IN THE NEWS: Survivors Reconnect at Café Europa

Randall P. Lieberman, Staff Writer

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May 6, 2014

The Holocaust dealt a devastating blow to the stream of Jewish life in Europe.

Following the end of World War II, many Jewish survivors in Europe began to search to find someone — anyone — from their families or their hometowns that might also still be alive.

At that time, because there were often no homes or towns to which survivors could return, the searching took place in coffee shops and cafés where survivors gathered seeking news, friendship and a little bit of hope.

Today's Café Europa get-togethers in South Florida are modeled upon those informal get-togethers that arose in Europe following the end of the Holocaust. They are events for Holocaust survivors looking to re-connect with long-lost family members, old friends and former townsfolk.

The Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services in Southern Palm Beach County holds two Café Europa events per year (June and December) at B'nai Torah Congregation (6261 S.W. 18th St.) in Boca Raton.

Said Rales JFS president and CEO Danielle Hartman: "Café Europa offers a much-needed social outlet for many of our Holocaust survivors who are becoming increasingly more frail and isolated. Studies show that opportunities such as Café Europa are vital for socialization which has a direct correlation to better health and wellness."

The next upcoming Café Europa event in Boca Raton will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3, 2014. For more information, contact Jill Waldman at jillw@ralesjfs.org, or 561-852-5013.

At the last Café Europa event at B'nai Torah in December 2013, more than 400 survivors gathered.

Among those attending were Rosalyn Haber, of Boca Raton, and Eva Braun, also of Boca Raton, who were thrilled to be re-united after 68 years apart.

When Haber and Braun had last previously seen each other in 1945, they were 14-year-old girls in the Unterluss forced labor camp in Unterluss, Germany, where both lived in the number 8 barracks for children from Munkacs, Czechoislovakia (Braun, a Hungarian, had actually only snuck into that barracks to stay with a cousin).

"This is what it's all about," Jill Viner told Jewish Journal reporter David Schwartz last December. "Reconnections of gaps in time; people finding each other."

Viner sponsored last December's luncheon, as she had done with 11 previous Rales JFS Winter Café Europa luncheons in order to perpetuate the memory of her grandparents and mother — Holocaust survivors from Germany.

Haber said she and Braun have stayed in touch since meeting and still can't believe they've been reunited.

Haber said: "We call ourselves 'camp sisters.' Now, when we get together, we talk about pleasant things. We try not to get too morose. We enjoy the fact that we have been able to have a pretty decent life in this country."

In Northern Palm Beach County, the Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family & Children's Services (AJFCS) offers special social activities for Holocaust survivors that give them an opportunity to enjoy the company of others and perhaps relieves some of the isolation they may experience.

Café Europa is an annual December event that brings together a large group of survivors for some relaxed socializing, a nosh and song. If you would like to be included in the next AJFCS Café Europa, call 561-684-1991.

In Broward County, Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Broward County provides Café Europa as a social component for hundreds of survivors throughout Broward County. JFS is starting to provide multiple, smaller Café Europas so that they are easier for survivors to get to. If you are interested in the Café Europas put on by JFS, call 954-370-2140.

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 volunteer opportunities and services for seniors, contact 561-852-3333. Learn more at ralesjfs.org.

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