Five volunteers from the Westchester area trekked to the Selfhelp Coffee House at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills, Queens, earlier this month to serve lunch, coffee, tea and pastries to a group of 85 Holocaust survivors. Andrea Platt of Purchase, along with Ellen Kaidanow and Lisa Cummins from Harrison and Sherry Schlangel and Jayne Peister of New Rochelle, happily stood behind the scenes to plate the salads, hamantashen and other goodies and proceeded to serve the guests at their tables in the beautifully decorated synagogue social hall.
These casual get-togethers, arranged by Selfhelp Community Services, a UJA-Federation of New York partner, appeared to take on a special significance for all participants. The older generation enjoyed the socializing and talking, both about their lives now in New York and their lives “back then,” when life was not so good. The camaraderie was palpable; the vitality and friendliness displayed was inspiring. Featuring the musical duo of Nukhim and Rita Koyfman, who provided music and song, the singing and dancing took on a life of its own as songs were rendered in many different languages.
Selfhelp Community Services provides services to a broad range of older people, including Holocaust survivors. As part of its services, Selfhelp offers Holocaust survivors a social coffee house where they can gather, share stories, dine and dance. Held locally in synagogues and community centers at many locations including the Bronx, these programs alleviate isolation and allow this group to connect to others who have shared experiences. Selfhelp also offers events ranging from Passover Seders and Chanukah parties to trips and other activities such as discussion groups. Social services are provided to more than 20,000 seniors in the New York area, ensuring independence and dignity as they age. The organization is further committed to educating future generations about the Holocaust through strategic programming at schools and community centers.
By Yvette Finkelstein