TORONTO — It was an inspiring night for the more than 700 Holocaust survivors and young professionals alike who attended the fifth annual senior prom presented by the Yellow Rose Project last week.
The intergenerational celebration of life, held this year at Beth Avraham Yoseph Of Toronto Congregation, was originally conceived as an event for Holocaust survivors who were deprived of a senior prom because of the war. But it has evolved into a chance to “celebrate life and commemorate our past,” said founder Elise Kayfetz.
For David and Zenia Rybowski, the evening is a must-attend event that they’ve made a point of marking on their calendar for the past four years.
The Rybowskis were both born in Lodz, Poland in 1923, and deported from the Lodz Ghetto to Aushwitz-Birkenau in 1943. They were separately liberated from the death camp, met in Bergen-Belsen and married on Jan. 29 1946.
They’ve now been together 68 years.
Each generation of the Jewish People must “know what they did to us, that we are alive and to never let it happen again,” David told The CJN.
Asked if the event provides a unique experience each year he’s attended, David said “of course!… It’s not always easy in the city, everyone with their busy lives to see each other, so to come together with friends and family, it’s a simchah like no other.”
Long before dinner was served, survivors took to the dance floor and joined together in a horah to sounds from the old country performed by KlezmerKonnection, Kol Rinah and the Toronto Jewish Male Choir.
During World War II, in ghettos across eastern Europe, men, women and children were forced to wear a yellow star on their clothing to set them apart. Now the yellow of the yellow rose stands for hope – young and old socializing and looking to the future together.
Hope for the future was the message communicated throughout the night and enthusiastically expressed by retired kindergarten teacher Faigie Libman, 79, formerly of Lithuania and a child during World War II, who considered herself to be among the youngest survivors at the event.
Having just recently returned from this year’s March of The Living for young professionals, she noted that she has three sons and a daughter, as well as 11 grandchildren – including four living in Israel – and six great-grandchildren to carry on her legacy.
“The rose, symbolizing hope, should grow and continue forever. We should remember and never forget. Am Yisrael chai,” she said.
For more on the Senior Prom and the Yellow Rose Project, visit theyellowroseproject.wordpress.com.