps teach the past, but also helps shed light and clarity on the present wave of Anti-Semitism.  Daniella Russ of JCCGCI’s transportation department, escorted Izabella Blustin to HLA , a public charter school in Mill Basin, Brooklyn her son Yishai attends so Isabella could tell her story. Sixth to eighth graders of diverse backgrounds greeted the Ukranian Holocaust survivor with a riveting dance performance set to Hebrew music in her honor.

Eugene Halpert took to the opportunity to fly out to St. Louis and also speak to a diverse group of U.S.  Air Force personnel and community members to educate and inspire.

All the  survivors gave personal blessings to anyone who waited in line to greet them at the end of their events. I watched people cry and listen intently to the blessings these strong heroes imparted to them,  helping them face whatever these precarious times will bring.

I’m still in awe of these survivors I watched, and frankly all of them that I know that head out to speak , educate, fight, and encourage, not just during Holocaust week but all the time. They live with the trauma of the past, and choose to face the hate of the present again in order to do the work.

 We come out to listen to and honor their stories, but in reality, I think they are the ones helping us face and stand up to our story during these trying times.


IAC teams with Connect2 to deliver JCCGCI Chanukah Packages


 Volunteers from IAC Israeli American council volunteering with Connect2 to  deliver JCCGCI packages 

From the Desk of Rabbi Moshe Wiener- Jewish Social Service Agency Brings Technology to Survivors and Other Seniors



On a chilly Sunday a week ago, a group of RAJE (Russian American Jewish Experience - members gathered in the majestic main sanctuary of the Jewish Center of Brighton Beach. Their mission was to launch the Connect2: Connecting Seniors program, which distributes Amazon Fire 10 tablets to Holocaust Survivors and other seniors and teaches them how to get online and use Zoom. The program is an exciting new collaboration between the Leader Family Fund and the Connect2 program of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island – JCCGCI


Elisheva Lock, MPA, LCSW, director at the Connect2 program said, “Jonathan and Dina Leader were very eager to help seniors and Holocaust survivors in our community who have been isolated and homebound due to the pandemic. To alleviate this isolation and loneliness, the Leaders shared their idea with me to design a program to provide and train seniors with tablets that can “connect” them to the outside world and to their friends and family." RAJE volunteers kicked off the first batch of deliveries and trainings, followed by other community volunteers who joined the cause. The seniors were delighted to be connected via Zoom to their families and to other members of the community.


RAJE volunteers shared that one Holocaust survivor, David Einhorn asked, “Do you mean you can show me how to find my favorite Rabbi speaking on here?” The volunteers then were able to provide a trial run for the rather excited survivor to share Rabbi Manis Friedman with them, and then to teach him how he can access Zoom and you tube on his own.


The seniors also appreciate that the community volunteers are not just giving their time to make sure the devices are set up properly, but also following a buddy system where the senior is left with the volunteer’s phone number to follow up with any questions or comments as they learn to use their device, or just to say hello. It is inspiring to see how quickly the survivors and seniors are learning. The day after she received her tablet, Ukrainian Holocaust survivor, Bella C. called and said, “It was amazing to figure out how to read all my all my morning’s Ukrainian and Fox news updates on my new Tablet, especially for a news junkie like me!” Bella continued to express her gratitude to the donors for the device, as well as to the kind volunteers who came to help.



Even more hopeful, is seeing the person-to-person connections being formed over Zoom programs. Survivors and seniors are joining women’s and men’s community zooms, as well as zoom gatherings and lectures, where they can form real bonds, see old friends, laugh and support one another. Some even report going to Synagogue services on their zoom!


Jonathan and Dina Leader of the Leader Family Fund


Jonathan and Dina Leader of the Leader Family Fund commented that "this is a perfect joint effort between a leading social service agency, volunteers, and a donor to bring the advantages of technology to alleviate the loneliness of elderly people." Twenty tablets have already been delivered with a target of delivering thirty more by Passover.


Sincerely yours,



Rabbi Moshe Wiener

Executive Director 

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