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Holocaust Survivors Honored At Pre-Passover Seder On Long Island

A man reads a prayer while holding greens dipped in salt water in advance of Passover. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A man reads a prayer while holding greens dipped in salt water in advance of Passover. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

OCEANSIDE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A pre-Passover Seder was held on Long Island this week for nearly 100 Holocaust survivors.

1010 WINS was there on Wednesday for the event, hosted by Ellen Grossman of Great Neck at the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center in Oceanside. She holds the event in conjunction with her birthday.

The idea came about because for a big birthday a few years ago, Grossman partnered with the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York in a program that allowed her to come up with a way to give back.

The UJA-affiliated agency Selfhelp partnered with Grossman in organizing the event and having the recipients be ready and available.

One survivor, Charlotte Gilman, said the event was deeply meaningful for her and the other survivors who attended.

“It’s powerful because it’s – you know, you’re so proud to be Jewish here. And it makes you feel good that these young people, and the JCC, and the whoever management is, you know, are willing to give of themselves,” Gilman said.

Gilman said she was hiding in a Catholic convent, which was an orphanage, in Belgium during World War II. It was one of two convents in which she hid, and she said it was hard on her.

“We hardly had any food – anything, of anything. I had one bath in 13 months that I was in that particular convent. We had lice in our hair, and after a while, they ended up tarping – putting black tarp in our hair – so the lice couldn’t move,” she said.

Gilman said in her family of over 200 people, she, her sister and her mother were the only survivors.

She expressed her appreciation to Grossman and the organizers for bringing the survivors together.

“These young people give of themselves, and they try to make it pleasant for us survivors, and really it’s necessary, because it’s getting older – having lost my spouse – it’s a sad time,” she said.

Organizer Grossman said she decided to organize the event for the survivors because she felt it was important to give back. She said every year, she reaches out to her friends who are eager to volunteer and be part of the experience, and donate to ensure that it happens.

Grossman said she does not have any personal connection to the Holocaust, but since she was a little girl in religious school, something about the Holocaust just touched her. She felt hat she could not believe people she could have been friends with, or friends with her family, went through such suffering to let future generations have the lives that they have.

At the event, traditional prayers and songs were recited by those in attendance. Many survivors were dressed specially for the occasion, with some even wearing suits and colorfully-decorated scarves.

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