Free to Celebrate

The fact that survivors were free to celebrate is what made last night’s Senior Prom so special. In a voice message this morning, one survivor said, “I never understood the true meaning of freedom until tonight,” (Jenny Eisenstein, 2012—Jenny, a Holocaust survivor sang at the prom).

Over 300+ Holocaust survivors, 3 horas and 3 generations later, the Senior Prom: An Intergenerational Celebration of Life that took place on June 20th at Beth Emeth was not only a success, but a significant and special memory for Holocaust survivors and young adults to keep forever. “It’s amazing that the young people love the survivors,” said one woman and “you make us feel so special,” said another guest.

And then there are the young people who attended. The young professionals with genuine interest in the stories and lives of survivors.

“Last night was the best night of my life and it was because of [your] beautiful vision—the prom was the best thing that I experienced, ” says Rachel Singer a young professional attendee. It was also her birthday and she couldn’t have celebrated any other way–she photographed all of the survivors smiling last night. Another guest expressed that the “[prom] was one of the most inspirational events [he’s] ever been to,” (Gary Diamond, 2012). Diamond was at the Baycrest Senior Prom in 2007 as well. Martine Becker, a dear friend to the committee commented on the fact that survivors were so happy to get dressed up–they rarely have the chance to go out and dance.

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 Prom King: Noah Zatzman & Prom Queen: Bronia Beker

The evening was made possible by the generosity of our Lead Sponsor: Howard Sokolowski and Senator Linda Frum and our Benefactor’s: Honey and Barry Sherman. We of course could not have done this without the support of our other supporters who understood the importance to make prom a reality.

The journey to last night’s success was “easy” because of the people we were organizing it for. Knowing that we were doing something for a group of people who never had their youth, let alone prom, because of the atrocities of the Holocaust, made planning this event even more meaningful.

The thank you message begins here…(*in no particular order).

Thank you to our Co Chairs, Sara Lefton and Elise Kayfetz and their incredible team who did everything in their power to make last night a success. Sara—for your perseverance, organization and passion for the prom. The music, food and decor and special feeling in the room had a lot to do with you. A huge thank you goes out to Hartley Lefton who supported Sara and her role as chair the whole way through. You’re a mensch. Elise— for her vision and passion for the prom and for successfully reaching out to over 300+ guests and for really loving all of them.

The event was successful for many reasons—and we need to acknowledge and thank everyone who breathed life into last night. Ranit Beck who ensured every single survivor who was unable to drive had transportation arranged. Everyone recognized Ranit’s care and concern and it was incredible to watch her in action—cool, focused and fearless——she worried about every survivor’s well being to and from the event venue and only took a deep breath once she knew everyone made it home safely in time for their 9:30PM bedtime. We also thank her number one supporter, Dave Thorek for supporting her and jumping in when she needed him most. We are all so extremely grateful to her and the volunteers that helped.

A huge thank you goes out to the Co-Chairs mothers, Ruth Berger and Carolyn Kayfetz, respectively. They supported the entire committee along the way. To Ruthie who made sure the evening went off without a hitch and to Carolyn who made all of the boutonnieres for the survivors, attended every meeting and for rewarding everyone for their good work constantly. We of course can’t forget to thank Gord Berger who inspired more donors to sponsor and to Daniel Kayfetz for saving the day, everyday.  Of course we can’t forget Sara’s Grandparents, “Bebe” and renowned composer, Ben Steinberg.

A huge thank you to Claire Freeman, aka “Auntie Claire” who jumped right into the thick of the prom after returning from a month trip to Barcelona. Auntie Claire was there for everything and everyone and also made sure the survivors got to the event.

Another huge thank you to our volunteer coordinators, Ashley Kochman—our team captain and the one that kept everyone in order and Melissa Larson, the Mother Goose of all—always bringing cookies and her charm to meetings. The two of them made sure that all of the survivors’ needs were met with grace, patience and care. They recruited, delegated and made sure all of their volunteers understood their role and presence at prom. Not to mention, their incredible organizational skills.  We also thank Jaime Lerman—a woman of determination for stepping in without fail. Whether it was phone calls, arranging tables and taking charge when needed. Jaime spent hours ensuring survivors had a place to sit (thank you to her mother too!). A special thank you to Hayley Rovet for all of her hard work and time too!

To Belinda Bank, a renaissance woman who stepped in whether it was taking notes at meetings, special trips and extra calls to survivors to make sure their needs were attended to before the event.

To Cara Schayer who selflessly, along with her creative team, produced and edited a very special clip about YRP and for getting SunNews to come join us on the dance floor. To Noah Zatzman who spread the word of prom all over Canada via CTV. It’s because of you Holocaust survivors had awareness across Canada.

Karen Weiser, we thank you for your decor vision and for helping run the photo booth last night. You were a star. To Melissa Senders, a doting volunteer and an incredible transcriber. A MOL Alumni who saw first hand what happened to the survivors. A soldier in her own right.

Alana Kayfetz, the do-er. A girl we could always count on for helping us reach out to young professionals via JUMP and speaking clearly to our guests.

To Ricci Postan, a logistical queen and past Co Chair (2011) who took control of the registration table with ease under challenging circumstances. Ricci knows how to get the job done. Sherri Rotstein (who also made tons of calls to inform survivors of their transportation pick up calls), Gilda Lefton, Ben Kayfetz to name a few, and the rest of the registration team. Not an easy job but they made it look that way.

To our in-kind and sponsorship team, Alana Thal and Kari Thal, respectively and their amazing team, Cara SchayerDebra Kleinman and the newly engaged Alyssa Moskovitz.

To Brianna Ames for “tweeting” and tapping into all realms of social media to make sure the world knew what we were doing.

To Keri Dogan for organizing the Beauty Bar and for making the survivors feel even more special and beautiful inside and out.

To Ashlee Firsten and her family for making sure every survivor was celebrated with a yellow rose.

To Jessica Taylor, Raquel Binder and Rachael Czutrin for incorporating the Senior Prom into BAC2FASHION as 4 survivors took to the runway linking arms with young beautiful/ handsome models.

Of course a huge thank you to Brenda Izen and Sasha Afrin for their ingenuity and creativity and for getting everything to us under pressure.

Thank you to Baycrest’s Cafe Europa (special thank you to Anne Max and Shoshana Yakobi) and Circle of Care’s Arnold Foss and Lisa Levin for helping us reach out to over 300+ survivors and covering stamps.

To UJA’s Community Connect team and UIA, specifically Shauna Waltman, Brian Indig, Larissa Roiberg and to Terri Boidman for their selfless dedication and time. Processing…processing…processing. We actually could not have pulled off prom if it wasn’t for you. To UJA’s Sandi Pelly for covering costs of stamps and Adam Minsky for his support. To Bernard Betel, Adam Silver, JF&CS’ Andrea Pines, March of the Living, The Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, specially Rachel Libman.

Among some of the guests, very distinguished David Cravit attended–the evening complimented his new book, Beyond Age Rage. A huge thank you to Amanda Blitz for an incredible live interview on CTV’s Express and for coming to see prom night in action. Of course, special thank you to Cara Leiberman from SunNewsNetwork for covering such a beautiful story.

We can’t forget those who captured the night–our camera crew: Barry Roden, Rachel Singer, Jon Taylor and our Film Crew: Josh Zuckerbot, Phil Pendry, Adam Cohen and Graham. 

And to the incredible volunteers:

Seth Kadish
Kaylee Weinstein
Carly Tal
Ilana Hoffer

Eden Hofferolunteers.

…and to those of you we forgot to mention, we thank you, we admire you and we are forever indebted.

See you on the dance floor in 2012

“You add years to [survivors’] lives[s],” (Carolyn Kayfetz, 2012)

2 thoughts on “Free to Celebrate

  1. Thank you for the kind words!!!
    The prom was amazing! I am so glad everyone had a great time.
    What an amazing idea you came up with!!!

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