The miracle of Chanukah took on a double meaning Dec. 4, when Los Angeles Holocaust survivors participated in a menorah-lighting ceremony with their counterparts in Tel Aviv via videoconferencing.
"We celebrate the miracle of Chanukah, and we also celebrate the miracle that we survived," said Eva David, a survivor originally from Romania-Hungary. "Who would have thought when we were weak and hopeless that we would reach old age"?
The event, which was staged by Cafe Europa, a Jewish Family Service program that serves as a social outlet and offers financial assistance and emotional support to Holocaust survivors, allowed those who shared a common experience to also share the joy of Chanukah with one another. Cafe Europa has served the Los Angeles survivor community for 15 years, but the candle-lighting celebration marked the Tel Aviv group's first anniversary since its establishment.
"It's inspiring for me to see how much your group has grown there. I'm kveling right now," Eleanor Marks Gordon, coordinator of Los Angeles Cafe Europa, told the nearly 50 participants in Tel Aviv.
Many Los Angeles residents at the event had friends or relatives in the Tel Aviv group. Lydia Bagdor saw her cousin's daughter, who, when she last saw her, was 4 years old and is now a young adult. "You are my only cousins from my old family," Bagdor said.
Guta Schulman was able to spend Chanukah with her Auschwitz bunkmate, Chaya Rabinowitz, who had settled in Tel Aviv after the Holocaust. Schulman said that she owes her life to her friend, because Rabinowitz convinced her to leave Auschwitz, although her sister-in-law was not allowed to leave. "I have goose bumps," Schulman said after their emotional conversation.
As the Los Angeles group watched, a survivor lit the candles on the menorah in Tel Aviv. Then all the survivors -- in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles -- joined in singing "Hatikvah."