IN THE NEWS: JFS Case Manager Learns Much from March of the Living

By RANDALL P. LIEBERMAN Staff Writer, FloridaJewishJournal.com

Since last year, Hands On Tzedakah—the philanthropic charity run by Boca Raton resident Ron Gallatin — has sent a case manager from Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services — the Boca Raton-based Jewish social-services agency — on the March of the Living in order to have them better understand how to help meet the needs of local Holocaust survivors.

The March of the Living is a two-week Holocaust educational trip to Poland and Israel taken each year by more than 10,000 students from all over the world — along with adult supervisors and Holocaust survivors still able to make the trip.

“While it is impossible for anyone to fully understand the horrors that Holocaust survivors endured 70 years ago, Hands on Tzedakah believes sending JFS case managers on the March of the Living will better equip them to avoid common ‘hot buttons’ when trying to help this population,” said Gallatin — chairman, president and CEO of Hands on Tzedakah, Inc.—in a recent email.

This year’s JFS case manager who got to go on the March was Jonathan Beer, a social worker and case manager in the Holocaust Survivor Program at Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services.

Beer wrote in a recent email: “On this journey, we commemorated the six million men, women and children murdered by the Nazis simply for being Jewish.We walked through the historical sites where so many of our people suffered and perished, and were later reminded of our people’s strength and perseverance when visiting Israel.”

Beer wrote that within a two-week period the group visited many meaningful places in Poland and Israel, including:

  • “In Lodz, we saw the “Umschlagplatz”—the train station where Jews from Poland were sent to Auschwitz or Chelmno.”
  • “In Auschwitz, we saw the remains of the camp — the different barracks, the infamous railway tracks, the horrifying gas chambers and the crematorium. One very meaningful moment for me was when a few Marchers and I participated in a very heartfelt minyan (gathering of10 or more), in which a survivor said Kaddish (Memorial Prayer) for his father in the last place he saw him —at the entrance to the Auschwitz gas chambers/ crematorium.”
  • “The fourth day, Yom Ha’Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) was the actual March of the Living day when we marched from the Auschwitz to Birkenau concentration camps along with some 13,000 people.”
  • “Our final days in Poland were spent witnessing Treblinka, the Warsaw Ghetto and finally Majdanek— the most preserved camp we walked through; a place with its own haunting energy.”

According to Beer, arriving in Israel the following Monday seemed like a breath of fresh air. He wrote: “Honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers on YomHa’Zikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) granted us an opportunity to honor those who gave (and are still giving) so much for our people. “After that, celebrating YomHa’Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) was a moment of pride —highlighting all that our people have accomplished and continue to accomplish. The beautiful walk through Jerusalem, all the way to the WesternWall—with the energy of thousands of marchers honoring our faith, culture and land— was a happy and energizing moment.”

Beer said that his participation in the March of the Living was an experience that he will always treasure. “As someone who grew up in Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces, a grandson of four Holocaust survivors, and now a case manager working with Holocaust survivors, this amazing journey resonates in my heart,” Beer wrote. “This experience truly distills the meaning of what my colleagues and I do at the Holocaust Survivor Program at Rales JFS, and was truly an eye-opener.

“The thought that anyone could have survived the atrocities that took place in the places we walked through— and then not just to have survived but to actually flourish—is astonishing. “Somany of our survivors were able to rebuild their lives, create families and carry on with a normal life. This journey made me realize just how lucky I am to be a part of an organization that assists and works so closely with our incredible Holocaust survivors.

“It also reiterated in my mind how important it is for us to be there for the Holocaust survivors in our community — men and women who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust, established lives here, and now may need some help, understanding and compassion. “I believe this experience will make me a better case manager for my clients.”


Copyright © 2016, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) provides help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, career & employment services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Funding is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year. For more information about JFS call 561-852-3333. Learn more at www.ralesjfs.org

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