At first glance, 87-year-old Jack seror and his wife, Katy, are a kind, yet unassuming elderly couple, members of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel and loving grandparents. However, they are also leaders of the Greek Jewish community that resisted and survived the Nazis to build flourishing new families in America.
Founders of the Sephardic Holocaust Committee, which still holds annual events that draw up to 350 people, Jack seror has also served as chairman of the synagogue's fundraising unit, the Living Memorial Committee and the senior citizen group for more than 20 years. His wife has served as president of the sisterhood and oversaw the Activities Committee.
The serors cite their war experiences as a major motivation for their intensive commitment to community service. Jack seror's work in the Greek resistance molded his desire to continue to help those in need. He and Katy met while working for the British government in Greece after the war. Later, Katy seror used her knowledge of English to accompany Greek refugees in the United States to hospitals and banks as a translator.
Although she suffered a stroke a few years ago and her husband does most of the talking, it is clear that his words speak for them both. He describes their reception in Boston by the Jewish Family Service as "so impressive ... it brought tears to our eyes."
Their first landlady thought that the serors were non-Jews, because they spoke Greek, Ladino and English but no Yiddish.
"So," seror said, "I cried out, 'Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad,' and then she believed that we were Jews."
The landlady helped the serors adjust to America, but the harsh winters and sweltering summers were oppressive, and the serors moved to Los Angeles in 1951. They set off with a firm goal in mind: to take their turn helping others, as the families in Boston had helped them.
Two and a half decades ago, the serors sold their successful grocery business and devoted their time to becoming involved in community service. They spearheaded daily senior citizen events for survivors from Salonica and Rhodes.
The annual Holocaust memorial services take an immense amount of planning and have become one of the largest Sephardic gatherings for remembering the Holocaust's effects on Mediterranean Jewry. Speakers, such as Israeli officials and Danish resistance members, fly in from around the globe. The serors are no longer at the forefront of the organizing.
"We are too old now," he said with a laugh. "I do not even drive. But we still have a havurah meeting once a month to discuss the parasha or have dinner. And we get together with our friends. We are happy to see the synagogue grow to 800 families. This is very special to us, who saw 96 percent of the Greek community perish in the Holocaust."
When complimented upon their inspirational story and actions, seror brushes off personal recognition.
"You should try to help Israel as much as you can, be dedicated to your temple and try to help people ... not for a reward but just to make a difference."