Prom Night comes at last for survivors thanks to Yellow Rose Project
June 25, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
Rena Green Tribune Intern
TORONTO – The prom king took his queen by the hand as he escorted her onto the dance floor. A silent hush fell over the crowd, as they watched the couple sway to the music. The prom queen looked down at her arm to admire her beautiful corsage; the yellow flower arrangement sitting just below the string of blue numbers tattooed on her arm.
Last Wednesday, the third annual Senior Prom, a night filled with music, dancing, food attracted about 450 people, of whom 330 were Holocaust survivors. The Yellow Rose Project held the event at the Beth Emeth Synagogue.
Proud to be a major sponsor of the event, B’nai Brith Canada took part in inviting Holocaust survivors to the prom; people who never dreamed of attending one of their own. Allowing survivors and young adults around the community to share in a night of memories, tears and joy for the future, the survivors donned yellow roses on their shirts, symbolizing their freedom.
“I used to be designated with a yellow star,” Franka Kon, an Auschwitz survivor expressed. “Now I am celebrated with a yellow rose.”
The Senior Prom was an inspiring night where young adults had the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of the horrors from the Holocaust.
“This is me in Auschwitz in 1944,” Miriam Ziegler, a 76-year-old survivor said, pointing to a circled face on a photograph. “I was liberated in 1945, [but] they kept a few children from each transport to do experiments on. I was one of the lucky ones.”
Sitting close to her husband Roman of 54 years, Ziegler continued.
“After the war I was put into an orphanage in Krakow, but I had left a note at the station that I [was] looking for anybody [who knew] my grandparents and parents. Somebody from my mother’s hometown saw it. [My mother] was already on her way to Palestine [from] Czechoslovakia, and they told her somebody was looking for her, so she came back to Krakow to pick me up.”
Against all odds, Ziegler was reunited with her mother, and “I told her that I had seen my grandmother in Birkenau right across from our barracks and that she was alive,” Ziegler said. “That’s very unusual; three generations surviving. The rest of my family was killed.”
Just one of many horrific yet inspirational stories, Ziegler and her husband now share three children and four grandchildren.
“As our survivors are getting older, they won’t be around to tell us [their stories] for much longer,” said Melissa Larson, volunteer coordinator. “It’s our generation who needs to pass those stories along.”
Dedicating the special night to survivors who are no longer with us, Elise Kayfetz, founder and director of The Yellow Rose Project, honours their memory.
“[Tonight], we will be dancing in honour of those who can't,” she said, “and most recently for Ernie Bloch and Nina Goldstein, some of the strongest survivors we know.”
“A lot of survivors want to be involved in something that [is] about celebrating,” said Kayfetz. “[The Yellow Rose Project] gives Holocaust survivors the opportunity to engage with young people and tell their stories so they can have the reassurance that when they’re no longer here, their stories will be living on in capable hands.”
For young adults interested in getting involved, visit www.theyellowroseproject.wordpress.com to find out how you can get connected with a survivor.