By Janis Fontaine
Thanks to the ingenuity of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Commandery of the Palm Beaches, and the generosity of a local nonprofit and a Delray Beach car dealership, kids in Belle Glade will ride to their after-school program in a safe, clean, refurbished van.
The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem is an ecumenical Christian order focused on helping sick and poor people. It dates back nearly 1,000 years. The Palm Beach Commandery has been supporting the work of the First Haitian Baptist Church Youth & Children Development Center, which provides a hot meal, homework help and a safe space to play each day to elementary- and middle-school students in Belle Glade. High-schoolers mentor the kids, who are mostly children of migrant workers.
The program’s aging van was limping along, and two Palm Beach Commandery members stepped up to help. Candace Tamposi of Ocean Ridge worked with the Cathleen McFarlane Foundation of West Palm Beach to acquire grant money and Marie Ryan, who works for Grieco Mazda, secured a deal from Grieco Motors. The van has room for 15 passengers.
The SOSJ’s designated philanthropic project is to build a new multipurpose building for the First Haitian Baptist Church Youth & Children Development Center. The organization will continue work on that goal, but in the meantime, the wheels on the bus will continue to go ’round and ’round.
Holocaust remembrance delayed, not forgotten
But for the coronavirus, the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, an eight-day period for civic commemorations and special educational programs focused on the Holocaust, would have been marked by somber events nationwide.
And Yom Ha Shoah, Israel’s national commemoration of the Holocaust on April 21, would have been accompanied by events at local synagogues, but all in-person events have been canceled.
Any commemorations will be virtual this year. But the Holocaust and its victims won’t be forgotten.
For Holocaust survivors, Days of Remembrance can be a double-edged sword.
“We need to remember, but for survivors it can be a trigger for bad memories, especially as the population ages,” said Danielle Hartman, president and CEO of Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services.
JFS helps about 800 South Palm Beach County survivors each month with financial, physical and mental health care and spiritual needs. About 30 new clients are signed up each year, but 2019 was a big year with 60 new clients, Hartman said, likely because of the publicity surrounding the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
JFS also educates its staff, including the caregivers who work directly with clients, with Holocaust sensitivity training to help them understand what a survivor may be going through.
“There’s assistance out there for any who want it, and there is no wait list for services,” Hartman said, but there is a process and individuals must qualify for assistance. For personal reasons, some don’t apply, but the goal of the program is to provide everything the individual needs to stay at home for as long as he or she needs it. “Home is the safest, most comfortable place for them, and many don’t do well in an institutional setting.”
Ceremonies are important for keeping the stories of the Holocaust alive, but many survivors prefer to acknowledge the passing of another year privately, Hartman said.
And the stories and the lessons are preserved with programs like From March to Miriam, which matches teens with survivors to strengthen the intergenerational bond. The teens commit to keep the memories alive.
Visit the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County website for information about virtual ceremonies and commemorations at https://jewishboca.org.